My cable bill runs about eighty dollars a month, half of which covers my Internet service. Take out the taxes and whatnot, and what's left is what I pay for basic cable — sixty channels or so, no HBO or Showtime — around $33 or so.

What is most remarkable about this sum is not the total number of dollars, which is probably typical of most TV markets of this size, but the price per hour watched, which is somewhere in the vicinity of $5.00.

The marketroids who pull the strings at the various networks don't much care about me — I'm too old for the demographics they covet most — but they assume that I'll watch anyway: what the hell have I got to do, anyway?

Regular readers, if any remain, know entirely too well what I do; there isn't a whole lot of time in my schedule for plopping down in front of the tube. I'm figuring six hours a month, almost all of which is time-shifted using that ancient VHS technology, and all the commercials are viewed through the miracle of fast-forward, much to the dismay of those same marketroids who don't much care about me.

I suppose I could drop the basic cable entirely, but it wouldn't save me $33; subscribers who get the Internet service only pay $50 a month rather than $40. And besides, when my daughter visits, she goes ballistic if she can't have her HGTV. Of course, I can't get HGTV by itself: I have to buy whatever is bundled, the networks' way of assuring that even their crappiest offerings will be sold somewhere.

Meanwhile, a few DVDs have crept into the living room, and more presumably will follow as the budget permits. They aren't especially cheap — few of them come in at less than $5 an hour — but they have the advantage of containing programming I actually want, instead of programming I'm supposed to endure, and I can watch them whenever I want, as often as I want.

The Vent

24 June 2004

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 Copyright © 2004 by Charles G. Hill