Film and TV

Back to an Antenna? This is the Solution From Cable Providers?

If we are forced to watch this, maybe the best cable and streaming is no cable and streaming at all.
If we are forced to watch this, maybe the best cable and streaming is no cable and streaming at all. Screenshot
For years, one of the primary complaints about cable companies was that there was no way to choose the channels you wanted. It was everything or nothing. So, if you wanted to watch ESPN, you also got Lifetime even if you never watched a single minute of Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life (look it up).

With the rise in broadband internet came the advent of streaming, which allowed networks and providers of all kinds a way to monetize content without having to deal with carriage agreements with cable and satellite services. At first, this was more an add-on. You might still have cable, but you also had Netflix or Hulu.

Soon after, every network was coming up with its own streaming premium service and everything from the Discovery Channel to Paramount to HBO started nickel and diming viewers to death.

But, earlier this month, we got to witness a more traditional dispute, this time between Tenga and Dish Network. Tenga represents dozens of stations across all the major networks in a wide range of cities including Houston. The dispute kicked CBS affiliate KHOU and Fox affiliate KRIV off the air. This is in addition to the provider dropping HBO from its list of options.

When asked for a remedy, Dish actually sent its customers antennae. For you kids who don't have a clue what that might be, those are weird metal things that attach to your TV that allow you to pick up broadcast networks locally. No word on if Dish is also providing tin foil to wrap around them when the reception isn't great.

Also, if you go back a few years, you might recall a dispute between then local sports affiliate CSN Houston and some local cable providers. CSN was a shared network between the Astros and Rockets. All the games were on the channel. For nearly two years, the dispute went on until the Astros backed out of the CSN Houston agreement and the network folded sending both teams scurrying back to AT&T's regional network.

These are the sorts of modern day problems created by the explosion of options for your viewing dollar. For years, cord cutters predicted this day would come and we could all live in the utopia of choosing our channels a la carte just as people had demanded from huge cable giants back in the day. But cord cutters never envisioned a world where we went from one $150 per month service that gave us virtually everything to 20 $10 services that provide bits and pieces of what we once had altogether.

And it's only getting worse. "Hey, that movie looks fun," you might say to your wife before finding out the only way to watch it is to get a subscription to Disney Plus. "Wouldn't it be great to get all the episodes of that old series," you imagine to yourself until you realize the one streaming service you rely on the most isn't the one that carries it.

click to enlarge The year 2021 and if we can just get this antenna Dish is handing out hooked up before Sunday, we can watch the Texans game. - PHOTO BY MARGARET DOWNING
The year 2021 and if we can just get this antenna Dish is handing out hooked up before Sunday, we can watch the Texans game.
Photo by Margaret Downing

Even worse, imagine you don't have access to the NFL because Fox and CBS aren't carried by your provider anymore and the only way you have to watch the Texans bludgeoned to death for yet another week is to put a weird antenna on top of your television set and pray to God the weather holds out. Or just pay Hulu $60 per month to get live access to broadcast TV networks.

Oh, and that's assuming you are paying for quality broadband internet in your home to stream that service.

For all the complaints about cable and how it overcharged you for a bunch of channels you didn't want or need, it sure feels like it is a lot more expensive and annoying to figure out what you should pay for among the growing number of streaming services, especially when what they offer is constantly changing.

Maybe the cord cutters should now become the antennae adopters. Cut literally all the cords and just watch live network TV. It's better than being bled out by a dozen streaming services...or having to watch Lifetime.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke