Why I’ve Had It With Cable TV

As Game of Thrones is fast approaching, I recently decided to investigate how much HBO might cost should I add it to my AT&T Uverse cable plan. I figured the show had earned my cash, and it wouldn’t break my bank to add one more channel to my lineup.

But before I could even inquire, I got my latest bill in the mail.

I’ve had Uverse for six months now, and like all cable companies, they do a promotion that expires after that point. I’ve been paying a reasonable $80 for cable and internet, and now, suddenly, my bill was $136. It went up $56 a month instantly, and I had to double and triple check to make sure I was seeing this right.

I knew they’d go up, but COME ON!

I tried to find out who the culprit was. My internet is their fastest speed for $48 a month. I use it every day, all day, so I can justify that. But my cable TV bill? $88 a month by itself. Astonishing.

It is SO frustrating trying to consume TV legally these days, and I’ve just about had it with cable all together after this. I watch a few shows a week. I tune into The Walking Dead on Sundays, watch Smash with my girlfriend Mondays, New Girl on Tuesday, and Parks and Rec and The Office on Thursday. When I’m making food I turn on CNN, and I’m glued to the channel for every Presidential primary because I’m a dork like that.

So let’s do some math here. Let’s say I get 300 channels with my package (it might be more, I’m not sure). I am paying for access to those channels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So with some handy multiplication, I have access to 50,400 hours of potential television every week. Wow, that’s a steal for $88 a month!


But no, adding up my combined total of TV I actually watch in a week, I get maybe seven hours of TV across four different channels. And THAT is what I’m paying $88 a month for.

And there’s no escaping it. “Package” deals in the industry make this impossible. Even a “basic” package which would give me far less channels would still have about 80 more than I need, but I can’t even buy that package because if I want an HD box and a DVR (which should be goddamn standard technology in this day and age) I HAVE to buy the super premium package.

Watching online? Yeah, sure. Provided I want to wait a few days (or weeks, or months) for things to be posted, and just hope that they won’t leave random episodes out like they’re prone to on Hulu and iTunes. For my political fix, I can get CNN Live, which is the full channel streaming on the internet, but of course they’ll let me access it ONLY if I have an active cable subscription. There’s no option to say,  pay $5 a month for it by itself, as it’s only part of an official cable package, despite being an internet stream.

I need my magic wall!

Cable package models are like if you walked into a supermarket where you just wanted to buy a box of Wheat Thins and some Gummi Bears. But when you get to the checkout, they say: “I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to take this 100 pounds of salami as well which costs an additional $85.” “But I don’t like salami,” you say. “I’ll never eat that.” “Sorry, it’s policy, you can bring your car around out front and we’ll tie it to the roof.” Without the useless, costly salami, you’ll never get to eat the snacks you actually wanted.

This model is unsustainable in this day and age of the internet, and though I don’t think media like movies, books or video games are going anywhere, cable TV will eventually be killed as everything moves online. For me, it can’t happen soon enough.

It’s like cable companies and the networks they work with are doing everything possible to drive legitimate consumers into becoming pirates. I recently saw a fantastic Oatmeal comic about the quest to watch season one of Game of Thrones legally, and he discovered there’s quite literally almost no way to do it. When customer service is this bad because you want such a tight grip on your content, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face, and turning potential customers into the “content thieves” you hate so much. Would you rather Mr. Oatmeal have shelled out $5 an episode for Game of Thrones to watch it online, or have him download the entire season in an hour for free off of a torrent site with no consequences? You didn’t even give him a choice.

Seven hours of TV a week divided by the 50,400 I’m paying for equals the fact that I consume .00013% of the television I have access to, yet am paying full price for all of it. And these companies, be they Comcast or AT&T or whomever, don’t even have the decency to let me offer to pay $5-10 per channel? Even that would be overpaying by a massive amount, as I’d still only be watching an hour or two of each channel a week, but at least it would be a reasonable compromise. But this all or nothing mentality is a way to lose your remaining customers quickly, and now, you’ve just lost me.

Similar Posts


  1. Agree completely — and as an ATT employee, I get a pretty sweet deal on Uverse, but I’ll be F-ed if Im gonna pay $15 a month for however long I have to sign up for, just to watch 10 episodes of Game of Thrones.

  2. Oh that’s nothing. Here in our tiny Arkansas town, we only have 1 cable company who doesn’t offer any type of digital format, and has said they won’t be offering it. They do not and do not plan to support HD at all. It’s so unfair.

    Also, we DO pay for HBO, and when HBOgo came out, were very excited to be able to watch our fav HBO programs anytime anywhere… but then we found out because of our CRAP cable company, we cannot even use it because it is not one of the supported companies. This really makes me mad because I know they aren’t going to care and I’ll never get to even use HBO go even though I’m paying for the service.

    Not only that, but they area also the only internet company in town, offering a high-speed *2* bmp connection.. ($40/mo) Luckily I live in a tiny pocket able to pick up ATT and get 6 bmps for $10 less than we were paying for the ‘high-speed’ 2 bmp connection. (Really sucks when you’re used to the 30+ bmp connection at work) We have a great company on the outskirts of town who offers super high-speed services at very affordable prices.. however, they cannot come into town because the cable company has such a monopoly… (they are also our City Water & Light, so the town relies on their income) It’s such fucked up bullshit…

    I still love my state, and the solitude of living in a small town, but you are right: these are the reasons ..people download things! Fix it, and you might actually MAKE some money instead of loosing it hand over fist.

  3. The reasons companies don’t let you pick and choose your channels is because no one (or almost no one) would choose to buy the local channels, and the FCC says everyone has to carry local channels. And you’d have no way to discover new shows or change your plan to just throw on a channel when you want.

    However I still agree. I also wish you could pay for the premium channels only (HBO, showtime, etc) without having all the other channels.

  4. I’m sure I saw a story on 60 minutes or something similar on why we can’t choose the channels we want. Example ESPN makes something like $7 of every subscriber whether you watch them or not. They force the cable companies into an all or nothing deal. You pay us $7 for every subscriber or we won’t sell you our programming at all. So ESPN, just a single example, doesn’t want us to have choices in our programming. Many of these channels don’t. They know they would lose hundreds of millions in subscriber fees and advertising if they had to compete. Honestly, we don’t stand a chance against them. They also own our politicians or we could get something done about all their illegal and anti competitive practices such as price fixing.

    Tips for dealing with cable companies:

    Just straight up tell them you can’t afford the full price and can you get the promotional price again. Bring up how bad the economy is, price of gas etc…

    If they say no, tell them you really can’t afford XXX.XX every month and you’re moving to satellite which is having a promotion.

    If they still say no then hang up and call again. There are countless people working at the call centers. You won’t get the same one. You’ll get someone random and likely to be reasonable since I believe they get a commission for signing people up . Tell this new person you really want to stick with their service and you’re hoping they can work with you. Sound reasonable. Like its a problem you’re both working together on.

    If that fails, call again and maybe you’ll get someone more reasonable. Does this sound ridiculous? Yes. Do it work? Yes.

    I know people who have gone many many years with nice cable packages while paying promotional prices. Just keep calling until you find someone willing to say yes. There are lots of them out there.

  5. @mandy
    I know a guy who works with a conglomerate affiliated with the govt to break up monopolies. The specialize in supplanting businesses. Its kinda dark stuff but it works. Their only aim is to supply competition

  6. I’ve used this argument before, then again you’ve written this article before. But for a single person the current cable format is not ideal, but it is meant to be used for families. Which your proposed pay for only the channels you want plan would absolutely destroy. If I had to pay for Comedy Central, FX, AMC, ESPN etc for me, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC E! For my mom, HGTV, TLC, etc. For my dad Disney, Nick, Cartoon Network etc. For the kids that would be extremely expensive if you had to pay 5-10 bucks a month per station that would cost WAY more than the bundles currently available. And to be honest families outnumber people in Paul’s situation greatly. Just because YOU only need wheat thins and gummi bears doesn’t mean the majority of people don’t need 100 pounds of salami.

  7. @ Sam

    Then give people the option. Paul can pick his channels ala carte and you get the traditional package.

    They wont do this though becuase they would lose money from Paul. Why give him the option to save money when he really doesnt have another choice?

  8. I feel your pain. I dropped cable a few years ago for exactly these reasons. At $100/mo +/- I should never say “there’s nothing on” but there I was…

    Now I use other legitimate services to watch whatever TV shows I want/can and really only losing out on real time sports. I tried last season to legally sign up for my local team’s games (again in real time, who needs to wait 24 hours to watch a baseball game, I think we’ve all seen that episode of Seinfeld) but was completely thwarted. I could get the package but the local games are blacked out. I can gt the local games from that team, but must wait a day to watch them in condensed form.

    Why are they making it so hard to be a paying customer? I’ll pay the subscription, watch the commercials, whatever, just let me be your customer please?!

  9. Why do we even have “channels”? All media, including TV programming should be a la carte and on demand, available through multiple sources at home and on the go. Except sporting events and news, why have ANY live TV? If I want to watch Office, why do I need to tune in at a specific time on Thursdays? They should follow what music industry did – you don’t have to buy the whole album if all you want is one song. And it’s all available online, on demand, streamed or downloaded. That would create a true marketplace and greatly increase their profits because people would stop downloading illegally.

  10. Its really the networks that beat on the cable companies. For example here in NY our major cable provider got into a pissing match with ABC. It was all about how much the company should pay for it. When the cable company didnt pay up ABC simply said fuck you and pulled their channel right before and even during the oscars or some other award show that escapes me right now. anyways point of my story is that the networks have the cable companies by the balls. They force them to pay whatever price they ask for or just pull the channel. Since the cable company cant afford to be the one that doesnt have said network they lose. What i suggest if you have had it with that bill is to watch parks and rec , office etc.. on Hulu , and i believe you can just buy the season of GOT off itunes as it airs ( not positive about that ) Oh and dont feel bad for the cable companies for they will fuck you with the internet ( At&t started having cap limits on data usage just like with cell phones)

  11. I believe the problem is not so much that they are evil, stupid or conservative. It is also an infrastructural issue. If they offer the feature to pick your own channel, everyone would do so.

    Which means that instead of 3-6 configurations they have now, they will suddenly have several million, with each needing separate support, maintenance and hassle, if you want to add a channel.

    The technology is still not advanced enough to let this whole system run completely automatically, so i do not see the change happening in the near future.

  12. @ASD

    They can block HBO and Showtime easily enough so why would it be hard to block the cooking channel if thats a channel I didnt want to purchase. I think they can offer ala carte channel selection with the technology we have but there is no reason for them to do so. All it does is save money for the consumer. A consumer who for the most part doesnt have an option.

  13. The sad thing is that if anyone from HBO sees that comic, all they’ll see is “proof” that piracy is a problem.

    I’m one of those people that had all the channels growing up. Every single freaking one. It’s not because we were rich, but rather my dad loved his tv waaay too much. But despite that, I still visited torrent sites because even though we were paying an insane amount for “premium” tv, the only thing worth watching were the HBO shows (and Dexter). All the movies sucked. They have two or three good/new movies and the rest were pretty much junk. No, thank you, but I don’t want to see BlankMan for 17th time.

    They also made you get pointless channels, too. For us, we had HBOEast and HBOWest, which played the same exact movies and shows, just three hours apart. We also had HBO Latino, which is cool if you speak Spanish, but I don’t, and it’s a waste. HBO should just have an alternate service where you can just watch their tv shows and not have to pay for all the other stuff. I’m sure that ppl scared off by the $20 full subscription package (at least, that’s how much it is here) would be less scared of a $5/month tv-show-only package. I don’t know how they’d implement it, but hey, they got ppl for that.

  14. Why don’t you just call AT&T and complain, saying you’ll cancel your service unless they put your account back on promotional pricing? I do that every 6 months with comcast and I’ve been paying their 6-month promotional $89.99 price for cable and internet for over four years now. They want to keep you as a customer, but they will try to dick you over on prices. Just let them know you would rather deal with the hassle of finding a new ISP and cable provider, and they will crumble before you.

  15. I briefly worked in tech support at a major cable company (We’ll call them Scomscast) and one of the first thing you learn in the training is the problem with trying to offer channels A la carte.

    Basically, a cable provider has to pay a certain amount of money per subscriber to each company whose channel they provide. Apparently, it is a lot; so if they start selling channels a la carte, a lot of people are going to be opting out of a lot of channels, which is bad for everyone. For example:

    Say a bunch of people go a la carte and don’t want Comedy Central (idiots). That means Scomscast doesn’t have to pay Comedy Central for all those people. The only way to make up for that loss in revenue is for Comedy Central to charge Scomscast a much higher price per subscriber; an expense which definitely gets passed to the customer. So an a la carte channel service would be just as expensive as a package because the individual channels would be so expensive. This goes for any channel.

    I’m not giving cable providers a pass here (I don’t work there anymore because they are the devil) , but the issue is basically an outdated industry model that no one company can change without going under.

    TLDR: It’s the Business, not the businesses. But feel free to blame them for shitty service and poor customer treatment.

  16. @Carl We actually have that kind of deal in Quebec with Videotron. However, it stops at like 30 channels for 30$. 20 channels 20$ and 10 channels 10$ doesn’t make the cut. Hell, i’d pay 50$ for like 60 or 70 channels of my choosing if i could.

  17. @Dexter Morgan -Foxtel likes to mix decent channels in with rubbish ones for their packages so you have to pick 5 diff packages for 5 channels you want. It’s crap but monopoly is like that 🙁 80bucks a month and it comes with the most annoying advertising on tv,(for some reason, a lot of funeral plan ads). Yeh..cable has gone to hell in Australia too.

  18. Well, this is from Berlin, Germany: I have no cable, but about 40 free to air digital channels (not HD). Internet including phone service is 19,90€. That’s it.
    Btw, I’m on a prepaid mobile account with 100MB 3G data and unlimited 2G data for 5€ per 30 days.

  19. What I love are the all inclusive packaging that isn’t. For example, I have Fios internet, cable, phone. It was supposed to be 90 dollars a month. Buuuuut, wait! Oh, you want a box so you can watch that TV? Well, that’s another 10 dollars to rent that box. Okay, you want to be able to watch TV in two different rooms? Well, okay, that second box is 12 dollars a month! Keep in mind, you cannot watch ANYTHING without the box.

    Now, add your taxes and fees and 90 dollars is now 160. Yeah, some package.

  20. I wholeheartedly agree with all of this, and the ONLY way to change the system is to FORCE the system to change.

    I DO NOT agree that the cable companies would have to charge MORE if we got less channels. For one, there ARE channels that ACTUALLY pay the cable companies to be on their basic tier.

    IMO, here are some Channels that can go straight to bankruptcy, if a la carte was allowable.

    The shopping channels: HSN, QVC, MALL, The Jewelry Network, ShopNBC

    The Christian Channels: TBN, Angel One / Two, etc…

    And here is the TRUE RUB: The FCC allows this monopolistic action on behalf of the cable and satellite companies, why EXACTLY?

    Why isn’t Cox, AT&T, Comcast and Adelphia in EVERY area COMPETING with each other? Originally, it was because the expense of installing cable lines into homes. When was the last time they had to install a cable?

  21. I had given up on cable (tv) about 5 years ago. I purchased the lowest reasonable speed cable modem package.

    My house is wired for ethernet and naturally have multiple.

    I purchased a vpn service thru mullvad.net as i’m a little bit paranoid about all the lawsuits flying around.

    I torrent the shit out of everything.

    Until the cable companies deliver a reasonable option i’m not playing there game any longer.

  22. I went to high speed internet connection only for two years and added Netflix and put an attenae in my attic for $80 and card in my computer for $189. That comes with a dvr that records about 50 hours of HD and I get all the local and surrounding channels. Fiber optic cable just came to me so I have it for $85 a month that includes 2 dvrs , HD and HBO for one year(yes Game of Thrones is the best show…EVER!) At the end of the year my price will go to $155 a month, so I call and tell them to disconnect I’ll go back to TWC for a special price. They will either keep my price for another year or I move on. This is the “cable game” Hopefully, enough competition will eventually drive prices down and we can go with fewer channel choices.

  23. the local channels can be the basic package for the hookup and line. my objection i am not a sports watcher
    so that’s about 10 channels then the dozen Spanish channels and the crap msnbc station id rather have nat geo, business , the various discovery etc now were back to cable boxes on all tvs
    only 1 free full box and there charging for the mini boxes that are not full service [comcast]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.