How Many Cable Channels Do You REALLY Need?


How many TV channels do you watch?

I can tell you right now how many I watch. CBS, ABC and FOX for the network content (News, Morning, Late Night), CW for “Arrow,” AMC for “Mad Men,” the ESPN suite, TNT on the odd night they’re showing a basketball game, TBS for “Family Guy” repeats and “Conan,” “YES” network for Nets/Yankees games (Haters gonna hate) and “HBO” for obvious reasons. That’s it. About 12 channels. I still pay $80-something dollars a month so Time Warner Cable can continue to roll around in piles of money.

Well, something’s gotta give. Mel Karmazin, the former President and CEO of CBS and former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio (and the genius who brought Howard Stern on board), gave an interview a few years back saying that the current model of Cable TV is completely broken, and that once the major content providers figure out how to get their product directly to the consumer, the major cable companies would fold like a cheap suit.

Unfortunately for us, we’re nowhere near getting a new cable model, nor will we be getting the option to buy channels “a la carte” anytime soon. A new study released by Nielsen, the major research company that puts out TV ratings, will show you just how much of a problem this is.

According to Nielsen, since 2008, the number of channels that Americans receive increased 46%, from an average of 129.3 to a whopping 189.1. However, the number of channels that we actually watch increased about 1%, from 17.3 to 17.5 That .2 uptick is probably explained by how much we now binge watch.

Nielsen says that this data “substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption. And that means quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers.”

What could be the reason behind all of this? We now have more places to watch TV that aren’t on TV: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Streaming, iTunes, etc. Furthermore, we have things that have replaced the cable box entirely: AppleTV, Google Chromecast, Roku, sleeping with someone for use of their HBO GO account, etc.

Maybe it’s just that there’s too many crappy channels on the air. That’s absolutely true. But not everyone watches the same channels, not by any stretch. The die-hard “Duck Dynasty” fans aren’t really gonna be watching HBO’s “Girls.” “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” fans probably won’t care about what’s going on over on the Christian Broadcasting Network. I don’t know many people who care about when a Falcons/Packers “Monday Night Football” game interferes with “Watch What Happens Live!”

The fact of the matter is, we shouldn’t have to put up with the high cost of cable anymore if we’re consuming less than 20 channels, and have over 200 available for us to watch. It’s about time that someone woke up and started forcing the cable companies to give us what we want, or let them get cut out when the NFL decides to just sell the “NFL Network” directly to the people.

Canadian government officials are already looking into mandatory unbundling of cable channels, and it’s a damn fine thing for the US to watch closely and possibly follow suit. Does that sound like government interfering with private enterprise? Absolutely. But who do you hate more – Canada or Time Warner Cable? The choice is pretty obvious to me.

[via Ars Technica]

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