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I know what I want – I just don’t see it yet

Submitted by on Friday, 5 March 2010 No Comment

I pay $65 a month for satellite TV service, and that’s way too much considering that we regularly watch only  Nickelodeon, ESPN and the local FOX affiliate. The package includes 200 channels, many of which I’ve never heard of, let alone viewed. BYU TV? Shopnet? Completely superfluous. We’ll probably watch Speed once in a while, though, now that I’ve figured out we have it.

The bill includes a $10 month charge for high definition – essential to Dad but not me – and a charge for a DVR I thought I had to have except I still don’t have time to watch anything.

We also pay $15.21 for Netflix, which we watch far more than we do the satellite service. We get ESPN 360 for free through our ISP, but I’d gladly pay for it, at least during football season, if we didn’t already get it and if that were an option.

It all leaves me feeling decidedly gouged – we pay the most for the service we use the least, and we overpay for things we don’t want or need. But, then, that’s been the complaint of cable/satellite subscribers for decades.

It also leaves me hoping for a solution someday. The technology is there if someone could come up with a sane business plan.

Hulu maybe? Not under its current configuration – a small selection of content that’s already been broadcast is not going to drive the masses to a site. And definitely not for the monthly fee being considered.

That’s the problem with the economics of the online world right now – at least for people trying to make money in it. A Web site does well traffic-wise, mistakes that for demand and tries to slap on a fee.

In the case of Hulu, the fee would be on top of advertising already within the programming. Granted, it’s advertising the viewer can skip easily, but advertising nonetheless. Plus it’s content that people can recordand watch later. No one’s going to pay for the convenience of viewing it later when there’s a DVR solution they’re already paying for.

One of these days, a Hulu-like set-up will be the way people watch most television. Maybe it will be when companies such as MTV Networks, which also owns Nickelodeon and is owned by Viacom, realize that they don’t really need cable providers because they can go directly to the customer. Perhaps Hulu itself, which is owned in part by Disney which in turn owns other cable mainstays such as ESPN, will be the first to the epiphany.

There’s an infrastructure problem in many parts of the country, places that already are on the wrong side of the digital divide and lack affordable broadband access. But just as satellite providers were born when cable companies refused to serve rural areas, that issue eventually will be overcome, too. It might take government intervention, just as creating universal phone service did back in the day, but it will happen.

It’s also possible that, once it all shakes out, consumers will wind up paying as much for the dozen channels they do want as they currently do for the 195 they don’t watch.

Any production company thinking along those lines should remember the Digital Natives’ unfortunate bent toward piracy. If you don’t give it to them in an affordable, easy-to-access way to watch what they want when they want to, they’re going to steal it.

Yes, Hulu has the right idea but the wrong product and the wrong price point. It is, however, a glimpse of the future if a company can come up with a smart business plan that’s not a gouge.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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