I tried. It was January, the NFL season was wrapping up and I’d had enough of cable companies. I decided to “cut the cord” and go without a television subscription.
With the money I saved, I bought a Netflix subscription and a few seasons of shows on Amazon Instant Video. At least my money wouldn’t be going into cable companies’ greedy pockets.
Cable companies make a 97 percent profit on internet services, according to Berstein Research. Demand Media reports that cable companies have the highest average profit margin (39 percent) among media companies.
Make no doubt about it: Cable companies are making a lot more money than they probably should — mostly thanks to some savvy legal battles.
Cable companies, with the backing of Hollywood production companies, have fought in court against every effort for “a la carte” television. That is, a system that allows for users to choose exactly which channels they want and pay only for those channels, rather than having to select “packages” that force many channels on customers that they’ll never watch.
There are a few shows I like to watch live, but even those aren’t available for purchase online until the day after airing. Technology dictates that they could have been available while they were airing, but cable companies (again) fought a legal battle to keep that from happening. That’s fine. I’m a patient man. I can wait. This was about principle.
I lasted about eight months. I called AT&T, already my internet provider, and asked for their cheapest package one day after trying to watch my first San Diego Chargers game as a “cord-cutter.”
The first thing you need to understand about watching live sports online is that it’s illegal. Based on the way it’s policed, I’d say it’s roughly equivalent to murder. Video feeds are taken down within minutes of being posted, and I imagine SWAT teams are sent through the windows of whomever dares put up a live video of a Chargers preseason game. If you plan on watching an entire game on your computer, be prepared to miss about half of the game while you search for a new feed after your old one has been taken down.
The second thing you need to understand about watching live sports online is that it will introduce you to what television must’ve looked like in the early ’70s. With all of the loopholes feed-providers need to jump through to not get caught posting the live video, viewers are left wondering whether the dark-uniformed guy tackling the white-uniformed guy is a good thing.
I would’ve paid the $150 for NFL Sunday Ticket (streamed straight to my Playstation 3), but NFL laws (dictated by the cable companies) say that I can’t watch Chargers games if I’m in Southern California. Why? So I’d be forced to buy cable.
By the time the Chargers played their second preseason game, I was watching in full high-definition glory on my living room television. I had lost the battle and the war. I was paying for hundreds of channels that I will never watch just to see my favorite professional football team play its games.
Things would get even sillier months later, when I couldn’t watch any San Diego Padres games because of negotiations/arguments between Fox and AT&T about which package Fox Sports San Diego should be a part of. All I wanted was the one channel, seeing as it’s the only way to see the team without actually going to games (good luck finding an online video feed of a Padres game).
I would’ve paid the $130 for MLB.TV on my computer or television, but MLB also bends to the will of cable companies and will not allow Padres game viewing from San Diego online. Personally, I find the notion that MLB.TV is best suited for Padres fans outside of the San Diego area laughable.
So, here I sit in between the months of football and baseball. I pay my monthly cable bill for the right to watch the Padres when games start airing in the spring, and the Chargers when games start airing in August.
Don’t think for a second cable companies don’t realize what they’re doing. Live sporting events on television are about the only thing left that TV watchers don’t DVR and fast-forward through the commercials. It’s why advertising prices during live sporting events have skyrocketed and channels like Fox Sports San Diego have begun demanding the world from cable companies. This leads to situations where half of the county — Time Warner subscribers — can’t watch the Padres in their home market.
When push comes to shove, there is no more important cable customer than the one who watches sports regularly. We’re the ones that the cable companies are fighting the hardest to keep. Blackout restrictions will keep us from being able to go anywhere but cable to watch local sports teams. High-priced lawyers will thwart any “a la carte” push. Welcome to the plight of the modern sports fan.