Why My Mom Will Never Drop Cable for Netflix and Hulu

I’ve always done my best to keep my mom savvy with the times. I’ve tried to introduce her to Facebook, YouTube, the advantages of FarmVille over solitaire — you know, modern stuff. But the only time I’ve managed to captivate her interest is when I showed her the insane selection of movies and TV shows available on Netflix and Hulu.

Whenever I’m visiting, my mom is quick to ask about the new stuff we can watch. She’ll shotgun an entire season of Frasier, or check out new movies from Starz. Heck, I even got her into Battlestar Galactica. I figured it would be no problem to combine this with her almost all-consuming interest in saving money. I took the plunge; after all, $17 per month ($9 for Netflix streaming, $8 for Hulu Plus) beats what she pays for cable by a long shot.

“Hey mom, could I convince you to drop cable and get Netflix and Hulu instead?”

My mom thought about this for awhile and said definitively, “No.”

I was surprised by the answer and asked if she’d explain. I was impressed with her response because I think it describes why Netflix and Hulu will have some difficulty drawing customers like my mom, who represents a huge number of potential viewers. Here’s what she said:

Netflix and Hulu are great and all, but I never remember how to use them when you aren’t around… and if I didn’t have cable I couldn’t watch the news!

I always suspected my mom would have trouble using even mildly technological stuff without me, but the last part really gets to the heart of the issue — without cable my mom has no way of watching her beloved local news. Sure, we could argue about how I could show my mom how to go online to check the local news outlet website and blah blah blah, but that’s just not how a lot of people my parents’ age work. They want to flip on the TV and let the news happen to them rather than clicking around a site to find stories they consider interesting.

The nightly local news seems like such a trivial reason to keep paying for cable, but the pre-bedtime ritual of listening to the local anchor is nothing to sneeze at in my mom’s opinion. I think Netflix and Hulu could make an absolute killing if they lowered the entrance barrier for local news outlets to get their content included in their set of features.

Netflix and Hulu, I’m telling you guys, advertise to local stations and create a way for them to easily stream content to your users from your services. If you do that, my mom will drop cable and never look back. I can almost guarantee you that she won’t be alone.

That said, Netflix has turned my mom into a bit of a TV hog…

Xbox Live to get Cable-Esque Service?

You may soon be able to watch cable television on Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service. Microsoft is rumored to be joining Comcast and Verizon to provide a cable-esque service on Xbox Live. No details are out as of yet, so allow me to speculate and dream like a wee lad looking at the wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December.

A cable service on Xbox Live would be incredibly convenient to people who hate having 16 set-top boxes and remotes hanging out all over the living room. It also would allow you to have cable television service without a physical cable line. At this very minute I’m watching non-cable TV only because the TV I have does not fit well on the wall where the cable outlet is. I don’t want to run cords all over the place, so cable isn’t hooked up. I do however, have an Xbox with a wireless adapter – that means I could watch ESPN3 on my TV through my Xbox. This could prove to be incredibly convenient, and would make having to route cable through walls and ceilings a thing of the past.

Something else I would love to see would be a little more customization on what you can choose to watch/pay for. I would love to be able to pay for a few different groups of channels. If I could grab just some ESPN channels and a few premium channels (I’m hoping those come to Xbox as well), I would be set. I have always wanted to be able to just watch HBO or Showtime without purchasing a full cable subscription.

Overall, Microsoft’s decision to join Comcast in the cable biz was a pretty smart one. Gaming consoles have become significantly more that just video-game-playing machines. I would say I use my Xbox for non-game uses more frequently than for playing games. Allowing the ability to watch cable television will only add to the uses of the console. All of a sudden it might not be such a waste to own more than one Xbox! The new feature could definitely help sell some more consoles for Microsoft as well as keep them relevant after a new console comes out in the future.

The Month That I Had Cable TV

For some reason, there seems to be this impenetrable wall between myself and accumulated money (this wall may be made up solely of beer and video games, but it is a wall none the less). Because of this unfortunate, seemingly impossible-to-avoid situation, I constantly find myself in, I find that I must cut back in other areas in my life to keep my head above water. My last big endeavor (and one seeming to rise in popularity) was to say good bye to cable television.

That was some time ago, probably around March or April, and it was hardly even missed, especially in summer when I moved out and my roommate spent most his time working. But, since school is back in session and more importantly the NFL season started back up, we decided we wouldn’t mind spending a few bucks a month extra to be able to watch football and Weeds every week.

So we scoured the mail looking for a promotion we could jump on to save a few bucks and make the switch back to cable. When we found it: the deal was DVR theatre suite and internet for $79.00 for 6 months (I’m not even going to get started with the $123/month it was after the 6 months were up). My roommate and I both decided that after the 6 months were up (around May 2011) we would cancel it because summer would be upon us again. Sounded like a pretty good deal.

Then we got the first bill.  We had been getting internet from this company for quite some time so we took a look to see how much more each of us had to pay from what we already were. What was the grand total of our first month’s bill? $79.00? No, that would be pretty hard to expect. Try $133.34. I actually found that a little harder to believe, especially because free installation was part of the deal!

We promptly did some digging.

There was:

  • $79.00 for the Bundled Services
  • $3.00 for Additional Cable Services
  • $9.95 for Other Charges & Adjustments (AKA Installation)
  • $12.23 for Taxes, Surcharges & Fees

Oh yeah.. and $29.16 for Partial Month Services.

$29.16 for 8 days? Oh and free installation.. Except for the $9.95 they charged for installation.

Now I usually wouldn’t gripe about all these extra fees because everyone expects them by now. But, the part that got me was the “Partial Month Services” because we specifically waited until the end of the month to get it. So after looking a little deeper we found the “partial month” was from Oct. 29 to Nov. 7.

$29.16 for 8 days of cable TV

To me that was a little ridiculous. Never mind that $29.16 is 37% of the $79.00 advertised price, but add on top of it the fact that we had already paid for internet for that month, and yeah I felt it was a little much (especially because we couldn’t even watch it for the first few days as we were rounding up an HDMI cable to run to our projector from the DVR).

I suggested a call to the cable company. We had been long time customers for internet and the circumstances did (I thought) warrant some kind of change or even a pro-rate of our last month’s internet bill. They would probably be willing to work with us.

They didn’t. And because of that, we no longer have cable TV.

Now, I don’t honestly believe that anyone at the cable company really lost sleep over their loss of 5 months of service from one customer. But, maybe they should. My roommate and I are both young guys and could quite possibly live in the area for years to come. Maybe after college, when I have money and the beer/video game wall is slightly smaller, I wouldn’t mind spending $100 a month on TV. But, after this, it definitely won’t be with that company. And, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of people canceling for reasons just like this.

In some areas there aren’t much else for options. There’s always Dish, but that has contracts of usually 2 years. Personally, I’ve gone to watching a lot of streaming movies/TV series on Netflix and that’s not bad. I’ve been pretty interested in checking out Hulu Plus and I’m excited about the rumors that Xbox Live will get a subscription based, cable-esque service. Hopefully in time options like these can make a big enough impact to see a change in the way cable companies treat their customers.

What about the rest of you? Have any of you had enough with your cable/satellite/internet provider and given them the boot? What’s your story, and what options are you utilizing instead? Let us know in the comments.

(Update: As I’m posting this article I feel like I must include the fact that since we canceled the Bundled Services and switched back to just internet, they insisted they needed to send a guy out to physically install the internet at our apt.. for $35. Even though we own our own modem and router and the entire setup has not changed since the Bundled Services were canceled. Apparently it is possible to disconnect services remotely, but not so much to turn them on?)

Image Courtesy of Collin Anderson