How We Watch TV

Friday, May 25, 2012


There are a lot of ways to watch TV -- free streaming online, via a traditional cable or satellite package, paying for services like Hulu Plus, etc. But the TV industry makes vastly different amounts of money depending on how you choose to watch. We invited Peter Kafka, media reporter for the website All Things Digital to play the part of a mustache-twirling cable baron and explain which of our staffers have viewing habits he can support and why.

Earle Hagen and Herbert W. Spencer - The Fishin' Hole

Red Foley - Television


Peter Kafka

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Produced by:

Katya Rogers and PJ Vogt

Comments [10]

Another issue is the alacarte model people like to throw out there really doesn't work...and if people thought about it, it isn't what they would actually want.

Ask yourself why everything in hollywood is pg13 now, its because it is ala carte, its a model that creates risk adversion.

HBO creates things like game of thrones because of the subscription, it protects them, it gives them the freedom to take a risk, the viewers pay a set fee, and just asks them to try to deliver the awesome, no holds barred. ala carte and you risk everything every time, and you get pg13 dumbing down of everything to try to claw back as much money as you can each time. it is a recipe for mediocrity.

Jun. 04 2012 06:19 PM

Andrew Sleeth

sounds like you are just not bothering to look for quality programming, you can't say there are no good things if you've failed to look at anything for a long long time. From game of thrones/girls/shameless/justified/breaking bad etc this is the golden age of tv. You only deprive yourself by taking that position of all the new stuff is not good enough for the old man:)

Jun. 04 2012 06:11 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I finally got the most basic cable just to monitor public access, which I essentially founded here and for which the psychotics now running it have blocked me from producing on trumped up charges (nothing legal). Still, there is so much programming that I am embarrassed at its riches. Besides my daily 3 hours of C-SPAN's Washington Journal, in the last 2 days a Fox station gave me Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (based on Shakespeare's Hamlet) and John Sayles' Passion Fish, and an update of Arthur Conan Doyle's Reichenbach Falls with Sherlock Holmes. That is not to mention all the intelligent talk, none of which Fox or MSNBC because that & CNN costs extra!

Now, very few of the entertainment programs I've liked have lasted long enough to understand them. Most of all, I wish I knew what happened to the Yale graduate students accused of blowing up a NYC museum in Traveler. I loved it when they raced up to a blank wall in Cross Campus library. Did they know that in really led to a hidden outside Beineike Plaza?

Jun. 01 2012 07:49 AM
Steve schoen from wimberley, TX

I too felt left out from the "types" of people who watch tv list. I use the following:
Over-the-air tv. (As I'm about 40 miles from the broadcasting antennas I was lucky to have an old tv antenna still installed on the roof- with a radio shack booster.) I connect this to a "set-top" computer so that I can record shows using Windows Media and watch at my leisure (skipping commercials -- I must admit.) I receive all the major tv broadcast flavors and 3 PBS stations--- except on "bad-weather" days.
Broad band- I use the set-top computer to stream Netflix and Hulu to my tv.
With all of these choices, I watch way more tv than I'd like to, and can't imagine needing the extra choices from cable. (Then again--- I'm totally disinterested in watching sports.) The one aspect of tv which lowers my watching time is my disinterest in reality tv, most crime solving shows, most situation comedies, etc. The networks also help me by cancelling the shows I love in their first season (nerdy sci fi such as Awake and Dollhouse.)

May. 31 2012 11:34 AM
Susan from Chicago

I am also disappointed that non-cable subscribers were ignored. I know we are a small group, but I do just fine with over-the-air tv and a netflix subcription. I get my dsl line separately. I think I watch more and better tv than most people I know who pay a lot more for it.

May. 29 2012 08:06 AM
Andrew Sleeth from Raleigh, NC

The older I get, the less of an appetite I have for television programming and the more inclined I am to see it as impertinent nonsense.

Network TV's obsessive glorification of doctors, cops and lawyers is tiresome. Those of the first two professions I have little respect for, and the last only a wee bit more, perhaps because I've had less personal contact with them. This doesn't leave much in the way of program content worth watching ... at least not on network TV, the only form I've ever accessed, free over the airwaves.

My standards were set high back in the 1990s watching Northern Exposure, the yardstick by which I measure the 60-minute drama format. Each episode was a precisely structured literary masterpiece, and all of it was relatable because the characters were ordinary, even if at times some bordered on surreal. None were "action heroes," not even one-time astronaut Maurice -- perhaps least of all him because he was so unlikeable. But they all groped around with issues common to humanity, not with shooting people, electrocuting someone into consciousness, or delivering spellbinding speeches in a courtroom.

Few efforts compare even remotely now to Northern Exposure in script quality and dramatic concept. Still, I must tip my hat to David Simon and The Wire. I consider his production the fulfillment of what Fred Friendly saw in the early years as television's potential to contribute substantively to national dialogue and education about social and policy issues. But I didn't need television to see that drama; instead, I plowed through it on DVD without the slightest sense of deprivation for lacking HBO.

So with programming quality as rarified as this, why would any sensible person pay hundreds of dollars, month after month for 99.9 percent worthless content, plus commercial advertisements?

Oh, and incidentally, some of us do still adore our local daily newspapers. (Does anyone actually take TV news seriously?) And tree-huggers like myself can subscribe with a clear conscience, now that so many dailies (You go, News & Observer!) offer e-editions that allow us to enjoy broadsheet format without all that nasty, poisonous printer's ink and tons of paper.

May. 28 2012 09:38 AM
Hugh Lilly from Auckland, New Zealand

To add to Joyce's comment, there's a fifth type of person: one (necessarily a 'pirate') who lives outside the US and for whom there is no such thing as Netflix, Hulu et al.

May. 28 2012 12:37 AM
Pat in Ann Arbor from Ann Arbor

The cable baron got a free pitch against net neutrality. And he was given free reign to blame the bad pirate, though his remedy would affect non-pirating users such as myself.
OTM has covered net neutrality very well as here:
It would be interesting to hear other hypothetical stakeholders, such as a Google baron or an EFF baron, offer their predictions of the future.

May. 27 2012 06:52 PM
TB from MA, USA

This piece was kind of cute but what we really NEED is INFORMATION, OTM folks! Who pays to build out the Internet, what part of our bill is profit v build-out and assuring access to all, how do US access fees, schemes and services compare to other devel. countries? are US industry lobbyists going to win concessions on tiered access so movies and games will cost us many times over? (once in our ISP bill, once in extra fee, next in bandwidth consumption, and once for all, in limiting bandwidth for other public, educational, informational services?) What we need badly in the US is an educated citizenry. You have a bully pulpit (for now) so why not educate?

May. 26 2012 02:20 PM
Joyce Ketterer from Williamsburg Brooklyn (I know)

Hi all! I have never written before to suggest a new angle but on this one I feel I really must.

You mentioned 3 types of viewers but forgot a 4th which I represent. I am 35 and live with my husband (read as "I'm an adult") We pay for our own broadband.We do not have cable TV. We do not use Hulu. We also do not pirate and we do not purchase our content very often either. Instead we mostly watch shows on the stream provided by the network and go out of our way to not block the commercials. This is a very intentional choice. We want to support our shows with advertisement viewership but we also are perfectly happy curating our own programming. Yes, this saves us money and that is a total plus, but honestly we just got sick of cable. It's oodles of channels of repeats and just not worth the cost. Once you get past the hurdle of getting accustomed to being in charge of your own content it really isn't that scary. I wish more people would do this and then maybe they could sell more add space and I wouldn't have to literally watch the same add literally back to back.

I think this sort of thing is the "grown-up" choice that folks like your male producer will go to. There will always be people who want to own copies of shows like Catia but I for one only buy stuff I intend to watch over and over again. I still want to "pay" because I don't want my shows to go away and this is how I do it. Aggregators like sidereel make it easy. All this is a little over the head of people just a few years older than me - they can't quite figure out how I listen to podcasts either - but they will age out.

No, I don't like commercials most of the time. But I appreciate adds for other shows so I can keep up my list of content.

And yes, I am not perfect. I use a ghost UK IP address to watch BBC content - but I would pay for iPlayer if I could!

May. 26 2012 08:17 AM

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