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Thread: What is the deal with cable t.v. programming?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    What is the deal with cable t.v. programming?

    I had a bit of a revelation over the weekend, too much of it spent mindlessly watching the idiot box. Not that cable tv sucks and is a complete waste of money (I pretty much knew that), but that we’ve pretty much reached the point where there is no rational explanation for cable tv programming anymore. There are a few channels that serve their original purpose (i.e. Speed Network, HGTV, Comedy Channel), but most specialty/niche channels have strayed so far from their roots that there is very little difference in content between them.

    There was a time when The History Channel was devoted to history and good storytelling, The Discovery Channel was devoted to science, and The National Geographic channel had programming about nature and animals. Now the History channel runs documentaries about Canadian truck drivers and logging adventures interspersed with a neverending (and incredibly morbid) series about criminal gangs, the only thing worth discovering on the Discovery channel is how to blow stuff up and survive in the wilderness, and National Geographic has basically gone AWOL from nature and turned into documentary channel focused on social ills (they like gangs too). The music channels, MTV and VH1, have pretty much phased out music programming and videos altogether in favor of bizarre reality shows and celebrity-worshipping content served up to groveling teens (BTW, what ever happened to the music video?).

    I’m through with cable and will be returning my box this week to the local cable racket. The last straw for me was “The Cougar”, a new reality show coming to TVland, of all stations, where a bunch of young guys compete bachelorette-like for an older woman.

    Anybody else had it with cable?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    the commercials are all timed so no matter where you flip you have to watch a commercial...

    discovery and history still have good programming but it tends to be on at weird hours instead of prime time when it should be.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I reduced our satellite subscription recently down to basic cable. While I find similar programming shifts like you, Hilldweller, I still like some shows and sports.

    NatGeo did do a fascinating doc on the Blue Whale last night.

    As for reality fluff, it makes me wonder what the "market" (i.e. Americans) take seriously if these are the shows that sell. (Same goes for juvenile commercials like the cartoon boogers for mucinex and those doofuses peddling free credit reports).

    You know, I watched a Family Guy episode last night and it got pretty low brow (and I am quite low brow admittedly). Used to be that Family Guy had some sort of intelligence to their morbid humor but now it seems to have slipped.

    Tonight it's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (the one show I look forward to during the week) on the Travel Channel. In fact, does Travel Channel still show poker? There is a programming shift if I ever saw one.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    I'd drop cable too if not for two things - it's the only way to get decent internet here and I still want sports programming. I would probably even go without the sports at home if it wasn't for the fact that just getting internet alone would only be like $5 cheaper than getting internet + basic cable We don't watch much TV.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Despite being a "too cool for cable" guy, we just yesterday went from basic cable to the next step up with hundreds of channels. The main reason is that we wanted to switch to a fiber-obtic phone line since our service often cuts out for days when it rains, and it was a good deal compared to what we had.

    So yeah, I was just going through all those channels that seem targeted to rediculously narrow interests (Polish American Nurses Network, etc) and 80% of them seemed to be reality shows. I was shocked to see actual music videos on some channels though. I'm just glad to have Comedy Central back.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian AnvilPartners's avatar
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    we cut the cable

    despite losing the bundling savings, we still came out on top. Our cable service was about $75 a month for basic channels and some digital programming. We flushed it last month...

    We subscribed to netflix for about $15 a month. We also bought a ROKU streaming device for $99 and now we stream HD content from netflix to our tv via our wireless internet at the house. Netflix just cut a deal with Amazon.com and they now offer pay per view content as well. There's a ton of free netflix streaming content, and also netflix dvds on top of the 40,000 titles at Amazon (and Amazon has free stuff too)...at the end of the day, I get to pick what I want to watch, and I'm paying much less for it...talk about great in terms of controlling what the kids are seeing....

    I kept the internet connection, which went to $55 a month since I'm not bundled, and I also dropped the time warner phone...and bought magicjack -- the magicjack cost me $40 for the equipment and the first year of service -- that's right -- $20 a YEAR for unlimited local and long distance calling from the home...the minimum phone with time warner was $39 a MONTH.

    I also dropped the local paper, in favor of google's news stuff...

    RES
    "Sometimes you have to get medieval with it...hammer, sparks, sweat, the whole nine yards...so don't forget your asbestos suit."
    Aphorisms on Public Hearings, Planning Guild Handbook (2001).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Dropping the Dish

    We've been doing serious cost cutting this year and the dish is on it's way out! There had been more and more channels with less and less content so we decided to drop it. I've gone back to an antenna and a hd converter box for our old tube-o-vision. I'm guessing that we'll be finishing more projects, reading more, and fighting like cats and dogs before long. Ah, that should spice up the old marriage, no?
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  8. #8
    Personaaly, I'm down to Heroes, Bones reruns, Life on Mars, Morning Joe/TWC in the mornings and occasionally Olbermann. When I got cable service down here, it was partially for WGN for Cubs games. Now the Cubbies have dropped WGN, that means I'll be watching even less TV. I agree with you, the only interesting cable stuff is Top Chief and the drama on TBS, and Eureka on Sci-FI. The Discover channel, history, A&E, etc have drifted so much that they aren't worth watching anymore
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Network decay. This is the authoritative commentary on the phenomenon.

    Many cable channels are created to fulfill a specific programming niche. The Golf Channel shows golf, The History Channel shows history programs, and so on. Some channels, however, are not as wedded to their original concept as others. Meddling Executives look at the Demographics to whom their channel appeals, and decide that, hey, since the people watching their Speculative Fiction channel are mostly 18- to 31-year-old males, and Professional Wrestling is hot among that demographic, surely no one would mind if we started showing Professional Wrestling!

    The fans of the original programming will mind, of course, but the channel tends to keep going regardless. This may show up with only a couple of odd programs in the schedule, but far too often, given enough time, a channel will have pretty much abandoned its original concept. Whether or not the former invariably leads to the latter is a subject for debate.

    Part of the cause seems to be the fact that the channel is originally created to air shows that are "in the vault" of the company that creates the channels, but soon, the channel's own executives discover that original programming nets them more money, and the new stuff slowly displaces the old. Reality Shows, as a genre where the cost to produce is especially low, are common here. This may result in a new "vault" channel, which slowly undergoes the same process. (Nicktoons Network from Nickelodeon, for example.)

    Note that one way to tell if this is happening is if the name of the network is hidden behind an acronym. For example, The Nashville Network referred to itself more and more as TNN (it eventually even changed what it stood for to "The National Network") before becoming Spike TV; similarly, you'd hardly know that TLC was ever called The Learning Channel.

    Some changes can be chalked up to the changing landscape of TV. As the number of channels goes up, networks re-align themselves to try and hold some of their market. That, or the parent companies who might own seven or more cable channels each shuffle stuff for "synergy" or to reduce redundancy. But mostly it's just good old-fashioned selling out for ratings — whether it works or not. Competition with new media is prevalent as well, as classic reruns give way to DVD box sets, music video channels give way to You Tube and iPods, and info-dumping all-text channels give way to the data display in a digital cable box or some new-fangled webernet site.

    Otherwise known as Viacom Syndrome.
    Plenty of examples are given on the Web site, too.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    You can pretty much go 24/7 watching reruns of Law and Order(s) and CSI(s). UGG.

  11. #11
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    In military parlance they call it mission drift when the scope of operations expands/shifts to address collateral issues. With cable programming we've seen it time and again (MTV is probably the textbook example but almost everyone else does it too) where a cable station is initially targeted to a specific demographic, only to learn (inevitably?) later that there's more money to be made if they can expand their content, appeal to a wider audience and thereby attract more sponsors. It's almost as if we've come full circle and every cable channel is now trying to be the ABC, NBC, and CBS of yesteryear. The pie may have gotten a little bigger in the last three decades but there's still only so many pieces you can realistically cut before the pie crust disintegrates into crumbs.

    Edit: looks like Dan beat me to the punch. That 'network decay' thing sounds like much the same as I'm talking about.
    Last edited by Maister; 09 Mar 2009 at 3:07 PM. Reason: noticed Dan's post

  12. #12
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am just happy that the cable monopoly will soon end. We are looking into the ATT U-Verse and a Satellite provider for our TV and Internet.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    You can pretty much go 24/7 watching reruns of Law and Order(s) and CSI(s). UGG.
    Haha. That is exactly what I thought when I read the title of the thread. I don't pay extra for my cable since it's included with the rent. Mostly we watch news, LINK TV, IFC, Sundance, and utilize the Netflix subscription.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    ATT U-Verse and a Satellite provider for our TV and Internet.
    AT&T U-Verse rocks! My parents are in the test market in sacramento, and when i know my family is going up, i just log online and have the machine record some programs i know i want to catch up on. Decently priced and service.

    As stated earlier, my fam ditch the satellite years ago and just pay comcast for limited basic service (i.e. local channels only) since the rabbit ears don't get good reception. It has worked out great with the aid of hulu and the net's websites that allow for the streaming of their shows in HD. Hulu even does the daily show and other cable shows, which is cool, even though its a day old, and to watch one commercial is kinda cool. (sidebar: i just hook up my macbook to my tv to get one high quality picture quality).

    Although i do miss my constant sports coverage of giants baseball
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  15. #15
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    if i become more motivated i want to set up a boxee system at home and not have to watch broadcast tv at all. i would also LOVE to have ala carte channel selection. i have all 400 home shopping channels but i dont have science or nat. geo

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    You know my opinion on the whole thing:

    Spanish Pipedream (AKA Blow Up Your TV)
    © John Prine

    She was a level-headed dancer on the road to alcohol
    And I was just a soldier on my way to Montreal
    Well she pressed her chest against me
    About the time the juke box broke
    Yeah, she gave me a peck on the back of the neck
    And these are the words she spoke

    Chorus:
    Blow up your TV throw away your paper
    Go to the country, build you a home
    Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
    Try an find Jesus on your own

    Well, I sat there at the table and I acted real naive
    For I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve
    Well, she danced around the bar room and she did the hoochy-coo
    Yeah she sang her song all night long, tellin' me what to do

    Repeat chorus:

    Well, I was young and hungry and about to leave that place
    When just as I was leavin', well she looked me in the face
    I said "You must know the answer."
    "She said, "No but I'll give it a try."
    And to this very day we've been livin' our way
    And here is the reason why

    We blew up our TV threw away our paper
    Went to the country, built us a home
    Had a lot of children, fed 'em on peaches
    They all found Jesus on their own



    OTOH, while visiting some friends a few weeks ago they had rented a season of 30 Rock from Netflix and we watched it. I have to say that it was great entertainment. Very sophisticated writing for TV. Too bad it's not all like that.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha ha ha....

    Cable.....how quaint.....

    My DirecTV is kind of annoying lately due to the fact that their programs begin and end just before or after the hour and my Tivo doesn't pick up a portion of the show
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    This Bear doesn't watch much regular TV.....but I keep the box because there are some HBO programs that I really dig.....

    Big Love
    True Blood
    Bill Maher


    HBO also, on occasion, has a movie I watch. Not too often, though.

    Because I am old, I am required by law to watch The Weather Channel.

    I watch the news (from various sources). The only traditional network program I watch is Big Bang Theory. The blonde neighbor is hot.

    The other favorite on cable.....Turner Classic Movies. So....I won't be dispatching the dish.
    _____

    When I lived in very rural Henry County I had the big giant web dish. It was about 6-feet across the face of that aiming-for-the-stars puppy. That was back in the day when many broadcast signals were free.....just aim the satellite. And many of the dish providers offered ala-carte channels. I miss those days.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Dont have cable and am invited to friends or relatives houses fto watch games
    I was cheap before I was out of work, but I really do prefer spending time with other people that volunteer, going to high school athletic games (one of my sons is a coach and has given us a free life time pass to all games that his school has) and in helping other people,
    But also understand that my life style is not for everyone, that is what makes people really interesting because we are all different and we learn something from someone everyone time we listen to them

  20. #20
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    *NO* cable nor satellite TV for me, just OTA. And if there is any kind of decent game on, I'll walk a few blocks to a local sports bar and watch it there - it's loads more fun that way than watching it alone at home, too.

    As for internet, I use a DSL service via a hard-wire phone line, total about $45/month (including the cheapest possible voice phone).

    My main phone is a cell with a very good (for me) plan that costs just under $40/month.

    Baseball? Even though it predates it by many decades, it is a game that is perfectly made for the radio and a good broadcast crew will be almost like being there in person. And when I fire up one of my antiques to listen to one - PURE HEAVEN! It just doesn't translate to the TV.



    Mike

  21. #21
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I'd get rid of cable if it weren't for my daughter's favorite channels; Noggin and Disney. At least she's taken to watching PBS on weekday mornings, instead of cable kid shows. But, the weekends would be brutal for her if I got rid of cable.

    Since my husband left, we've been watching way less tv and feeling really good about it. I play music while we make and eat supper, instead of having the tv on. And some nights even after my girls are in bed I don't turn it on at all, and spend time reading, sewing or playing on the computer. My ex was the type of person who always had to have the tv on, whether anybody was watching it or not.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cch View post
    I'd get rid of cable if it weren't for my daughter's favorite channels; Noggin and Disney. At least she's taken to watching PBS on weekday mornings, instead of cable kid shows. But, the weekends would be brutal for her if I got rid of cable.
    Don't know how your local PBS station is set, however i am fortunate enough to get 2 PBS feeds (one from the San Francisco Bay Area, the other Sacramento) and the SF Bay Area has a sunday morning cartoon line up, which is awesome since my daughter is only allowed to watch tv in the morning. Saturday mornings i rely on good ol' network Saturday morning cartoons (i have become an expert at this sadly). CBS/NBC has some great programming for children, especially younger children on NBC (it is actually a qubo feed, which includes cartoons such as "my friend rabbit and veggie tales, very appropriate for toddlers and available usually on satelite) and CBS has for the first 2 hours cartoons geared towards girls, that include Strawberry Shortcake, the Carebears, a live action show called "Cake" (which shows how to do crafts, and girly stuff like that) and finally my daughter's favorite, Horseland (which actually did a planning/environmental eposide a few months ago that involved a developer ).

    It is like i am a walking advertisement..lol As always, check your local listings.

    She gets spoiled with lots of "other" cartoons on nick/disney when she visits all the grandparents, but this way, it makes it special when she goes there cuz only they have it.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  23. #23
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    While ala carte programming sounds great, I think most people would be stunned to find out what their new cable bill would be. Most people watch more TV than they think they do to begin with. And if you want to watch sports, particularly any of the approximately 57 ESPN channels you will pay dearly if you want to keep doing so. Most of the channels people like are bundled with other crappy channels. Not saying I like it, just saying that's the reality of it.
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

  24. #24
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MD Planner View post
    While ala carte programming sounds great, I think most people would be stunned to find out what their new cable bill would be. Most people watch more TV than they think they do to begin with. And if you want to watch sports, particularly any of the approximately 57 ESPN channels you will pay dearly if you want to keep doing so. Most of the channels people like are bundled with other crappy channels. Not saying I like it, just saying that's the reality of it.
    Hulu / Boxee / other streaming sources would take care of most people

    i personally make time to watch 3 or 4 shows a week (varies by season) all but 2 are on broadcast networks. the rest of the time my tv is locked on history, discovery or something similar. most of my tv watching is mindless zoning out while i eat dinner or recover from friday night.

    i think this is a good time to start a TV diary and record exactly what i do watch. i would wager that the majority of it falls into one of 4 channels. i do watch a lot of movies, either on-demand, from netflix or from blockbuster but thats not tv

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
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    Since when is a Rubber Hose a Modern Marvel?
    "Inside Joke"

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