April 29, 2019

Too Much Of a Good Thing?


We could agree that there is such a thing as too much of something: ice cream sundaes and naps come to mind. An article I read recently presented a new type of "too much" that I must agree with.

Think back 15-20 years or so. When you wanted to stay home and be entertained you had a few choices: cable TV with premium services like HBO, over-the-air television, Blockbuster, or VHS tapes from the library. When Netflix began in 1997 it was strictly a competitor of Blockbuster's: DVD discs through the mail. Remember those red mailers?

Some of us had a VHS player/recorder so we could "time-shift" to see a program that we wanted to watch at a more convenient time. All the commercials were there, but at least we didn't have to rush home for the start of "Must See TV," particularly on Thursday nights on NBC.

It is hard to imagine, but streaming as an option began only a dozen or so years ago. Blockbuster started the transition, followed by Netflix in 2007 and Hulu a year later. Amazon Prime came along in 2011. Now, we tend to think of television entertainment as strictly an Internet-based function.

OK, so far, so good. Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and others have changed how we are entertained. The time shift issue has disappeared, along with most commercials. Now, we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, usually ad-free. The number of choice, even on one service, is overwhelming. And, with the big boys (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) cranking out hundreds of hours of original content, we are no longer at the mercy of only what television networks or major film studios want to produce.

The expense of cable TV or satellite is gone for many. Cutting the cord meant an end to paying for hundreds of channels that held no appeal, while watching our cable bill increase every time an entertainment company decided it wanted more money.

Now, we find we "need" several streaming services to fill our fix. Netflix has so much there is never the likelihood we would run out of things to watch. Hulu has The HandMaid's Tale and Casual. Prime is the place to binge-watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Sneaky Pete. We don't want to miss those. Game of Thrones? Pay for HBO Now or wait for the DVD version in a year.

Then, comes the news that Disney is about to start a streaming service. Most of the content from that company will leave Netflix, Hulu, and other places on the Internet. If you want Disney movies and series, you have to sign up with The Mouse people.

But wait, there's more. Apple is joining the fun with its own Internet streaming  service, pledging to spend tens of millions on shows that will get you to sign on their dotted line. Youtube has a premium streaming service, Sling TV allows you to watch what used to be only on cable, and record it all on a cloud-based DVR recorder. Never miss a Sunday football game because of church again.

Suddenly, you realize you will never have enough time to sample even a fraction of what is available. Your time in front of a television starts to creep up. You don't leave home as often for live entertainment, or even the multiplex. You even spend less time on social media, except to comment on an episode of House of Cards. 

Amidst this world of plenty a new problem has arisen. One media expert calls it "subscription fatigue." Every few months, there seems to be another service we "must have," another source of streaming entertainment that has bits and pieces of what we enjoy.

A just-completed study shows that nearly half (47%) of streaming-video customers feel there are too many services...and that is before Disney, Apple, and others pile on more. The typical customer pays for three services, but some as many as eight.

Guess what? As the streamers splinter into more and more separate services, we are paying nearly as much as we did in the good old days of cable. Suddenly, we are faced with the need to prune what we are willing to pay for each month. We have too much of a good thing: endless entertainment, no commercials, accompanied with an ever-increasing bill and a feeling our lives are spent in front of a (large) box.

I am not against streaming video: I am a user, more so than is probably healthy. We have Netflix, Prime, Sling, Roku, and free options like Kanopy. But, I am facing even more when Disney makes its debut. With an entire family of Disney lovers, it is a given that service will join our lineup.

How about you? Is the abundance of streaming options like an all-you-eat buffett...eyes too big for your stomach? Do you have a hard time justifying the costs or time? Or, is your total bill still less than cable ever took out of your wallet, so no problems yet.

The entertainment world has shifted under our feet. Are you still standing?


48 comments:

  1. I do not have a TV nor a home computer. I do have a cheap smart phone from Walmart and that is only because my flip phone died. I am just too frugal or too cheap to pay for any subscriptions. My phone was 40 bucks and is prepaid. I had a very ugly experience with my mom's Comcast years ago so I refuse to pay for any recurring bills except electricity and water/garbage. I also had a bad experience with ATT so that is why my phone is prepaid. I just do not like the stress of dealing with add on and sneaky fees that companies do these days. I also refuse to stay at resorts that make you pay if you move something in their fridge that is in your room, or make you pay for parking.

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    1. Like those bizarre "resort fees" for use of the facilities that you may or may not use and should be part of what a room charge should cover. What a unsubtle ripoff.

      You are pretty far off the grid, Cindy. Jst as a matter of interest where do you read and respond to this blog?

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    2. I used to comment from the local library when I just had a flip phone, which died. I am kinda glad I have a smart phone because it makes it easier to track tornadoes. I feel fancy with a cheap smart phone...lol

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    3. I figured as much. Smartphones are really just mini computers and even streaming devices!

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  2. I realize I went around the world to answer your question. No, I am not going to pay for streaming now. Perhaps I will get a home computer and TV when I am less active and not as mobile. I am concerned about my being a slug in front of a TV because I am already spending too much time with my smart phone...lol

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    1. I will readily admit that having lots of electronic options is a hard battle to fight.

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  3. I think that TV is inconsistent with a Satisfyingly Retirement. I do not have a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). I have books to read.

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    1. I have a post about FOMO coming up in a few weeks!

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  4. We cut the cord in 2009, saving over $125 a month by doing so. Currently we pay $50 a month for internet, and for one subscription service, Hulu. We share our service with family, and they likewise share with us, so we have access to Netflix, CBS, and Prime at no additional cost. We also enjoy PBS at no cost.

    We are considering dumping Hulu as we rarely watch it anymore. We are light TV watchers, preferring to be outside, attending various events, or reading during the day/early evening instead. About one show an evening, sometimes two. We are gone many evenings doing other activities, so many days of the week the TV doesn’t even come on.

    All to say we won’t be taking the bait and signing up for more services. Life without passive electronics is, as Cindy said above, much better for us both than with it. It just feels richer, if that makes sense.

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    1. The charge that galls me the most is the $88 for Internet. The only other provider offers a rate about half that, but their customer service complaints and outages make them a poor second choice. Our current provider offers a package about $30 cheaper but at speeds slow enough that we might have to deal with frequent buffering when two TVs are streaming or use by others in the neighborhood cut the download speeds.

      Hulu is a free add-on from Spotify. While it is not the commercial-free version, the ads are at a minimum and the cost (free!) is hard to turn down.

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    2. One of the reasons I still have cable other than the sports is the fact of internet and the land line. 5h3 seperate options are expensive here.

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  5. Up until 1+ years ago we had virtually everything from DirecTV short of the NFL Sunday Ticket. Cut that "cord" and moved to the DirecTV Now streaming service, and while the channels were good the service was terrible. After cancelling everything during our winter travels we then signed up with Playstation Vue in March and are extremely happy with the service and its guide. Couple that with our Prime subscription which we would have for deliveries anyways, and tying into our daughter's Netflix account, we are fine. Things I would have always wanted to see live, like Game of Thrones final season, can now wait until it is on one of the three services we currently have. Like others here I am reading more anyways, mostly on the Kindle using the TN Library system's free Kindle books,to keep the money out of Jeff Bezos' bank account and in mine.

    Bottom line is that our cost dropped dramatically from what it was 1+ years ago, and none of the new services coming out have anything of interest to entice us to go with them. The streaming world is great for our finances compared to the not too distant past.

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    1. Our overall bill is not much lower than when we have cable because of the high cost of high-speed Internet service in our area. What is much better, though, is our control over what we watch, when we watch, and what our choices are.

      With Betty's physical mobility issues (ankle, knee, etc) we are spending more time at home. Even sitting for a 2 hour movie at the theater causes her intense pain in her knee until she can walk it off. So, much of our entertainment must come from sources we have at home. We are reading a lot more and maintaining a vegetable garden for the first time, but our physical limitations do make streaming a blessing.

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  6. I can hardly believe, now, that we raised Andrew without a TV until he was around 10 years old! We had NO TV till then!! Now, we do enjoy our shows and movies. We subscribe to Amazon Prime and to Netflix. A Family member shares their Hulu with us so I can catch up on Gray's Anatomy and This Is Us after it airs on network TV. No cable..cut that cord years ago. We watch some TV not a lot.We read a lot. But we do enjoy a good movie or show. . Frankie and Grace! Mind Hunter! Just rewatched "Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. " I am not tempted by all the other channel subscriptions out there.We do love to check out Youtube videos..we enjoy watching musical performances and lectures and videos about interesting topics...

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    1. I pay for Sling TV for 6 months of each year - to watch Diamondbacks games. As soon as the season ends I cancel it. If Hulu ever starts charging instead of being a free add-on to Spotify, it will go away.

      BTW, Betty really likes Frankie & Grace.

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  7. And there's YouTube. Not YouTube TV that requires a subscription but regular YouTube videos. I don't watch HGTV or Food Network anymore because of all the great content on YouTube. There's frugal living, food channels, home decorating, tiny home and RV living, all fun to watch. But yes, I do spend more time in front of my laptop screen than I should. Bob, it's so good to have you back!

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    1. My library and utube is frightening, I have to admit, I just downloaded a bunch of videos on how to do paint pouring with dish soap instead of all the chemicals, lol.

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    2. Thanks, Diane. I am enjoying playing in the pool again!

      Barb: YouTube is like Wikipedia - there is virtually nothing you can't find. I use it a lot of help with my guitar playing.

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    3. Yes. I mistyped. Meant to say my library on U Tube was frightening in its size. For me mainly painting, knotting and sewing. But lots otherwise as well.

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  8. I still have cable. Do not watch a lot of TV but will never cut it. Not having younger or really any family, I do not fully understand streaming and what else is out there and how to get hooks up with it all. Looks like cable will always be in my wheel house.

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    1. Staying with what meets your needs is always the wisest choice, Karen. Streaming is not tough to get into, but it does require a decent high speed Internet connection and can come with occasional issues. If you are happy, that is all that matters.

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  9. TV is absolutely part of my retirement style. I'm not one of those who believe its either/or. I read at least two full books a week, am involved in two active volunteer gigs, have multiple social and cultural thigns going on and yes, still watch TV. Generally an hour a day, more when a sporting thing I am interested is on. We have cable because streaming sports live is not really a thing when you go beyond the tradtional three American sports. When it comes to the streaming services, I think you just need to look at all the options and decide which you will watch the most of. I have Amazon Prime and Netflix. interst in any of the others. I have done a trial of Acorn to watch some british shows and did a 90 day trial of HULU to watch season one of the handmaid's tale which was phenominial-but I am not about tv shows and movies going beyond the book, so that was it. I just finished watching the new season of Bosch, based on the books, and before that I watched an Australian mystery series. I'm waiting not so patiently for the return of Mindhunter and a couple other shows. On the days I am nnot socializing, I watch an extra hour after lunch when I knit. Having said that, I understand completely why Disney and the like want their own streaming in order to have their own content and I don't think it's a terrible thing as such. Even on my fixed income, I consider the cost of good quality streaming programming and a lack of commercials to be worth the freight.

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    1. We enjoyed Britbox for a year..some fine British mystery shows. But, after watching those what was left were 30-40 year old programs so we cancelled. Handmaid's Tale is the primary reason to watch Hulu, though the TV show 9-1-1 is well done. Otherwise, we are not big TV show fans. Except for the occasional winner, like Parenthood or Brothers and Sisters, most TV shows leave us cold.

      Betty prefers to have TV on when she is working on a project. I am in the music or silence camp. So, she wears an attachment that allows her to stream TV to her hearing aids while I use headphones to listen to Spotify or an old ipod. We can be in the same room and have to audio conflict.

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  10. We have Comcast. Again. We've tried DirectTV and weren't happy with it. Most of what we watch is recorded. I hate commercials. ;) So we create our own smorgasbord of shows. When we leave the house I always turn on HGTV for the pups. Makes them feel less lonely. lol.
    b

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    1. Like you, we tried DirectTV for a time. But, when AT&T bought them the cross plugs and pushes to get AT&T became irritating. And, we have become spoiled with the no-commercial environment of most streaming services.

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  11. We just went through the cable price/value exercise and decided to keep our cable connection. We only have one TV but have a "deluxe" package of channels we signed up for many years ago that has been grandfathered, you can't buy it now especially at the price we are paying. The digital recorder that comes with our cable subscription allows us to time shift and zip through commercials. The HD digital recorders are light years ahead of the old fuzzy picture VHS recorders, there's no difference between the recording and the original.

    We do subscribe to Netflix but it's the only streaming service we have and as you say there's more on there than a person could ever watch. Live sports is still mostly broadcast and interestingly some shows you mention like HandMaid's Tale are available on regular TV here.

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    1. If you have a good grandfathered rate...hold on for dear life!

      I have Prime video just because it comes with the Prime delivery service. Otherwise, I wouldn't pay extra. And, as noted above, Spotify is offering the ads-included version of Hulu for free. I wouldn't pay for it alone.

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  12. We cut the cord 2 years ago and cut our total internet/TV costs in half even with going from a 75 MB to a 1 GB internet connection and adding streaming from Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access (my wife will not let me get rid of this one), and Directv Now. We put an antenna up in the attic and can get 90 channels over the air as well. The only reason I keep Directv NOW is because they carry A&E, GSN, and RSNs (regional sports networks) as we watch all 4 major pro sports teams in our area. We are fortunate in that we have 3 internet providers (who also offer cable TV) that we can choose from so the competition keeps our internet prices in check. My wife is an avid pro and college sports fan so having streaming sports channels that show live games is important. If not for her, I would drop Directv Now and CBS All Access and add a home DVR to record anything off of the antenna that we could not get on Hulu the next day. I spend about 4 hours at night after 8 PM watching TV, primarily Food network, Cooking channel, HGTV, A&E, and GSN. I could easily move to watching those shows at a later date on Hulu or Netflix. Would prefer to not be watching TV and out listening to music at a local venue but really don't want to go alone as my wife is still working and goes to bed around 9. Technology keeps evolving and the industry will continue to change, however, the biggest issue we continue to deal with in the entertainment industry are the huge entertainment/communications companies that are forming (think AT&T/Time Warner merger) where the choices will start to evolve away from options on a single provider offering channels from multiple entertainment companies (think cable/satellite TV) to multiple providers all charging separate fees for their programming with an emphasis on penalizing those who choose to subscribe to a competitors content by raising their internet rates, placing data cap limits, etc on the internet connections (think AT&T). It's only a matter of time before we end up with the traditional telco companies owning most of the entertainment companies of vice versus. Time will tell how this industry evolves over time.

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    1. Consolidation is not going to stop. Washington encourages it and we put up with it because of the convenience.

      We have an on-the-air TV antenna, too. I use it to watch the AZ Cardinals football games on the local Fox affiliate. There are probably 75 channels available but, frankly, I have never checked them all out. Sling has Fox Sports for all the Arizona teams, as well as things like HGTV and National Geographics.

      You have a full plate, my friend.

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  13. Don't forget HBO GO. But I disagree about one thing: you cannot get too much or too many ice cream sundaes!

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    1. What flavor? We just bought some Rocky Road today.

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  14. I have to confess that I have yet to stream a film or TV programme but then I have always watched very little television; there just never seems to be sufficient time in the day. Consequently I approach conversations about Game of Thrones, House of Cards etc.. as a complete moron. I don't feel deprived but sometimes I wonder if I am really missing out. That said and because of the vast choice and divergence of viewing now, the days when I felt a complete social pariah because I wasn't following a plot in a popular terrestrial TV series have long since gone.

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    1. Like "Who shot JR?" or did Rachel and Ross ever marry (Friends)?

      If you stay active, mentally involved, and happy, then you are not missing anything of lasting substance from streaming services.

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    2. Actually, after a drunken night in Las Vegas they did get married. The next day it was annulled! So now you know!

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  15. Bob, I wonder if you have a way to block the obnoxious Anonymous? Such a stalker! Why would he/she target your blog??

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    1. (Referring to a comment that has been deleted). Only if I went to moderation before any comments were posted, which I'd rather not due. When someone takes the time to add their thoughts to a post, I think they would like to see it right away.

      By now, the wording from this particular stalker is well known enough that readers realize that I will delete it as soon as I become aware of it. Otherwise, it is best to simply ignore it. This person is desperate for attention, so by simply pretending it doesn't exist they are rendered harmless.

      Thanks for your concern, Madeline.

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  16. Your post today was fantastic.Sometimes I watch tv because of the news and sports but many times too that I feel bored. I think I can spend my time a lot better and visit a lonely friend.
    The time and money that I spend on electronic is way too much.

    Maybe another post from you about spending time and money on all of that stuff! What about making a logbook what we do all day? Thanks again and I learned something!

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    1. Thank you, Harry.

      It is easy to spend too much time on watching whatever is available, just out of boredom. THere is nothing wrong with watching shows that entertain, inform, or simply make you happy. The problem is when we watch shows just to fill the time. As you noted, visiting a lonely friend ( even if it is to watch TV together) would be better.

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  17. We got rid of our dish a few years back (no cable option in our semi-rural location), and we also use Netflix and Prime streaming, as well as an antenna for local channels. I still find there is more to watch on "My List" than I will ever get to, especially if I hope to do anything else (read, volunteer work, etc.). We do tend to get into a series and watch it in the winter evenings, but once it's spring and summer, the evening light offers other options.

    We did subscribe to the Golf Channel for $9.99/mo via Prime for DH for Jan-April, but once the golf course is open, he prefers it live. :-) Also, we picked up Acorn TV for a month to watch the final season of A Place to Call Home, but the Prime channels are easy to use for a month or three and then cancel.

    Overall, I have to agree that the internet keeps inching up in price, and if you add a couple of streaming services, you can spend as much as we did on the Dish. But we'd still want Netflix and Prime, and there are always SO many channels in those packages we never watch.

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    1. I really wish I had a viable option to my expensive Internet choice. I even considered using my phone as a hotspot, but with data caps and the expense that didn't make sense.

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  18. I really hate all the choices now for viewing TV. I have cable which costs too much but I don't want to have to take a college level course just to figure out how to stream or lap or whatever it is I'd have to do. I'm a dinosaur and I know it.

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    1. Actually, if you have a high speed Internet connection it really is not that tough. Without a fast connection, though, it doesn't work very well. Cable, while expensive, is easy.

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    2. I just added your blog to my blogroll. I enjoy your writing and take on subjects.

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    3. Jean, If I lived closer, I'd show you how to do this. All you need is a laptop or tablet, Wifi, and an HDMI cable. You get the show you want to watch up on the internet, plug one end of the HDMI cable into your laptop/tablet and the other end into your television, and hit play. (I simply leave my HDMI cable attached to the television all the time and just plug my laptop into the other end when I want to watch something.

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  19. I'm not a big TV viewer. I have two local channels that I can get over the air, and a membership in my local public television station that includes some limited streaming options. My only other streaming service is Acorn TV, which is an incredible bargain at $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year (and includes more shows I'm actually interested in watching than I can possibly find time for).

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    1. I really should become a $5/month member of the PBS TV station. They have tremendous on demand offerings.

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