Please, Keep Paying $80 a Month for Cable So I Can Enjoy Cheap TV

Dear Cable TV Subscriber,

I don’t think I’ve ever told you how grateful I am. I haven’t paid a cent for cable television since 2009. Yet I have on-demand access via the Internet to a growing cornucopia of great shows like Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, at reasonable à la carte prices. And it’s all because you continue to pay exorbitant and ever-increasing monthly fees for your premium cable bundle (around $80 per month, on average).

After all, your money goes straight to the studios and networks that produce and distribute all the expensive first-run programming that I’m perfectly happy to watch later at a discount. So in effect, you’re subsidizing my own footloose, freeloading, cord-cutting TV habits. I don’t know how to thank you!

Of course, it’s not like you volunteered to underwrite my TV viewing, or to pay so much to your cable provider. For well over a decade now, cable TV bills have been growing faster than inflation: they averaged just $40 per month per household in 2001, but grew to $78 per month by 2011 ($128 if you count bundled services such as Internet and telephone).

The main reason? The rising cost of all those great shows. Game of Thrones costs $6 million per episode. ESPN pays the NFL $1.9 billion a year for the rights to Monday Night Football. The networks pass those costs to the cable companies, and the cable companies pass them on to you.

The cable companies like to pretend that the networks have them, and therefore you, over a barrel; in 2011, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei famously decried ESPN’s rising fees as “a tax on every American household.” In reality, it’s all one big well-greased wheel. The cable companies are glad to pay for premium channels like ESPN and HBO—and all of the less popular content bundled with them—because they know you wouldn’t fork over nearly as much every month if you didn’t have to go to them for live sports and lush serial dramas.

Incidentally, I sure hope all the news lately about the devastating effects of repeated concussions on the brains of football players doesn’t end up taking the luster off the sport. After all, when most of you non-cord-cutters say you couldn’t do without live sports, you’re really talking about the gridiron—eight of the 10 most-watched shows on network and cable television in 2012 were football games. That makes the National Football League, which raked in more than $9 billion last year, the keystone of the entire TV economy. It would be such a shame if growing public awareness of the sport’s dangers diminished the NFL’s power to drive up the cost of your cable bill.

You know what makes me especially grateful? The fact that only a fraction of you have started using the streaming services that give me access to so much great video content. Netflix, by far the most successful Internet-based TV service, finished 2012 with only 27 million streaming subscribers in the U.S., compared to 99 million pay-TV subscribers across the leading cable and satellite TV providers. It’s true that the boom times are over for the cable companies: pay-TV viewing peaked in 2011, and some 200,000 to 600,000 of you are cutting the cord each quarter. But the bloodletting hasn’t yet reached the kind of volume that might force the big TV-industry players to rethink their business models, thank goodness.

The worst outcome for my wallet would be if more of you defected to platforms like Apple TV (which happens to be my own gateway to Netflix, movie rentals, and oodles of free programming from sources like Vevo, YouTube, and Vimeo, not to mention streaming music, podcasts, and radio). Or if lots of you plunked down $35 for Google’s remarkable little Chromecast device, which plugs into an HDMI port on users’ TVs and lets them call up content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Google Play Movies, and the open Web from their tablets or smartphones. Or if you spent more time watching the galaxy of on-demand TV shows available through your Xbox game console. Don’t fall for the talk from Apple, Google, and Microsoft about the freedom and variety of on-demand video! They’re just trying to entice you away from the safe, warm embrace of your cable provider.

And whatever you do, don’t subscribe to Aereo, the startup that streams live TV to your computer, tablet, or smartphone using tiny antennae that suck in over-the-air broadcasts. The traditional broadcasters are trying to sue Aereo out of existence, because they know that if the startup actually succeeds, they’ll have a harder time hitting the cable companies with high retransmission fees—which add to your cable bills and help keep the whole industry afloat.

Let me also say how grateful I am that you put up with all the ads that come along with your cable programming. Personally, I’m allergic to commercials—I canceled my Hulu Plus subscription after two weeks because they were asking me to pay $8 a month and watch a bunch of ads, for Pete’s sake. But I realize that somebody has to watch all those ads, which generate about $80 billion in revenue every year for U.S. media companies. My friend Jeremy Toeman, the CEO of Dijit Media, scolded me the other day for my antisocial behavior. “If everybody did what you did, there would have to be a massive shift in the system,” he said. “The McDonalds and Coors and Fords of the world would say ‘No thank you.’”

In short, my cushy life as a TV free rider is only feasible because there lots of people like you who aren’t switching to Internet-only video. So please, keep on subsidizing my high-quality, low-cost couch surfing experience by paying your big cable bills for as long as you can. If you don’t want to do it for cord-cutters like me, then do it for the rising generation of cord-nevers—young people who could probably afford to have cable, but are too busy texting each other and playing Angry Birds to watch live TV. After all, the truly worrisome statistic for the cable industry isn’t that it’s losing hundreds of thousands of existing subscribers every year; it’s that only 250,000 of the 3.2 million new TV households that came into existence over the last three years bothered to sign up for cable in the first place.

The cord-nevers may not appreciate your sacrifice, but I will. Thank you.



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  • mary

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    It is not just a dollar and cents issue, its the pummeling of what they say are subliminal values, and the blatant audio assaults of commercials, we pay to get hammered, dont get it

  • A K

    That’s why I only use Low Income Cable. Saves money, Less in their pockets means more in mine!

  • ReadyToDropCable

    OK, Please tell me where I can pirate watch FX -Sons of anarchy past episodes? I missed a couple of last season’s shows. I am not stealing because I AM already paying my satellite bill! But the FX network jerks won’t let you watch last season’s episodes on their web site. What a bunch of crap! I paid for it already!! Let us login and prove we have a satellite or cable account, by putting in the account number, to see past shows. But, that would make too much sense, huh? Greedy bastards.

    • Trich

      Go to
      To watch previous episodes.

    • solesrose

      Use showbox download app with the eye its a non market make sure to change your settings to allow this. It has all the episiodes of past shows

  • Ronald

    It;s a good feeling to keep more of your own money and not give it away to the fat cat cable companies for poor quality reality and cable content. Now, I pay for what I like to watch,
    thank you Hulu.& Netflix.

  • Scott

    Cut the cord in Sept and haven’t missed it.

  • Joe Jones

    I’m going to do this SOON. Just switched to at&t and they’re just as bad as Time Warner with not telling us of these outrageous hidden fees. Why am I paying $42 alone just on ‘taxes’ for cable, tv, and phone(which I don’t even use)?

  • thenewgen

    Or how about ditch TV altogether and just use pure internet. Your generation of TV is over you old farts. Long live Internet Streaming!

  • Matthew

    I still haven’t found a reliable service for sports online..

  • hypenmisconceptions

    Cable TV does not cost that much, especially considering that most people bundle the services and also receive internet and phone service also.

    I signed up for the avertised 89.99 which actually ends up being $103.49 because I rent their modem and there are 2 fees that are not really hidden as they mentioned them as I was signing up.

    TV Service:
    -1 HD box was included and not required for other TVs if watching channels 2-99 only.
    -I get 262 channels to watch most are HD(yes some repeats or stuff i’d reather not have but still)
    -It came with a movie channel.
    -It has an onscreen TV guide, 30,000 Ondemand titles available.
    -They have movies on payperview that are still in theatre.
    -I can watch any TV channels I subscribe to live or on demand on my computer, my table, and my smartphone
    -I do not need an HD box because I have a Roku and can watch any of the channels I have through its app
    – I have access to over 40 different networks apps for streaming their video included with my cable service in addition to its own TV app

    Internet Service:
    -100 mps is more than enough for the 10 devices to share and each stream video on
    -The free subscription to McAfee Antivirus was pretty cool since it costs about $50 by it self
    – The unlimited amount of data I get really beats my cell phone company’s 3gb limit with my plan
    -It comes with commercial free premium internet radio
    -they waived the wifi fee on this package and I used their brand new dual band wifi docis 3.0 modem/router
    -I don’t think their are too many other choices for high speed considering I could get 300mps if I wanted…..i came from att’s top speed of 24mps so I’m just fine with 100mps.

    Phone Service
    – I reluctanly took the phone because i was advised it was cheaper to do their “tripple play” but I”m happy to have it even though I still mostly make calls on my cell its a pretty awesome home phone.
    – You can call canada, us, us territories, hong kong and china for free – yes hong kong and china are free and I guess other countries only a penny – I don’t benefit from that but its kinda cool when thinking it used to be an arm and leg to call a different state or even different city in same state.
    -It was great to have it as back up when my cell phone was misplaced once and dropped in water a second time — how are you going to call the cell insurance if no phone?
    – If your every needing 911 services and are unable to provide addresss – they know where you are with Enhanced 911 service
    – you can use the phone2go app on your tablet or smartphone to make and receive calls or manage voicemail and phone settings
    – you can use as forwarding # and have it ring up to 5 phones at same time
    – it has distinctive ring for people you want to answer phone or not
    – you listen to and manage voicemail on computer
    – the caller Id shows up on the tv so you know who it is and you can even send call to voicemail with the remote

    I pay 79.99 for my cell phone. It costs at least $15 a person to go to movies. Internet by itself is $59.99 on avg for 100mps and is required for anything else to stream services. The cable company has been using fiber optics for 10 years and doesn’t have to tear up the lawn and put a box on my house.

    About $100/month covers all my communication and entertainment needs. $3.33/day!

    I think people have it all wrong….. 59,99 +9.99 netflix + 8.00 hulu +10 bucks here + rental fee here …etc. etc.

    Do you really save money by cutting the cord that your not really cutting cause you still need the interent or did you make your life way complicated by having all these little charges on your card reoccuring because one service had one of the shows you wanted and another had the other show you liked?

    I don’t know about other companies but I didn’t even have to sign a contract. I could end service today and only pay for the time period I had service.

    When my promotion ends it will raise $20, after the next year I will pay about $140 yes. Its worth it to come home and turn on TV after work, not have to think and choose what to watch unless i want to but just turn it on without thinking, eat dinner relax and then later choose a movie or have news going in small window on my computer while working on other stuff.

  • hypenmisconceptions

    Taxes are not charged by companies – they are charged by government. Federal, State, and City levels. Your tax could be higher or lower just a city a way it has nothing to do with your provider.

  • S Parlati

    Most people are lazy and ignorant and dont mind shelling out 150 plus dollars a month for cable or satellite. You can stream almost any show and movie on ur wifi for free using phone apps like showbox. You just putchase a phone hdmi cord on ebay for 10 bucks, plug it into tv you are set. No risk of viruses etc and have been using it for years. Eliminated cable bill and now saving 175 dollars a month. Only pay for mobile phone and internet

  • notsofastnow

    Sorry, I’m no longer subsidizing your viewing, Wade.

    I cut the cable and have gone to streaming 100%. Fortunately for you, many others have been slow to catch on.