As a young child who daily anticipated watching The Mickey Mouse Club on our family’s black and white television console in the late 50’s, I could never have imagined that one day I would be paying more than $100 monthly for the privilege of viewing television programming. No one could. In those days, the airwaves were free, other than the cost of buying and installing a television set and an antenna.
Of course, at the time we had but three channels from which to choose. In 2010, many us of have 100, 200, or more channels of programming. Yet, scanning through the available selections, I often feel as I did in my youth that there is “nothing” of interest being aired. And, regardless of how many channels from which one has to choose, he can only really watch one of them at any given time.
Under those circumstances, $100 (or even $50, for that matter) seems a steep price to pay for television service. Reruns, paid programming (infomercials), and a litany of inane reality shows represent the majority of available entertainment (and I use that word loosely) aired daily.
To my thinking, television service providers are akin to public utilities. Like your power company, providers of television services (cable or satellite) are regulated by the government. Unlike public utilities, however, providers of television services may charge whatever the market will bear. TV pricing, except for the basic channels, is unregulated.
As in any market, however, the value received by the customer is dependent upon competition among vendors. At one time, cable companies held a virtual monopoly over television services. You either purchased one of their packages or kept your antenna. Dish TV and other satellite television service providers often provide better value than your local cable company. Direct satellite TV offers usually best their cable counterparts’ special deals significantly.
Likewise, direct satellite television is widely recognized to be superior to cable in picture quality and number of high definition channels. Yet, for many consumers, cable’s ability to bundle VoIP telephone and/or high-speed Internet services with television programming trumps the quality of satellite television service.
The ultimate decision rests with each individual consumer. I for one, however, long for the days when I would put on my mouse ears and enjoy some milk and cookies as I watched the Mouseketeers on free TV.