Television (TV) began with a great concept that it borrowed from radio. Television equipment, crew, and actors all cost money. And television companies needed to make a profit. But instead of charging its viewers to watch TV, they decided to run commercial advertisements. The viewer would only have to watch the commercial advertisement, and then the advertiser would pay for the TV program. That’s why standard television stations are “free” to watch for everybody.
In the 1960’s, the television consumer would get 51 minutes of free programming by watching 9 minutes of commercial advertisements. 5.67 Companies like ABC, NBC, and CBS made substantial profits through this fair set up.
But then TV got greedy. Commercial advertisements have doubled. Today, we have to watch 18 minutes of commercial advertisements just to see 42 minutes of TV programming. Some reruns, like Star Trek, are actually cut by 9 minutes to make room for today’s extra commercials. We got more annoying advertisements; the TV stations get more profit.
We’ve also added cable television, which charges us a monthly fee. Wait, wasn’t the point of television advertisements to make TV free? That must mean that we can pay monthly for cable television and not have to watch advertisements. Nope, we pay for cable TV and we still have to watch commercials.
It turns out that the money we pay each month for cable TV goes to the company that owns the cables and the big antenna. For me, that’s Comcast. I honestly don’t know if any of the monthly fee goes to the cable television stations, but it is clear that the cable television stations still feel the need to make their money through commercial advertisements.
The concept has become flawed. First we purchase a television, then we pay monthly for our TV programming (85% of American homes pay monthly, since they have cable), and then finally we watch 18 minutes of commercial advertisements per 42 minutes of programming.
Are we getting swindled here? I think so. To be fair, TV demand has increased, which partially explains the extra prices we have to pay (both dollars and commercial watching time) to get our programming.
But regulation and monopolies also add to the price. In most areas in my state, there is only one cable television company providing service. In my experience, this company
has offered terrible service. Why? Because they’re the only company to choose from.
Customer service has been terrible, channel lineups rigid, and prices high. If I want a certain channel, I’m usually forced to purchase 10 to 20 more that I don’t intend to watch. But they’re the monopolists, so I have no choice.
Satellite television appeared to be the savior, but seems to have joined cable TV in a duopoly. They seem to have similar prices and channels.
For now, we only have two options. And since few of us want to live without TV, we will continue to pay for the cable and watch the extra advertisements. Still, I can’t help but feel cheated.