Reality check: To TV or not to TV? Coping with live television in the world of YouTube
Over the weekend, my child wanted to watch a show on television — a new episode that was actually being broadcast for the first time at that moment, and which her friend would be watching along with her, though at separate houses.
In addition to being refreshingly old school, this was a big deal because my kids don’t watch TV, they watch YouTube, Netflix, and Twitch. So I was thrown off, and apparently, so was my technology. Despite attempts to get the show running on four types of screens, via three different apps, using two different television providers, for close to one hour, I just couldn’t make it happen.
See, last year, we cut our cable service. Three of four of us were never using it, and the fourth (me) was primarily using the DVR function to tape things so I could eventually watch them when life slowed down a minute and I had a full hour to sit still. (Note, when we made the cut, I still had David Letterman’s final show on our DVR, unwatched.)
Some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about, but many probably understand my admittedly “first world” woes. A 2019 study showed close to 60% of consumers surveyed had “cut the cord” while another 29% were considering it. Only 12% were happy with their cable service. The proliferation of programming available outside of cable via streaming services has certainly encouraged this shift, and the upcoming launch of content-heavy Disney+ may get the last hangers-on.
While I agreed to make the cut despite my DVR dependence, my husband compromised by keeping the most basic of basic cable so we didn’t lose the connected internet service and wouldn’t have to change our email address and sort through the thousands of emails sitting in the inbox (which probably include correspondence about the final Letterman show still unopened to avoid spoilers). It’s limited to say the least.
Maybe some of you have more successfully moved on from cable by investing in an integrated home technology system that automatically logs you in to all the streaming services available. That’s not us. We have Apple TV and Roku devices from 2016, a few first and second generation iPads, and a Netflix account. I think we have a Smart TV, it’s all making me feel pretty dumb.
So my child turns on the television and choses a channel to find we don’t get that channel on cable anymore. We try to upgrade our service, but the company won’t allow it. I try another service provider that we can access, but we can only get some of their service, not the live broadcast we are looking for. I try to download the network app, but since our cable service doesn’t include that network, we can’t access the app. I try to sign up for a Hulu account (it was on my “to do” list anyway) but our old Apple TV can’t access the app store to facilitate this. I then opt for my phone, but there’s not enough memory to download morer apps. And the multiple iPads we have are either not charged or their outdated operating systems don’t support the updated apps. Can you say planned obsolescence?
Even when devices are charged and apps connected, they often require me to sign in despite having an account that should make that process automatic. Then to sign in, I need a separate device so I can enter a code online which starts the service. Recently, I’ve noticed one of the network apps provides different programs on my phone than it does through a streaming device despite both claiming they are up to date. How can that be? Really, I’m starting to take this personally.
Watching TV used to be relaxing down time where we could excitedly tune in to something scheduled, efficiently record a favorite for later, or mindlessly flick around and stumble upon a surprise. But now I face my sofa with trepidation. I have to concentrate to even turn the devices on. I have to pick a network, a show, an episode, or scroll through movies and shows that I’ve never heard of to see if there is gem out there that we never knew we needed. I end up watching too much of one thing as the effort to change the program is so much more than the old channel click.
Of course, after spending close to an hour trying to get the program, I apologized profusely for the failure to my child. She, of course, had long moved on. She knew she could just watch it later on YouTube.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.