Battle Royale Between DirecTV, Viacom, Dish and AMC Pushes TV Closer to Irrelevancy If you’ve been keeping track of the drama surrounding cable TV lately, chances are you have a headache. First it was Dish upsetting Breaking Bad fans by dropping AMC ahead of this week’s premiere, then it was DirecTV losing 26 Viacom channels including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The reasoning, of course, is not that these companies like upsetting their customer base, it’s that both AMC and Viacom are demanding rate hikes for access to their channels. They say it’s to keep in line with their other deals, while the cable companies say it’s too huge of an increase that will be forced onto consumers. Because of course, they will be the ones forcing it onto consumers rather than pay it themselves. Unfortunately, whoever wins these arguments, the customers lose. If the channels back down, viewers have lost a few weeks of programming they’ve paid for. If they don’t, cable rates will increase more than they already have been. It’s enough to make you say “screw ‘em all,” and really, we should. Despite what networks and cable companies hope, cord-cutting is not a trend that’s going away. As an engaged guy attempting to get finances in order for a new household, the first item on the cutting floor was the ridiculous $160 a month charge I currently pay to AT&T, and I have paid similar bills to Comcast in the past. The lion’s share of that is for cable TV alone. The reason to ditch cable? We’re simply being overcharged for what we’re getting, there’s no two ways about it and it doesn’t replicate itself across any other form of media. You want a newly released book? You buy one. A video game? You buy one. A movie? You buy one. A TV show? Now hold on a second. Archaic cable packages charging consumers huge fees to access hundreds of channels when they only watch five on a regular basis is a completely unsustainable business model in the face of current technology. It’s like forcing someone to buy every bestseller at Barnes and Noble when they only want one book. It’s like making someone buy a movie ticket to every show in the theater despite only wanting to see one feature. It’s a stupid practice, and the unvarnished greed exhibited by both sides, the channels and cable providers, is astounding. The best example of the way TV is deliberately holding its own programming back is HBO. Recently, it was revealed that the past season of Game of Thrones had been the most pirated show of the year by far. Many of these pirates were once-legitimate consumers who WANT to support the channel and show, but cannot stomach a $80 a month cable bill, on top of which HBO costs another $15 a month. They would be happy to pay say, $20 a month for HBO and HBO GO, 100% of which would go to the channel. With this model, some posit HBO would make more money than they do now, and more people would be able to watch their shows. Pictured: A cable provider's CEO. Unfortunately, those who thought this was a plausible scenario in the current nightmare climate of TV rights are misguided. HBO has a vested interest in cable subscriptions as it’s where most of their funding comes from. And the same is true for any channel. Either they’re owned by the cable companies people are protesting against, or they’re owned by companies like Viacom who know that their other channels would suffer if customers were allowed to pick and choose what programs or channels they actually wanted to watch. But TV has to change. It doesn’t have a choice. It may be being dragged kicking and screaming into the future, but it risks even bigger loses if it refuses to keep up with the available technology. Currently Netflix, Hulu and others are making TV show available online, but it’s a limited selection. The true alternative to this is piracy, where every show can be accessed for free online in minutes with minimal technical knowhow. But the bigger factor past all of this is maybe people will just stop caring about TV altogether. Truth is, there are now many, many more entertainment past times than there were when television was first created. These days, you can watch a movie on Netflix, play a game on Xbox, or just surf the internet for hours, as many do. All of these activities produce TV-level enjoyment for the consumer, and all of them usually cost less. And god forbid people could actually…go outside or get work done instead of watching Jersey Shore reruns. Consumers are waking up to the fact that they’re paying for access to 500 channels, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they’re actually using five channels for two hours a day, five days a week. It doesn’t add up, and all this squabbling between channels and cable subscribers only serves to highlight how truly screwed up the situation is. TV must evolve, lest it fall victim to technological Darwinism.