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After years of complaining about a $240 Comcast bill for 2 voice lines, good speed Internet access, and a thousand (mostly unused) channels in both SD and HD, I finally plucked up the courage to think about moving to a new way of getting my “telly.” Ever since setting up their own home, my daughter and son-in-law never had land line phones, so of course, they were early adopters of YouTube TV. They added me as another user to their account and suggested that I give it a try. In return we would pay half of the $40 per month subscription.

I called Comcast and told them I wanted to remove the video part of the bundle and without putting up a fight they said they could do this immediately. This reduced my bill to $103 per month. Wow, what a saving!

So, off we went, exploring the YouTube TV bundle. I was over the moon that I could still enjoy the Barclay’s Premier League on the NBC Sports channel. Brilliant. Then we found we could get nearly all the normal local channels – but I suppose we should expect that as they are free-to-air anyway – meaning that I can still get the almost nightly NFL games and all the college games on Saturday.

Yet another bonus was the ability to record programs, go back in time, skip commercials. Wow again! No need to think about TiVo. So far, I was more than happy and $137 per month better off than before.

BUT THEN JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I HAD SEEN THE PROMISED LAND…I GOT THIS MAIL

Source: Comcast

You quickly see that when you take multiple services from an operator that has a monopoly in any given geographic area, they have more than one of your “huevos” to squeeze. I realized why they did not put up much of a fight for my TV subscription!! Easy for them to justify: If they were going to give up revenue for one service, they were certainly going to make it up elsewhere.

By charging for data, and through rental fees for broadband CPE, they can make up for the loss of TV sub revenues to make it a zero-sum game. Can anyone say “regulated as a utility”? Or is 5G going to bring the much-needed broadband competition any time soon?
Operators offer a “Sticky Bundle” – a grouping of services and programming for a price that’s too low to ignore, and too good to give up. Every pay TV operator offers them, and the savings come with strings attached (and often a commitment over time). Great for the operator, but not necessarily what the consumer wants.

Is this tactic enough to make me go price shopping for a better deal with conventional TV? And who provides the alternatives? One of our satellite companies can bundle TV, phone service, and broadband access – just like the Cable company. The other satellite company can’t. But I’d still be in exactly as before, with data caps and all.

When I originally signed up for broadband over a decade ago, I don’t remember ever hearing about being on a “data plan”. I was just glad to get something that would stream video at a frame rate and resolution that would give me a halfway decent viewing experience. Now that broadband is so fast that the days of buffering are over, pay TV operators have taken a leaf from the mobile guys and introduced this revenue machine called “data plans”. Moving to 4K will further exacerbate this for consumers. No wonder 1080p with HDR looks so attractive!

Today I’m spoiled by the quality of the picture; and the choice I am getting with broadband-delivered video is now very attractive. Broadcasters are going online, more and more studios are looking at D2C and OTT services like YouTube, Hulu, Prime and Netflix are getting really “content rich”. But, absent competition or utility regulation oversight, I am getting the gloomy feeling that my broadband services will inevitably trend my bill back up to $240 again, That made me realize that the efficiency of the codec still remains THE most important factor for the future of this industry

And that’s where we’ll go next: Video quality and the user experience. Stay tuned.

This is first in an ongoing series of articles that examines technologies and issues in the video industry, for which there is no lack of topics.


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