Who needs a new TV? Not me.
Columnist Tom Regan discovers what his children already knew: You don't need cable when you can watch your shows on the Internet.
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1. I don't need a new TV. For my family, the Web provides just enough programming. My kids get their shows, I get my Red Sox. (I'm still waiting for the Food Network. Come on, dudes!) My old TV is on its last legs, and I've been hearing all these warnings about February 2009, when people will need a digital TV or at least a converter box to watch broadcasts. Why bother? I'll save myself a few bucks, thank you kindly.Skip to next paragraph
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2. Good-bye cable. We're moving again. (Long story, third time in eight months, I feel like a Bedouin.) We are moving to an area outside Washington with no cable. (I thought the peak of Mt. McKinley was the only place in the United States without cable.) But who cares?
In my new home, I can receive an Internet signal via a wireless service. A little receiver sits in my bedroom closet and broadcasts throughout the house. A local Internet provider charges $60 a month for the service. It costs more than what a cable company would charge, but worth it.
While I still watch CNN at work, it and other cable news networks stream important political events online. NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and other networks offer complete episodes of some of their top shows online. If I pay a few extra bucks I can watch a movie downloaded from the iTunes store or Netflix. So why pay $100 a month for the pleasure of watching the Golf Channel and the Home Shopping Network? No thanks.
3. This is why the Writers Guild of America is on strike. Lots of young people already watch TV online, but as more old fogeys like me cotton to this stuff, you can see why writers want to be paid appropriately for the increasing number of people who watch their shows on a computer instead of on a TV set.
But watching TV online also raises a question: Might a show be canceled if Americans watch it only online instead of on the tube?
No, says Biller, watching online can actually help save a show. She offered the example of "Jericho," a drama that appears on CBS.
"It's obvious ... that the system does not accurately reflect ratings when you see a situation like what transpired with the show 'Jericho,' " she writes. "The network canceled the show due to dismal ratings, but apparently didn't realize the enormous fan base for the show. Millions of fans bombarded the network with millions of pounds of nuts (a nod to a line from the show) demanding 'Jericho' be returned to the airwaves. The network caved, and 'Jericho' lives on."
At this point, it never ceases to amaze me how our media choices are evolving. With at least three ways you can watch your favorite show now (iPod, computer, television), who knows how many more there will be down the road?