Consumers Are Angry and Sick of Escalating Monthly Bills, But Just Can’t Quit Pay TV

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It has all the makings of an unhealthy relationship. You know TV isn’t good for you. You know your pay TV provider is a bad partner, never asking what you what you want and forcing you to do all sorts of things you’d rather not—such as paying for well over 100 channels when you only watch something like 17. And you know that your pay TV provider is only out to get as much money out of you as possible. You’re sick of being walked all over, and you’ve often thought about ending the relationship entirely, but you don’t know what else you’d do, and you don’t want to be left all alone on your couch.

Despite the proliferation of guides cluing folks in on how to cut the cord and still enjoy good TV options, mainly by watching programming via the Internet, and despite the fact that lots of people—sounding quite a bit like folks who’ve just gotten out of bad relationships—proclaim how great it feels to be free and without a monthly pay TV bill, most people still cling to pay TV, according a new NY Times/CBS survey.

The Internet has already changed the way consumers get their news, books, and music—changing how people consumer these media, and especially changing how much people are willing to pay for them (if anything). Yet the vast majority of people still go with pay TV, even during an economic crisis, even though there are more and more options available everyday, and even though the typical pay TV customer sorta despises everything about his pay TV service. Per the survey, 88% of respondents pay for traditional TV programming. Only 15% have even considered dropping the service and replacing it with Hulu or some combination of online options.

Why do people overwhelmingly stick with what they know in their heart of hearts is a bad relationship? Pretty much because either they’re too lazy to do anything about it, or the alternatives are too confusing or too limited. There’s also an unwillingness to make sacrifices. One man interviewed in the NY Times story canceled his $130-a-month cable service for a year, but then, after finding the Internet TV route unsatisfying, he shuffled on back and asked his pay-TV ex to take him back, check in hand. He attests:

“The problem is, we’re hooked on shows on HBO and Showtime, like ‘True Blood’ and ‘Dexter,’ ” he said, adding that he wishes he could buy only the shows he wants instead of big bundles of channels he doesn’t. “It’s so frustrating.”

For most people, the current alternatives to pay TV aren’t enticing enough to get them to drop the service—not yet anyway. But the annoyances of pay TV seem to grow alongside your monthly bill. Consider how the cable TV model differs from Internet content: With the web, we put up with ads because nearly all the content is free; with cable, we pay for content, so you’d think you wouldn’t have to endure ads, or at least you’d get less of them. But that’s not the way it works. You pay for cable, and that basically means a big chunk of your bill pays for companies to air ads interrupting the shows you want to watch.

Changes may very well be coming to the way people watch and pay for TV. There have been discussions about cheaper TV packages and cable bills based not on how many channels you have but on how much you watch, for example.

But for now, however, most of us languish on the couch, aware that we’re on the wrong end of a relationship that is unbalanced, unhealthy, and borderline abusive, but that is amusing and comfortable, or least familiar.

You deserve better. We all do.