Unplugging Cable/Satellite – Not Quite Yet

I know many of us keep discussing unplugging cable/satellite and going with set-top boxes and Internet programming instead.  An article on Mashable by Christina Warren explains pretty well why most video media consumers won’t be switching from cable and satellite anytime soon.

The fact is, moving from passive pay television, where you can easily channel-surf your way through the lineup (or use the guide with the touch of a button), to a more active style of not only finding content, but viewing content, is just not going to happen for most people.  While the Boxee, Roku, AppleTV, and other devices enter the market, the ease of use hasn’t caught up.  Regular television provides an easy-to-access method for figuring out what you want to watch, and the rise of the DVR means you can also record what you don’t have time to watch at that moment.  There is very little physical or mental encumbrance in using passive television to fulfill a need for entertainment.

Ms. Warren goes on to point out that if set-top boxes are going to be a replacement for cable and satellite, then they need to actually provide what people are not only used to, but what they want.  No one wants to spend ten minutes picking through a menu to find what they want to watch.  They want to turn it on, flip through a few channels, and be ready to watch.  Most users of DVR’s are doing the same thing, albeit with recorded shows:  bring up the guide, pick what you recorded, push play.  There is instant playback, instant access.

The other piece of the puzzle is live television.  Live news, live sports events, breaking weather, all of these things are not being accommodated in the set-top box space.  They can’t be, by definition.  I just lived through three days of gloom and doom regarding a Midwest blizzard, and believe me, that live connection to information was critical in determining if we were going to make it to work, doctor’s appointments, etc., and also helped us decide if we needed to take extra emergency precautions to keep our homes and families safe.  I could have never gotten that information from my AppleTV.

When solutions can be found to these issues, and set-top boxes can act more like passive television viewing, we might just see more adoption in the market.  But as it stands, I don’t see anyone giving up cable/satellite for set-top boxes anytime soon.