Saturday, May 31, 2014

Step 1: Cancel Cable

A friend’s family canceled cable this month, and the way it happened points to cable TV’s ongoing retreat from its long-dominant position in U.S. entertainment.

This is a subject that has interested me since, a decade ago, I unplugged my own TV cable for a month as an experiment. Was it really practical, I wondered, to live without cable TV? Times and attitudes have changed, so that by now, so many people have canceled their TV subscriptions that it is obvious that going cable-free is just a slight lifestyle variation.

And so, in this latest story, a family had a bit of a cash crunch, and canceling cable was one of the first things they thought to do. There wasn’t any agonizing over whether canceling cable was a possibility. Rather, it was just one of the obvious first steps for a household facing an austerity budget.

In the last few years, canceling cable has gone from being seen as nearly impossible in a middle-class mindset to being simple and obvious. A TV subscription is still a consensus among middle-class households, and the total size of the TV audience has nearly held steady, but it is clear that there is the potential for TV to lose a substantial part of its audience fairly quickly, a potential that wasn’t there a few years ago.