Manitoba·Opinion

Why I'm cancelling my cable subscription

It’s like stepping off a cliff. My kids told me for months that I should do it, but it took me forever to work up the nerve, and I always found a reason to avoid it. I’ve done it now. I cancelled my cable television. 

Freelance writer Jo Davies says she doesn't think cable is worth the cost

After a lifetime with television, Jo Davies wasn't sure what she'd do without it but she wasn't watching it enough to justify the cost. (Shutterstock)

It's like stepping off a cliff, really. My kids told me for months that I should do it, but it took me forever to work up the nerve, and I always found a reason to avoid it. I've done it now, though. I've pulled the plug and there's no turning back.

I cancelled my cable television. 

I know. You think I'm crazy. Either you got rid of your pricey monthly cable eons ago and you're wondering why I'm still living in the Stone Age, or you're cozied up to your regularly scheduled programming and thinking "How will she watch her shows now?" Trust me: I wonder that, too. 

After a lifetime with television, I wasn't sure what I'd do without it. It's not that I never watched. I watched news programs, the odd Premier League soccer match, a Raptors game every once in a while, as well as PBS documentaries and Masterpiece Theatre.

I'd just come to a point where I didn't spend enough time watching to justify what the cable companies wanted to charge me each month for the privilege of playing witness to endless commercials and what seemed like 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump's ridiculousness. Bottom line: TV nowadays isn't worth the price of admission. 

First off, the quality of network television seems to have dropped over the years. Call me a snob, but when I see the stuff that fills up TV schedules nowadays, interspersed as it is with commercials every five minutes, I'm not impressed.

For every good show there seems to be a dozen duds, as networks throw whatever they can think of at the wall to see what sticks. Umpteen reality shows run season after season, as does dreck like Two Broke Girls and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

The shows I remember growing up with seemed to be far better acted and written back then (yes, I'm showing my age):  All In The Family, The Carol Burnett Show and M*A*S*H were worth waiting for, as were miniseries like The Thornbirds and Roots

Shows like M*A*S*H seemed far better acted and written, making them worth the wait, argues Jo Davies. (CBC Archives)

Secondly, the regular television season used to line up with the school year. You could count on most shows premiering in September and tootling along until late spring. Eventually, though, the television seasons got shorter and shorter. That meant less episodes of my favourite shows and lots more re-runs.

Soon the season that used to run from September to March now started in October and ended a few months later. Commercials for "season enders" became laughable, as they seemed to start running almost immediately after the first few episodes aired.

The downside back in the day was that if you wanted to see a particular program, you had to sit your butt down and watch it when it aired. If you missed an episode, tough luck. You might get lucky and catch a re-run months later, but that was the only way you ever got to see it since this was the dreaded age of PV (Pre-VCR). 

It's true: back then we were slaves to the TV guide. Unless our parents booted us out to get some of that dreaded "fresh air" they loved so much, we memorized when we needed to stay close to home. Sunday nights at 6 o'clock? The Wonderful World of Disney. Tuesday evening? Laverne and Shirley. Thursday eventually became Cheers night, which I remember particularly fondly as the first "grown up" show my dad and I ever laughed at together. 

Eventually, TV became irrelevant, as I spent most of my days working full-time, running a household and raising three little boys. If I did sit down, it was usually with them while they watched Spongebob Squarepants or their favourite Spiderman movie. I finally understood why my dad used to go to bed early. It wasn't worth the hassle of arguing over who got to watch what.

It looks like cable television's days are numbered, says Jo Davies, with streaming services such as Netflix offering cheaper and better content. (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press)

With the advent of PVR, those arguments were virtually eliminated overnight. You suddenly had the ability to record then watch it after the kids went to bed!

PVR also meant that viewers had the freedom to choose how they watched. Incidentally, I find it ironic that the people who won't commit to watching a TV series over several months will now voluntarily spend an entire weekend binge-watching multiple seasons. Go figure.  

Yes, it looks like cable television's days are numbered. Not only are streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon far cheaper, they regularly produce far more entertaining original content (Stranger Things, anyone?).

Gone are the days when cable TV was the only game in town. Two hundred channels on a Saturday morning, with 40 featuring fishing shows, and another few dozen showing re-runs? As far as I'm concerned, I've been charged through the nose and gotten less and less quality in return. 

Time to change the channel. 


This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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About the Author

Jo Davies is a freelance writer and office assistant who is never at a loss for an opinion. She is currently writing her first novel, set in Jamaica.

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