Despite the fact that one of my few marketable job skills is knowing a fair amount about cord-cutting technologies and platforms, I have been paying for cable for the last 10+ years, and content with that decision. I, in fact, have been a Time Warner Cable customer for so long that this week, I decided that it was time for a new DVR/cable box.
Half the remote buttons don’t function? Fine, I can work around that. But hiccup through key plot points of Syfy’s Continuum, and I’ll call TWC to complain that the box’s digital recording capabilities are corrupted.
[The author, for the sake of her audience, now omits this part of the story, because it is boring and it took an hour and “Ma’am, have you tried turning it off and on again?” and “I have DirecTV’s number right in front of me RIGHT NOW and they’re not in the middle of a slapfight with CBS so NO I will not stand in line at one of your fine local retail establishments you will send a technician TOMORROW.”]
8 AM on the dot, my doorbell rang.
The thing I somehow forgot would happen is that when the very nice and efficient cable guy swapped my 2005-era model for something resembling the future, my data didn’t transfer from the old to the new. (Cloud storage, like good customer service, is something ye olde Time Warner doesn’t believe in.)
This meant losing some vintage Community episodes, but more importantly having to rebuild my DVR recording schedule from scratch.
That DVR and I had HISTORY, man. Five different roommates, hundreds of hours of shows, and above all a very long list of scheduled series that had been quasi-curated over the years.
I say “quasi” — at times, the DVR would record things I didn’t even realize were still on the air. Sometimes, I’d delete these shows. But sometimes, I would watch them. And time, it spools away so fast.
Starting from scratch is a bit of a rush: Project Runway, a series I kept forgetting to delete, will no longer haunt my listings like the ghost of quality television it is. No recording conflicts will cause the last minutes of Breaking Bad to be clipped. That empty warehouse of a hard drive aches to store HD recordings of movies I didn’t see in theaters because “it’ll be on HBO in a month.”
Plus, when the fall season begins, I’ll be freed from the tyranny of other long-in-the-tooth shows that have only been recorded because of inertia. (Farewell, Revenge.) I now have the opportunity now to rebuild my series recordings list with some more virtue to it — well, more virtue, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Why do I put such store in this device? Because we live in a revolutionary age for television, and here’s the thing to remember about revolutions: They lead to chaos. They lead to disruption. When a revolution is coming, it’s best to stock up on canned goods.
Hulu and Netflix might scare the shit out of the broadcast industry, but Hulu’s future is in flux, Netflix is starting to emphasize its original content and exclusives, and more and more, I see networks pull their content from web platforms, set it up behind paywalls, or slap so many ads on it that you might as well be watching on television.
And there’s no fast-forward button for commercials on the Internet.
The basic fact of a cable subscription is this: 13 channels of HBO is not a biological need for survival, but I find it comforting to know that if something is going to be on television, it’s easy for me to watch it.
So while I also maintain Hulu Plus and Netflix subscriptions, I send Time Warner my cash. The combination of the three is a help come tax time, but the real reason is this: Us television junkies might be able to change and improve our habits, but we still need our security blankets.