The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Cable TV has big of problems as ‘Zero-TV’ homes grow

DALLAS – Southern Methodist University student Katherine Johnson has had it with TV. It’s over priced content, unappealing programming and unwanted commercials forced her to seek out alternative means of viewing her media. That is why when she wants to watch anything she turns to her laptop.

“I just use Netflix and Hulu, which are much cheaper than paying for cable,” said Johnson.

There are a growing number of people like Johnson across the country that have opted out of paying for their cable services. The Nielsen Company, which studies television ratings and audience activity, established a new trend in early 2013, which it calls ‘Zero-TV’ homes. A ‘Zero-TV’ home is merely a home that does not fit Nielsen’s definition of a traditional TV household with cable subscriptions. While the term implies that there are zero televisions in these households, it means these homes are zero cable television homes with the majority still having TV’s.

According to Nielsen’s most recent television ratings report, there are nearly 5 million ‘Zero-TV’ homes today, almost doubling the number of 2 million homes in 2007. This drastic increase has caused Nielsen to create an entire section in its ratings report dedicated to ‘Zero-TV’ homes. There are owners of ‘Zero-TV’ homes whom have never owned cable and those that don’t find pleasure in television; but the variety of homes fitting this category range much further than just protesting the outrageous pricing, lack of programming and commercial annoyance that come with cable television.

“Nearly 75 percent of ‘Zero-TV’ households own at least one television,” said Joe Pirro, SMU media studies professor, “but only 18 percent of that portion expressed an interest in subscribing to traditional TV services.”

Tim Raschle, a Dallas resident, sees TV as a medium that distracts him from the things he truly enjoys doing.

“I feel indifferent when I watch TV,” said Raschle. “So when I have free time I like swimming, working out, running, soccer or seeing friends face to face, not watch TV”


While Raschle argues that TV takes away from the physical interaction of getting out of the house, he has found himself at times wanting to watch TV. As an avid sports fan, Raschle struggles to watch events, such as the upcoming Olympics and World Cup. Raschle has found an alternative to this problem by watching the events at friends’ houses or sports bars. Johnson experienced the same problems and visits friends or goes to bars to watch the events she wants.

“All of my neighbors have cable,” said Johnson, “so I would normally always go to one of their places.”

There are those who opt out of cable and deal with the effects of not paying; people like Ross Sloan, whom have never owned cable. Sloan, a 33-year-old English professor at SMU, has dealt with the consequences of not paying for cable for his whole life.

“At first, it was an act of protest against the prices,” said Sloan, “I refused to accept that I was being offered any value for my money.”

Sloan says this was before the introduction of quality programming, when cable was “just a wasteland of laughable reality television shows where every shoddy joke prompted the laugh track.”

Even though Sloan believes that cable companies can still fight the battle, they have definitely lost the war. Despite the increase in quality of programming with shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, Sloan still feels that escaping commercial entertainment for on-demand entertainment was the right thing to do. While Sloan doesn’t find much time where he can just sit down and watch TV, when he does, he would rather spend his time watching something that he wants rather than spending his time channel surfing.

In order to receive the desired content, Sloan uses an Apple TV, Netflix and Hulu Plus and has a PlayStation 3 for DVDs. With the combination of these things, Sloan and his family have been able to watch the first three seasons of Walking Dead on Netflix for no extra charge. This is great for watching past programming, but outlets like Netflix and Hulu typically have a lag-time for new episodes. So when Sloan wants to watch currently airing episodes, he uses his Apple TV.

“Now we are making use of iTunes and paying an episode at a time. New episodes air on Sunday nights,” said Sloan, “we watch them on Monday.”

Cable companies have an uphill battle they must fight, but with the variety of Internet based streaming devices, their future seems bleak. Cable TV continues to grasp ahold of the remaining leverage it has over viewers, such as sports and news programming. But news broadcasting is seen as insufficient to many people’s needs in this day and age.

“There are probably few things more insulting than the news programming on television,” said Sloan.

Companies like Twitter help breaking news travel faster than cable news programming ever could. Since news programming seems to be less of a reason for viewers to pay for cable, it appears that at this point in time, sports are the only thing keeping people paying for the $100 plus monthly bills, just to watch a few games out of the year.

Many people have criticized cable companies over the years for refusing to offer ‘a la carte’ offerings and instead forcing consumers to pay for tons of channels they don’t care about, or even know exist.

“That’s like the grocery store saying they will sell you steak and potatoes, which are your favorite, but only if you buy liver and beets, which you hate,” said Pirro.

While cable companies have refused to change their formula, they are now falling behind the curve. Although their ability to distract consumers with things like Samsung’s ‘DirecTV Ready’ TV and Dish’s Hopper multi-DVR system still works, there remains a good amount of work that must be done in order for cable companies to stay alive.

Cable does, however, have one advantage, in that it is a one-stop shop. This is an advantage because American consumers like everything to be packaged up very nicely for them. But for those who take that bold step to opt out of cable, they must accept that there is no pretty package bundle ready for you.

“It might take a few different services to get everything you need to cut the cable,” said Pirro.

For now cable still has the edge. The tremendous growth in ‘Zero-TV’ homes was initiated by the immense increase in media options for viewers.

“The problem is their rates keep going up while the competition increases, providing consumers with more options,” said Pirro.

Broadcasters must seek alternatives to avoid what may indeed be their impending doom.

“They better do something fast,” said Jack Gruber, a Dallas local. “I am getting tired of paying these huge bills every month, and frankly, so is my bank account.”


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