Friday, August 03, 2007

Is "The Wire" worth $20 per episode?

That’s how much it would cost me. The cheapest way to get HBO at my new apartment is to order a “Digital Preferred” package from Verizon at $83.33 per month. It includes about 60 channels besides HBO, and I can do without all of them. I watch about one hour of TV per day (more when I stay up late, less when I stay out late). About half of that time is spent watching DVDs, either from Netflix or from my own collection. The rest is spent following a handful of current shows (mostly dramas like House and Mad Men, and a couple of comedies like The Office). But all of the shows I care about are available through iTunes (for $2 an episode) or through the networks’ own Web sites — except for HBO shows including Big Love and The Wire. I don’t need news channels, because I get everything I need from the Internet (including video reports from TV channels such as New England Cable News). I don’t need time-waster channels, for when I have a short attention span and just want something to accompany a glass of wine, because that’s what YouTube is for. I used to watch TV Land for vintage programs like Hill Street Blues and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, but now that it airs The Andy Griffith Show and Bonanza around the clock, it’s worthless to me. Turner Classic Movies has made me sick of Alfred Hitchcock and tired of The Postman Always Rings Twice, and it’s no competition for the vast Netflix library. So why would I pay for cable? But I would pay $20 a month just for HBO, and I’d pay a couple of bucks a month for a few selected channels like TV5 (the French-language network). When is Comcast going to offer a la carte pricing? Or when is HBO going to find a way to sell me their wares without going through cable providers?

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