It’s becoming a pretty common routine for college students.
After hours of sitting in a tiny seat taking notes while listening to professors lecture, reading several chapters of textbooks and writing what seems to be an endless amount of papers, most students end up going home to sit on their sofas to watch on T.V.
A metal box with the ability to transport viewers to any city, area, realm or universe (real or not) from the comfort of their living room, T.V. has the power to momentarily alleviate one’s worries and take a peek into an unfamiliar world or situation.
But that comes at a price. Sure, we’ve all heard our parents talk about the terrible evils of too much T.V. — our eyes going bad and falling out, our minds going blank and our bodies becoming couch potatoes— but frankly, few college students have the time to spend a whole day in front of the T.V. (although there are some who wish they could).
Instead, I’m talking about the price of T.V. — literally, in dollars and cents.
A recent article published in the New York Times on Jan. 3 said Time Warner Cable increased its fees in reaction to pressure it faced from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which demanded more money from the cable company. The fees generally go unnoticed by consumers, and thus the companies are able to increase their profits with minimal protest.
“Content providers are testing the limits — hoping to raise the bar as high as possible,” said Steve Ridge, president of the media strategy group for the consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates in an interview with the New York Times.
The Times also said broadcasters are upset that cable companies get paid by both advertisers and consumer fees, thereby having two sources of revenue. Time Warner Cable is not the only company to start increasing its fees — DirecTV and Comcast are expected to also increase their fees due to demands from broadcasters.
But while cable companies and broadcasters battle it out, many consumers including college students are left wondering whether these high-flying companies are aware of an invention that allows people to see the same shows without the high prices — the internet.
With cable bills going up and having the convenience of watching shows on one’s own laptop, college students are quickly leaving their televisions in the corner and visiting various websites such as Hulu, My Easy TV and Channelsurfing.net. These new websites, among many others, allow viewers to watch live T.V. and catch all the top shows, sporting events and movies for free.
Noting this, why aren’t cable companies doing something to attract consumers rather than turning them away by raising prices?
The answer to this question: The blame game. Broadcasters are blaming cable providers and vice versa. Both acknowledge the threat of online T.V. but neither is willing to back down for the fear of suffering a profit loss.
However, by relying on habit as a means from which cable companies can survive is naïve at best. Though technology-illiterate older viewers may opt to swallow the higher fees, younger viewers (especially college students) on a tighter budget might decide to dump the T.V. set and turn on their laptops.
The truth is college students neither have the time to analyze cable bills and figure out the percent increase of the charges cable companies are demanding nor do students have the free time to be making calls to cable companies demanding explanations for the fee increases (as if any justification would make the consumer feel happy about paying more). College students do not have the patience to deal with rising prices and are better off simply switching to online T.V. if they feel prices are going up.
As for me, I’m going to stick to cable for now. But if I notice they’re trying to squeeze fee increases in my bill I’ll be relieved to know that my laptop (with its high-speed internet connection) is only a couple feet away.
Angad Singh is a sophomore majoring in international relations and communications.