Two years ago, I broke off a long but unsatisfactory relationship with my TV provider. For nearly a decade, I paid my monthly bills, but I had finally become fed up and, looking around, realized I had other options. I joined a small but growing group of Canadians who had given up on conventional television.
A recent survey by the Media Technology Monitor shows 8 per cent of Canadians don't subscribe to conventional TV. A survey of nearly 500 Globe and Mail readers suggests that number is even higher: Nearly half of respondents said they had already cut the cord. Another third said they were currently considering it. Only 3 per cent of respondents said they would not consider giving up television.
Asked why they were not satisfied with conventional TV providers, 64 per cent said the price of bundled channels is simply too high; 15 per cent cited poor program quality; 11 per cent said there were too many commercials; and 10 per cent said there was not enough choice when it came to channel selection.
"Forcing me to pay for 50 channels when I only want to watch a few shows on three of them just doesn't make sense," said Luke Bailey of Toronto.
"I cancelled my cable subscription four years ago primarily because of very poor-quality programming," said Laurie in Coquitlam, B.C. "I had upwards of 100 channels and could never find anything interesting to watch. I was paying a lot of money for a service that had absolutely nothing to offer me. I'm happy with my decision and have no plans to re-subscribe."
Just because I no longer pay monthly cable bills doesn't mean I don't watch my favourite shows online. Most of our survey respondents said the same. Only 8 per cent said they were no longer watching television. Nearly two-thirds of readers said they would download free shows online or pay for a streaming service. Nearly 20 per cent said they would pay for individual shows or channels, and 30 per cent said they would use an antenna.
"It's been a few years since we cut the cable. Our antenna fills most of the gap, with Netflix, shows on DVDs, and other online sources," said Tim in Calgary. "We watch more TV now than we did when we had cable."
So what is it that keeps most Canadians from giving up on traditional TV? Of those who took the Globe survey, 41 per cent said they appreciated local news and weather reports, and 27 per cent said they liked having access to live sports on TV. Still, they didn't seem too happy about the price of those conveniences.
"We're paying over $100 a month for a cable and Internet bundle, plus sports. And we're being gouged for Sportsnet World, because we like to watch international rugby," said Ann in Vancouver.
Perhaps Ann should consider this suggestion from Pamela in Lacombe, Alta., who cuts off her cable during the summer, when her family is less likely to watch TV: "If you do it right, you can end your package and come back through a promotional rate."