Shake it off, Ted Cruz
I saw this on Reddit the other day and I thought I’d write something about how it seemed like a great idea for ESPN. But I didn’t, because I got distracted by nice weather and enjoying my last few days of having nothing to do. And running.
While I was running (listening to the best playlist of all time on Spotify) I realized that there’s something bigger than ESPN in this. This guy on Reddit’s question is part of a cultural shift away from the cable box and towards the internet. More and more people are “cutting the cord” as the news loves to say, but that doesn’t mean they are satisfied with watching cat videos on repeat on YouTube. We still want to watch Fargo, True Detective, The Simpsons, a baseball game or South Park, we just don’t want to do it in front of the living room TV.
Part of the problem is that cable subscriptions are becoming unjustifiably expensive. According to Comcast’s rather confusing pricing page, there’s a deal right now to get everything they have – HBO, sports; the works – for $70/month for 12 months. They say in the fine print the price is usually about $120/month, and HBO, Starz, Cinemax and Showtime are each another $15-20/month. That means the average person is paying about $200/month if they have every channel available and didn’t get any discounts when signing up.
It gets even messier if you try to combine cable and internet access in a bundle. I can’t find a package where I can get high-speed internet access – sorry Comcast, 25 Mbps is not really very useful – and not combine it with things I don’t care about. What if I want fast internet and no NFL Network? What if I want fast internet and movie channels? Do I have to call up Comcast and physically ask them to add each extra channel I want for a fee?
This is what’s driving the current trend of “unbundling” we’re seeing with media services. People are turning to the web to get just the content they want. Some early online success stories, like MLB.tv and Netflix, which accounts for a full third of all internet data at peak hours in the US, have lead to more media outlets moving online. FXNow is pretty great, Hulu is decent, and I’ve heard that HBO is thinking of offering a standalone HBO Go subscription package soon.
This isn’t limited to TV and movies, either – Spotify, Rdio, iTunes Radio and others are doing the same for music, and every news outlet in the world is offering some form of “web-only” subscription for their content.
The web was always supposed to be an open marketplace, according to its creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. But some people are against this.
Two people that need to reevaluate their understanding of the web right now are Taylor Swift and Ted Cruz.
One of these individuals is always in the news for some dumb reason other, putting out the same crap that certain sections of the population lap up, and the other is Ted Cruz.
Taylor Swift is engaged in a bit of spat with Spotify right now, after she didn’t add her most recent album, 1989, to their streaming service. Tim mentioned it earlier today. I’m not going to go into the he-said-she-said details of the squabble – The Verge has a good article on the numbers behind her rationale and Vox has a good article on why the future of music is streaming – but I do want to continue my comparison to Ted Cruz.
Taylor Swift may well be the last of a traditional breed of pop star, someone who can actually sell a million CDs like it’s 1999 again and we’ve never heard of Britney Spears. So she’s fighting to conserve a way of life that works for her, whether or not it works for her fans.
Ted Cruz went a bit off his rocker this week. He called Net Neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet” in a Washington Post op-ed. He started off his piece well, saying we need an unregulated internet to promote economic growth in the US. He’s not wrong there. But he then called out President Obama in his support for Net Neutrality, saying that government regulation and taxes on internet access will hinder the country.
What he seems to fail to realize, or maybe is ignoring thanks to large donations he’s received from Big Telecom, is that the type of regulation Net Neutrality is actually about would ensure that the web stays free and unrestricted. I really don’t like The Oatmeal usually, but they put up a good response to why Ted Cruz is very wrong.
Ted Cruz wants things to stay the same, with cable companies making lots of money charging me for services I want and ones I don’t, as they’re helping to foot his campaign bills. He, like Taylor Swift, seems to long for an early-90s pre-Clinton idyll, when CDs cost $14.99 from Tower Records, and the internet was just a thing nerds used to talk about Star Wars and surfing the information superhighway.
But that’s not the world we live in anymore. We steal stuff online when we can’t easily find it, we have fickle tastes and our beliefs often only run as deep as a Facebook Like.
If consumers want to pay for services online to get their media, which they do – 1.6 million people streamed “Shake It Off” on Spotify before it was removed – then that is the reality artists have to deal with. Grizzly Bear told us that two years ago. I just hope that somebody doesn’t think to bundle all these web media services together for a single subscription price, and we start all over again. Comcast – please ignore that last sentence.
And for Ted Cruz, if you really do care about a free internet that will generate trillions for our economy in the future, then leave it alone. Don’t let Comcast become even more of a monopoly. Competition benefits the consumer as prices decrease. In the same way that stuff is cheaper when fuel prices are low, cheaper internet will only help businesses and consumers.
Other than Comcast, of course.