Evaluating Television in the Era of Tivo, Hulu, iTunes and Torrents

I’ve been thinking about my television viewing habits and I’m seriously thinking about downsizing my cable package away from digital cable.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted digital cable was the access to the SCI-FI Channel and Battlestar Galactica. Of course, SCI-FI has turned into SyFy and promotes professional wrestlers and original B-Movies created in Croatia for a fraction of a budget. So, I’m trying to decide if actively limiting my choices would really affect me all that much.

Television is fractured. Today we have cable and dish, HBO/Cinemax/Showtime, Hulu/YouTube, iTunes, Tivo and Netflix. Not to mention the bounty of entertainment on the internet and even the BitTorrrent sites where anyone can download full seasons of just about any television show anyone could ever want.

I used to get excited by the upcoming Fall season of programing. Now, I have my two or three new shows I will try, program my Tivo appropriately and see what sticks. I came late to Battlestar Galactica, Lost and Leverage. Was right there with Heroes, How I Met Your Mother and Nip/Tuck. If there’s something that’s good that I miss, I have Hulu or any of it’s legal and not-so-legal alternatives to catch up. Of course, I can do what I did with Battlestar Galactica and rent the DVD sets.

Cable networks have shaken things up by creating year-round programing. There may still be a Fall kickoff, but more and more that September start is being marginalized by mid-season replacements and original programing during the summer. For example, Burn Notice took full advantage of the lack of competition during the summer and is a decent hit for USA.

I wish more networks would publicly commit to 13-episodes per season and three to five seasons to a show. It’s a model that worked well for The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, The Dead Zone, The Closer and a whole host of others. It also makes DVD collections of the seasons more profitable.

I think the future of television is inching toward personal programming. Hulu and DVRs already do this to a certain extent for end-users. It’s just a simple step to giving the viewers more control over what they watch and when. Imagine being able to subscribe to shows like you do with Tivo and then be able to watch new episodes as they become available. Throw in the ability to watch past episodes and full seasons as easily one does with Hulu and you have a killer entertainment box.

I will probably give it through next summer to make a decision on my digital cable box. It really isn’t that much more expensive for the additional potential programming I receive. The question is am I getting enough value from it.