Why do we still use cable tv? A nice piece by Horace.
And so over a period of about 40 years, watching TV went from free to quite expensive. More expensive even than a family’s communications costs (i.e. telephone service.) That’s quite an achievement at a time when technology diffusions caused huge price reductions in other goods and services. Consider that the TV set used to watch the programming improved dramatically while decreasing in price over the same period.
Meanwhile, some of the benefits began to be less relevant. Commercials are more abundant than ever. Ad buyers spend about $60/month per household to deliver ads The quality of the TV picture is actually worse due to compression than one might get with over-the-air digital broadcast. Finally, the abundance of channels is beyond anyone’s absorption rate. Those channels which used to be “pure” became polluted and undifferentiated as each tried to be the other.
On top of these paradoxes is the fact that actual penetration of the service has been declining. As the graph above shows, Cable TV has declined (though Pay TV much less so). The industry has reached saturation decades ago and has not offered anything meaningful in terms of innovation.