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Cutting the Cord and Why It Took So Long: A Streaming Wish List

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So I finally did it. I finally called DirecTV and told them no more, cut me off, stop my account. I was expecting them to protest, to offer me sweetheart deals until my willpower broke down. But they didn’t. They just told me they’d send a box for my DVR. The forest of dishes on my roof is apparently mine to keep.

I thought the occasion should have been marked in some way. After all, I was a customer for nearly 20 years. But they just let me go, and that was it.

The odd thing isn’t that I went, but that it took me so long. I write about this stuff for a living. I know better than most people what streaming options are available and where the deals are. By the time I got around to phoning DirecTV, my household had two subscription video-on-demand (VOD) services and two vMVPDs. And that doesn’t include all the free services. We had everything satellite provided twice over, so why did it take me so long to cancel? Was it just inertia? Laziness?

No, it was because, despite being something of a booster for the streaming industry, I still think pay TV does some things better. There are three things that I’ll always miss—until some genius brings them to the streaming world.

  1. Instant On

Didn’t you just love browsing? Just flipping on the TV and having no place to go? Maybe it was the middle of the night and you found yourself watching that weird talk show where Byron Allen fed setups to comedians and they recited parts of their act. Maybe it was that Carson Daly show where actors got interviewed by no one in empty L.A. restaurants in the middle of the day, or sometimes a dreamy band played.

Young people growing up in a VOD world will never know the idle bliss of channel surfing when nothing really good is on but everything’s kind of interesting. You see more quality content when you have to select shows or movies from a menu, but you don’t get that element of surprise. I miss that.

  1. Local Channels

The vMVPDs all have local channels, but sometimes they don’t have all the locals. It varies by region, and it’s a pain. I think local channels, including all the major broadcast stations, should be super easy to find on any live service. I want an area I can get to with one click that shows me my local offerings. In a perfect world, it would include the digital subchannels as well, in case I want to watch a repeat of Bonanza at 3 a.m.

  1. A Central DVR

Maybe the thing that most strongly tethered me to my old DirecTV account was the DVR. All the vMVPDs have had DVRs for years now, so I knew I’d be able to record anything I wanted. But it’s a bother to have to remember where the show you want is among several cloud DVRs. The nice thing about a pay TV account is that all your recordings are in one place. I’d love that feature to come to streaming. Maybe have a DVR view built in the Roku and Amazon Fire interfaces that shows all your cloud DVR recordings in one place, no matter where they’re stored. Then, when I’m looking for a show to play, I wouldn’t have to visit multiple areas to be reminded what’s in each. And while we’re improving the cloud DVR experience, we need to be able to fast-forward through any commercial break or program. Having different rules for different networks is annoying.

I’m a cord-cutter now, and I only regret that I didn’t do it sooner. But it’s more obvious to me than ever that the streaming world isn’t perfect. A few improvements would go a long way to making the area more comfy, homey, and TV-like.

[This article appears in the September 2019 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Cutting the Cord and Why It Took So Long."]

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