Boxee. Google TV. Apple's iTV. BitTorrent. All this stuff is supposed to be killing cable television, but according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 88% of respondents are still paying for cable. Fess up! What's keeping you cablin'?
Here are my suspicions, based on my own content consumption.
Certain shows can't be watched elsewhere, at least not live.
I've given over to my passion for HBO's True Blood, despite that it wasn't the serious look at vampirism that I was first expecting from Alan Ball—and despite that every time Tara comes on screen everyone in my house looks at each other and starts flapping our lower lips around whimpering Suuuhhhkie, faux-emote ourselves into near cataplexy.
But you can't watch True Blood on Sunday night as it is broadcast without cable. You can download it the next day from legal and less-than outlets online, but you won't get to talk about it over the apocryphal water cooler until Tuesday.
Channel surfing is actually sort of fun.
Part of the reason I don't keep cable television in my house is because I am too inclined to plop down on the couch when I'm bored and mindlessly flip through channels. Since television consumption just continues to go up and up, I suspect that for many the steady drip of mediocre content that allows one to turn off the brain for a while is actually worth the hundred bucks or so that cable television costs each month. No judgement from me—I certainly can't argue that the hours and hours I spend each day on the web reading pointless tech news is any more fundamentally gratifying to my soul—but I've got enough addictions in my own life to succumb to the lure of a thousand channels.
The only time I've been a cable subscriber in the last couple of years was during World Cup. If I were more into other sports, I would almost certainly have to be a subscriber. Fortunately the only other sport I really like to watch on television is football and I really like to do that in a bar with other fans.
Watching streaming content is often a pain in the ass.
I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report nearly every evening. Jon Stewart is my Johnny Carson. But I can't tell you how many times over the years I've sat down on the couch, opened up a browser, and then had to fiddle with something to try and get the stream from TheDailyShow.com (or previously, Hulu) to actually start. Flash might crash. The quality of the stream might be degraded. The show might cut to commercial, then puke out when trying to load back.
And I have a Mac Mini hooked up to my television, which is a lot more robust than the experiences I've had with devices like Apple TVs or other XBMC-based media centers like Boxee. When it works it's great, but it's not exactly optimal, especially when much of the content I want is on different web sites. Services like Hulu were supposed to ease the pain by putting all the content in one place, but then some content providers started getting cold feet and keeping their shows on their own sites. Search and subscription methods from within media players can help, but it's still not as fire-and-forget as using a DVR from a cable provider.
Along those same lines, it's also possible that using a mouse and a keyboard on the couch still feels weird for people. It's fine for me, but I'm a dork.
Enough about my own pet theories, though. What's holding you back from canceling cable entirely? And can you see yourself ever dumping it for another pay service like iTunes or Amazon? What would it take for your family to go all internet for your television?