Thursday, 11 August 2011

08:14 – Interesting article in the paper this morning about cable/dish cutters. Last quarter, cable TV and satellite companies showed a net loss of between 380,000 and 450,000 households. The article attributes most of that to people cutting back because of the poor economy, including kids who’ve moved back in with their parents no longer needing their own subscriptions. It claims that on-line viewing is a minuscule factor in the falling number of cable/satellite subscribers. Of course, it also says that people can watch TV episodes on Netflix for free.

What’s never reported is the number of people who’ve downgraded their cable/satellite subscriptions. Barbara and I fall into that category. We cut back several years ago to the minimum cable TV level, which gives us only local stations for something like $10/month. We use Netflix, both disc and streaming, for nearly all our viewing. Many of our friends have also cut back their service levels, albeit often not as dramatically as we did. But many of them who were paying $100+ per month for TV service are now paying half that or less, and using Netflix for a large percentage of their viewing. This phenomenon is probably more of a threat to cable/satellite providers and networks than those who out-and-out cut the cable.


I finally saw an article yesterday that mentioned the dirty little secret of ratings agencies. The truth is that few investors pay any attention to anything they say, particularly about sovereign and large corporate debt. In fact, many investors have made lots of money by adopting contrarian strategies, buying instead of selling when one of the Big Three ratings agencies downgrades a country or corporation. When S&P downgraded US debt, investors ignored them in droves. Investors remember that these agencies were rating junk mortgages AAA right up to the moment they collapsed, and that these agencies are paid by those who they’re rating. Even a cursory look at how the market rates sovereign debt tells you just how far from reality these agencies’ ratings are, and just how little attention the market gives the ratings.

Based on yields and the free-market price to insure sovereign debt, for example, Germany is a worse risk than the UK, which in turn is a much worse risk than the US. In fact, based on market behavior, US debt is the only major sovereign debt that should rate AAA, with Germany and the UK two or three steps below that, and France lower still.

11 thoughts on “Thursday, 11 August 2011”

  1. “What’s never reported is the number of people who’ve downgraded their cable/satellite subscriptions. Barbara and I fall into that category. We cut back several years ago to the minimum cable TV level, which gives us only local stations for something like $10/month.”

    Why not get rid of it all together? You’ve got an antenna, haven’t you?

    I had a data/phone/television package when I first signed for cable, but I ditched tele because I have line-of-sight to the main transmitter 10 km away. Not that it really matters, as I haven’t turned on the tele for 18+ months.

    The thing that bagged me was that visitors would push the wrong buttons on the remotes and I’d be billed for a movie. Getting rid of cable TV fixed that.

  2. I’d pitch the idea of downgrading cable TV to my wife, but most of our TV viewing trends toward cable networks, not broadcast ones. Only two of the for major broadcast networks have shows I’m interested in. That being Bones and House on Fox, and Flashpoint, NCIS and Bluebloods on CBS. TNT seems to to be the most watched channel at the moment.

  3. Why not get rid of it all together? You’ve got an antenna, haven’t you?

    No, we don’t have an antenna. They used to be ubiquitous, but now you can drive through entire large neighborhoods without seeing one. I understand they’re making a comeback with OTA digital, but they’re still pretty rare.

    I thought about OTA, but I don’t want to put up an antenna, and unfortunately our local stations’ transmitters are at two or three widely-separated points on the compass. I don’t want to have to deal with a rotor, and Barbara likes the cable-only TV14, which runs news and weather around the clock.

  4. I’d pitch the idea of downgrading cable TV to my wife, but most of our TV viewing trends toward cable networks, not broadcast ones. Only two of the for major broadcast networks have shows I’m interested in. That being Bones and House on Fox, and Flashpoint, NCIS and Bluebloods on CBS. TNT seems to to be the most watched channel at the moment.

    You sound like an ideal candidate for cable cutting, since you don’t mention live sports. Most or all of what you mention is available on Netflix, either disc or streaming or both, and there aren’t any commercials. We’ve always preferred to watch series in Marathon sessions anyway, rather than spaced out over a period of months. If an average series is 22 episodes of 41 minutes each, that’s 15 hours of video. At a couple or three hours per evening, we can get through an entire season in a week or so and then move on to the next series. Waiting until a season is released on DVD or streaming is no problem for us. It’s new to us.

  5. Covenants in a lot of new subdivisions don’t allow visible TV antennas (or ham radio antennas for that matter). If you want one, then you have to put it in the attic. So,a large quality antenna isn’t an option for a lot of people.

    I’ve considered ditching cable, but my wife and I watch a lot of TV on a variety of networks. So, until ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, TNT, AMC, SyFy, Food Network, Travel Channel, HBO, and Showtime (plus a few more I probably forgot) are ALL available for streaming it’s just not an option for us. Also, there’s the problem of channel surfing. Sometimes we’re not watching anything at all. Sometimes we’re just clicking through the channels. Finally, there’s the problem of my wife wanting to discuss the latest episode of some show around the water cooler at work. Unless she can watch it the same night it originally airs, it’s a no go for her.

  6. I believe most cable companies require basic cable if you want internet service. I guess you could go with the phone company.

  7. Time-Warner doesn’t require basic cable TV, at least here. But I think they charge enough more a month for Internet-only that adding basic TV costs very little.

  8. Covenants in a lot of new subdivisions don’t allow visible TV antennas (or ham radio antennas for that matter).

    Federal law preempts deed restrictions with regard to OTA tv antennas.
    From the FCC fact sheet:
    The rule (47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000) has been in effect since October 1996, and it prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37″) in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

  9. “Covenants in a lot of new subdivisions don’t allow visible TV antennas (or ham radio antennas for that matter). If you want one, then you have to put it in the attic. So,a large quality antenna isn’t an option for a lot of people.”

    Rooftop antennas were ubiquitous when I was growing up in Adelaide, and the three masts (broadcasting four channels) were very close together on a low mountain10-15 km away, so it was easy to pint antenna at the masts and get all four stations. Given that electricity was delivered via wiring on above ground stobie poles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stobie_pole) nobody much cared about the unsightly antennas. Ours was in the cavity between the ceiling and the roof, so it’s moot.

    I have an external antenna at ceiling height pointed straight at the tower that broadcasts all of Canberra’s tele. I don’t notice it any more, I’m sure other people don’t unless they’re looking for it.

    As to covenants, I’d like them to be used more widely here. A lot of beautiful, structurally sound houses are been bulldozed to make way for tightly packed Georgian, Tuscan and cubic monstrosities. When I retire I’ll be moving back to Adelaide and the last thing I want is to buy a house I like in a street and suburb I like and then be surrounded by new, tightly packed modern monstrosities.

  10. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37″) in diameter

    Unfortunately, most people that would go to the trouble to mount a large outdoor TV antenna typically want to mount one that exceeds 1 meter in diameter. We had one back in the 1980s that was easily 2 meters in diameter.

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