Why I cancelled my pay television subscription

On Tuesday I tweeted that I was pleased with DStv making it simple for subscribers to cancel their accounts. This prompted replies from people wondering why I cancelled my subscription. I can’t answer that with a character limit of 140, so I decided to put my answer here instead.

About a week before the 2010 FIFA World Cup I bought the new HD PVR 2P decoder for DStv. I had been without DStv for almost two years but made an impulse buy of the decoder when I saw the price – R2000. I wanted to check out DStv’s high definition channels and thought it would be worth having for the World Cup. I set it up myself, after returning the decoder because the first one I was sold had a mismatched smart card.

Watching the World Cup in HD was totally worth it – mostly because it was a great excuse to have friends over. Now, about a month after the event, I have cancelled my subscription. These are some of my reasons:

  • There’s nothing on. I really can’t think of anything on DStv that I have an interest in watching. Now and then Discovery HD Showcase will have a decent enough documentary that’ll keep me interested for a short while, but that’s about it. I can’t stand puerile, imported-and-knocked-off reality bullshit like Idols and TV series that are outdated.
  • TV is a waste of time and cognitive energy. It’s depressing how much time our species spends lying in front of televisions with our brains idle. I like making things, reading, spending time with my kids and fitting as much productivity into the finite time I have on earth as possible. What do I get from watching television? Even documentary channels have been dumbed down with shows like Ice Road Truckers on History Channel. How the fuck can watching barely-literate Canadians driving trucks in the snow be classed as History? And if you tune into Discovery you get to watch a fat guy building a motorbike. Seriously?
  • It’s expensive. Considering the return – null – paying close on R600 per month is just too much for subscriber television. Some things are a waste of money no matter how rich you are. Television is one of them.
  • It makes my kids sad. Gone are the days when children’s television consisted of 30 minutes on a Saturday morning. Now there is 24/7 content across multiple channels and the sprogs know it’s on whenever they want it. Thing 1 (my oldest son – I have two) is addicted to CBeebies. As kids’ content goes CBeebies is brilliant and educational. But it’s on all day – and he knows it. It makes him tense when he isn’t watching and he nags for it. I’m sure that CBeebies has its shows available on DVD. I’ll use the money I’m saving to buy him a few. Tonight our house was quiet and Thing 1 spent time playing with his brother, who fell asleep soon after. Win.
  • I don’t like sports. I enjoyed the World Cup, but I don’t get sports in general. Grown men watch other grown men throwing balls around and then either celebrate or get depressed based on the outcome. I am yet to hear a cogent argument for why sport matters. I choose to get happy or sad based on meaningful events. There are enough real things to worry about in the world without having to care about who kicked a ball more accurately. I know a vast majority of people will disagree with me on this, but let’s get back to DStv – without sport, what else does the service have going for it?
  • I get my news and entertainment on-demand, online. I don’t think I need to do much explaining on this point. We all know how iTunes and YouTube works. I also love watching next-level online broadcasts like This Week in Tech where I can engage with hosts and other viewers in real time.
  • Content licensing is retarded. It’s 2010. The world is connected. And yet we still have douchebags in suits that think it makes sense to license things by country and roll out content to different territories at different times. I want to buy my content online and download it at will. Legally. The way content is licensed for pay television windows (an industry term) is silly.
  • There are better things to do with 42 inches. Plug a modern gaming console or a Mac Mini into your television and put all that screen real-estate to better use. Even the most inane of video games are more mentally stimulating than Idols and contain a more accurate view of reality than Oprah. Your HD TV makes a really good screen for your computer.
  • DVDs are cheap. If I really want to see something I can get it on DVD or Blu-ray and watch it with better quality and less advertising. For less money.

These are just the most front of mind reasons for why I don’t see the value of having a pay television subscription. If television channels were provided as part of a triple-play telecommunications package I might take them. In their current form there is just no value. I’m not a TV guy.

What are your reasons for not having pay television? And, if you disagree with me, why do you see value in having it?

I'm a writer and broadcaster who also designs apps and strategies for disruptive startups in the financial world. Find out more on my about page.