Wanted: à la carte HDTV

So our Verizon FiOS home bill has been about $160/month. We were looking to chop that down a bit when I called Verizon this morning.

To put it as simply as possible, it’s complicated.

What I care about most is keeping the 20/20Mbps down/up Internet service. That’s $69.99/mo.

What I don’t care about is POTS, or Plain Old Telephone Service. So I canceled that. We use cell phones, and we’ll find another way to fax, as rarely as we do that.

That leaves TV.

What we still call TV isn’t what it used to be: channels on a dial. They are digital program sources that are organized by “channels”, but that’s a legacy convenience. A few are available over the air, as DTV signals. Those are…

  • WGBH-DT (still called Channel 2, actually on Channel 19). It also has an SD (standard definition) version. These are called 2-1 and 2-2, or WGBG-DT1 and WGBH-DT2. Affiliated with PBS.
  • WBZ-DT (still called Channel 4, actually on Channel 30). Affiliated with CBS.
  • WCVB-DT (Still called Channel 5, actually on Channel 20). Affliiated with ABC.
  • WHDH-HD (still called Channel 7, actually on Channel 40). Also called 7-1, It has a second channel on 7-2 called This TV. It’s SD. Affiliated with NBC.
  • WFXT-DT (still called 25, actually on Channel 31). Affiliated with Fox.
  • WSBK-DT (still called 38, actually on Channel 39). Independent. Owned by CBS.
  • WGBX-DT (still called 44, actually on Channel 43). Four SD channels, labeled 44-1 through 44-2. Called WGBX, World, Create and Kids. Affiliated with PBS.
  • WYDN-DT (still called 48, actually on Channel 47) with a directional signal). The picture is SD. Affiliated with Daystar. Evangelical Christian.
  • WLVI-DT (still called 56, actually on Channel 42 with a directional signal). Affiliated with CW.
  • WMFP-DT (still called 62, actually on Channel 18 with a directional signal). Labeled 61-1 and 62-2. The second is currently dark. Affiliated with Gems TV. Home shopping.
  • WBPX (still called 68, actually on Channel 32, with a directional signal). It’s four channels in one, all SD: WBPX Digital Television, Qubo, Eye on Life and Worship. Identified on the tuner as 68-1, 2, 3 and 4. Affiliated with ION Television.

For what it’s worth, I get all those on my laptop with a little adapter. Meaning that I don’t need cable for them. They’re free. They cost $0.00.

Okay, so Verizon offers two channel lineups in our region: Essentials for $47.99/mo. and Extreme HD for… I can’t find it now. $57.99/mo, I think. Essentials has the about same minimun channel line-up I get for free over the air. Extreme HD has what you want if you watch in HD: all the main cable and sports non-premium channels. Add DVR rental (for which one has no choice) for $12.99 and I’m at $140 or so, if I want the Extreme HD.

TV now is an HD deal. If you want TV, you want HD, because that’s the new screen you’ve got, even if you’re watching on a laptop.

The problem is, HDTV costs you. Unless you want the minimal legacy lineup of local over the air channels.

Anyway, here’s what I want: a la carte. Across the board. I’m glad to do Pay Per View for everything.

And right now I’m thinking hard about cancelling the Extreme HD I just ordered. We like the sports and the movies, but we can go to a bar for the former and get the rest from Netflix or something.

Meanwhile, kudos to Verizon for providing fiber, and the 20/20 connection. Here’s another message: I’d gladly pay more for even more speed. Especially upstream.

[Later...] Now I’m looking at the Verizon Massachusetts channel lineup and it seems like the only thing extra I get with Extreme HD is some sports channels. Is that right? Sports-wise, all I care about are NESN, ESPN, TNT and other Usual Suspects.

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8 comments

  1. Nicolas Ward’s avatar

    I’m very happy with my OTA HD, although I leave WBPX WMFP and WYDN disabled on my EyeTV tuner. I fill in the holes a la carte by grabbing HD episodes on iTunes, or accepting a non-HD stream on Hulu and other network-specific streaming. I’m also patient and willing to wait for the DVD (which is also conducive to weekend entertainment binges!).

    I suppose I’m mostly an outlier in that most of my entertainment is of the interactive World of Warcraft variety, but I’m quite happy picking up a handful of shows I care about from other sources.

    One oddity is that my overall package is cheaper for internet + cable (which I don’t watch) than it is for the internet by itself.

    I would definitely be happy if I could never seen another Blackberry preroll ad while streaming though, as I’ve seen every one dozens of times and the music is stuck in my head :oD.

  2. sam bennett’s avatar

    Doc-

    This is what I’ve been screaming for years. I want to subscribe and unsubscribe as easily as I do through my feed reader. There’s so much cruft in my cable package – not only is it silly to have to pay for it, it makes finding what I want harder. I get through it with Favorites on the box, but it costs me extra clicks each time I change the channel. (Guide > Favorites > Surf)

    There are channels I only want at certain times of year, as well, such as our local Chicago White Sox affiliate. I’m happy to pay for what I watch and even happier to pay for the removal of stuff I don’t.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Well, I think I’ll be joining you, Nicolas. I finally got Verizon on the phone and the Extreme HD/Essentials ratio is All/Nothing. Hell with it. They’ve got a great pipe to the house, and they fill it with sludge. Finding the good stuff among the bad is a needle/haystack problem. As my wife put it, “There’s something wrong when TV costs $80 a month. Watch for a new post on the matter tomorrow.

  4. Pingback from » on March 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  5. Neil Gerstein’s avatar

    My bill runs about $170 a month for a boat load of channels I have zero interest in. The recently added a complete fiber optics network in my area called FIOS which falls far short of what it is supposed to do.

    Occasionally I get true HD, but if one of my neighbors calls to complain about their reception, our local cable technicians will come and switch some connections around until my neighbor is satisfied, but alas, someone else in the hood is stuck watching their TV through a snow storm.

    I believe they should put a per channel price tag on each channel. I don’t watch 90% of the channels that are included in my cable package. It would be great if I could choose only the channels I am interested in. I’m sure my cable bill would go down and the programming would improve tenfold due to competition. That’s the American way, supply and demand!

  6. Marc Johnsen’s avatar

    It’s pretty much like going to McDonalds, but instead of the fries you want, you get 12 burgers, 3 milkshakes and a bucket of nuggets…and your fries, because fries aren’t available without the rest.

    I never watch the vast majority of channels, I don’t want them, I don’t need them. Sometimes I think they need huge numbers to justify their pricing, but I’d pay the same for less channels, but more of what I really like.

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