We sometimes get so hung up on not paying one cent or a few dollars more for a service that we don’t see the forest for the trees. As we make more use of technology for our business and personal lives, it’s helpful to put the economics into perspective.
We have some truly amazing technology available to us, and we’ve grown to appreciate it as we spend more time at home. But we sometimes get too hung up on keeping our costs low, and in the process, we lose performance or entertainment joys because we didn’t want to spring for more RAM, a bigger hard drive, a newer phone or better TV or content streaming plans.
The time I spend discussing the benefits of a 99-cents-per-month iCloud storage plan – at an hourly rate that’s a lot more money – is sometimes mind-boggling. That said, the plethora of choices always boggles the mind.
A lot of our consternation comes from the marketplace. Within most of our lifetimes, we had cable TV, which was provided by a carrier that won the right (or franchise) to serve a community. It was that or watch over-the-air, which in metro New York was mostly seven VHF channels and a handful of UHF channels. Cable gave you all those channels plus others, such as ESPN, CNN and a host of out-of-town TV stations, especially those that carried local baseball teams. The Atlanta Braves became “America’s team” because Turner Broadcasting System was ubiquitous. You also could add two premium services, HBO and Showtime. TV was separate from your telephone service. Your local phone company provided your internet service.
Through regulatory changes, phone companies entered the cable TV market, and cable companies entered the phone market. Satellite TV entered the market, and then the cable and phone companies each offered TV, internet and phone service, followed by home alarm systems. That led to the “triple play,” which offered bundled services at “discounted” prices. Even with packages, prices continued to rise – and keep that in mind as we go along.
When package prices rose, customers questioned the concept of paying for channels (or content) they didn’t want. At the same time, it seems like content providers decided to start their own premium channels, and many services have popped up to offer some of their own content plus “skinny bundles” of channels offered by the cable companies.
Now, you need to be selective about these factors:
- What content do I want to watch?
- What content can I give up?
- What quality levels am I willing to pay for?
Let’s unpack and repack these questions.
There is a lot of programming overlap. You need to look at what each content provider offers – and that’s an exhausting search – to see which providers have the most of what you want to watch and when you want to watch it. You can keep your cable either as a service or as streamed content, or you can subscribe to services that offer combinations of live programming, including TV programs, news and sports in addition to their own premium programming. You could wind up paying more than you pay for your cable service, and you may or may not have the same choices within your budget.
You can save some money if you are willing to give up some of your choices. If you never watch sports, for example, you can find packages without them. But if you’re getting Disney Plus, you’re likely going to need to take the ESPN package as part of it. If you want sports, that’s good. But you may also be paying for it as part of another package, such as YouTube TV or Fubo TV. You can research all the combinations until you drop, or you can just jump into the water. Most every service offers a trial period, and the best advice we can offer is sign up, try it and make sure you cancel it before recurring charges start.
Then, there’s quality. Netflix, as you know has three levels: $8.99 as of this writing for a single device, $12.99 for two devices and $15.99 for four. If you want HD quality, you need the $12.99 package. If you want 4K, you need the $15.99. If you just bought a new TV with the latest bells and whistles, why would you not spend an extra $4 per month?
Along with programming quality, remember, too, that you need to have adequate internet service to handle the bandwidth you’ll require to enjoy your content. And, you’ll need to have a good network infrastructure to handle it all, whether it’s strictly for entertainment or for business and school, too.
We’re happy to educate you about the economics of technology to help you make a smart decision. We’re also happy to work with you on the installation and configuration of whatever technology you choose. But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on your comfort level with whatever you spend. Our advice is don’t cheap out on the hardware because it’s much more expensive and difficult to change. For online photo and video storage and TV or streaming content, you can adjust up or down as you see what you need. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help make sure you have the technology you need to enjoy life during these tough times.