Cable TV is So Broken, Can Apple and Google Save Us All?

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Allen & Company, 2015
Billionaire Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Last night I spent a frustrating hour trying to cancel Showtime with Comcast, my current cable TV provider. I could not find (nor is there) any way to cancel any Comcast service online and their customer service department was closed.

Finally I was able to get chatty with one of those chatbots online who confirmed to me that there is simply no way to cancel Showtime on Comcast without speaking with a human representative. Even though the chatbot convinced me they were a human, they were not allowed to cancel it for me and I would need to try again tomorrow on the phone only. Interestingly enough I had no problem signing up for Showtime online originally, it’s just when you want to cancel that Comcast gives you such a hard time.

This morning after navigating the Comcast phone voice response menu I was finally able to talk to a human being, who tried to talk me out of cancelling my Showtime. I was committed though and I did finally get it cancelled.

I actually love Showtime and don’t mind paying for it. Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan are two of my favorite shows on right now. I also like the series Homeland. I had several reasons for cancelling it with *Comcast* though.

1. Why am I paying Comcast $19.99/month for Showtime when I can just buy it direct from Showtime on my AppleTV for a free 30 day trial and then $10.99/month after that?

2. Watching Showtime using the AppleTV app through Comcast is a royal pain in the ass. I’ve had to re-authenticate and prove I’m a paying cable customer at least 20 times with the app.

I go to watch one of my shows and am interrupted with a message and code on the AppleTV telling me that I have to go to Showtime online on my phone or computer and authenticate. Next I have to log into my Comcast account enter in the code from my television set and then after that I finally get my access.

I wouldn’t mind it if I did this one time, the first time I signed up for the app, but having to re-authenticate over and over and over again, especially late at night when I’m in bed and just want to watch my favorite show is a drag.

3. Last night I wanted to watch episode 2 of the current season of Master’s of Sex on the app but it wasn’t available. I could only watch episode 3. I have no idea why Comcast customers were not allowed to watch episode 1 or 2, but I didn’t want to watch episode 3, before episode 2, so I just gave up and didn’t get to watch a show that I’m paying $20/month for. No wonder so many people just say screw it and go to bitTorrent.

4. I hate the way Comcast abuses the AppleTV ecosystem. If I pay for CNN with Comcast, why do they not allow me to watch it on my AppleTV. Comcast’s decisions here feel entirely arbitrary. They will let me watch CNBC if I subscribe, but not CNN. I can watch HBO (although I have the same re-authentication problem there over and over again) but when my wife wants to watch Lifetime she has to figure out some weird hack to try to authenticate the app through some hard to find link in a forum on the internet.

It is clear to me that Comcast is purposely trying to make your AppleTV experience an ugly and difficult one and so any chance I can get to bypass Comcast and purchase premium content elsewhere, I’d rather do that — by contrast Netflix has always been an absolute breeze to use with my AppleTV.

According to Buzzfeed today, Apple is rolling out a new version of AppleTV in September which will be setting AppleTV up to offer their own subscription service in 2016. This is such welcome news. I love my AppleTVs and if I could get my content directly through Apple I’d love to cancel my Comcast cable TV subscription entirely.

I’m much more optimistic about an AppleTV service working on my AppleTV than Comcast’s current service. Also with AppleTV I can just buy a device one time and don’t need to have a cable box for every single TV in my house at a price of $10/month each. Will Apple finally be the one that saves us from Comcast?

My other beef with Comcast is their highspeed internet service. At present I’m paying for the maximum speeds I’m allowed which give me 120MBps down and 10MBps up. Frankly, in today’s world these just feel too slow to me — especially the 10MBps upload speeds. I use the internet a lot for uploading high res photos and I wish I could get faster upload speeds.

I was excited about Comcast’s new residential gigabit service announcement the other day until I saw the pricing for it: $1,000 to set it up and $320/month with a two year commitment. PC World lists the service at $300/month, but when I called to ask about it they told me that there would also be a $20/month equipment rental fee on top of that fee. That’s just too expensive for high speed internet.

By contrast Google sells their gigabit internet service for $70/month with no installation fee — which is even less than I’m paying Comcast today for my crappy 10MB/second upload speeds — for less money Google Fiber users can upload 100x faster than I can.

I was reluctantly willing to pay Comcast’s highway robbery fees for gigabit internet and was hopeful when a Comcast rep told me I could get it. They told me though that they would need to do a survey of my house in person to confirm and would call me for an appointment. I never heard back from them on this appointment so after a week I called them back only to be told that they did in fact do the survey and that I did not qualify at present.

Unfortunately AppleTV’s subscription television is not here…. yet. Unfortunately Google Fiber is not here… yet. Hopefully both of these services will eventually get to my neighborhood though. It would be so nice to just be able to cut Comcast out of my life entirely.

While I realize I could just go ahead and cut the cord right now, with a family of six, the rest of my household is just not ready to cut the cord yet and I’d have a mutiny on my hands if I cancelled our Comcast — so for now I continue to pay my $233/month. However, I’m looking optimistically towards the future, to a day when Apple and Google will let me cut Comcast out of my life for good.

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