Opinion

Editor's column: Cable television goes after the fruit fly audience

Comcast and other paid TV providers see their customers as fruit flies, incapable of seeing far into the future.

How else do you explain such come-ons as “Only $29.95 per month for 6 months!,” or even, “Price guaranteed for 1 year!” The fine print always reads that the actual price is about double the temporary price, but fails to mention that the real price will last until the end of eternity, with annual increases required due to maintenance, service improvements and, darn it, just because they want the extra money and nobody has been able to stop them since they purchased Congress back in the ‘80s.

The come-ons must work, otherwise they wouldn’t keep sending them out in the mail and in our Sunday newspapers. To fruit flies, the deals no doubt look good. With a one-day lifespan, the typical fruit fly dad sees to it that 60 following generations of fruit fly sons and daughters can enjoy what Comcast has to offer, guaranteed! Translated into human generations, that would be about 2,400 years of a reasonable Comcast prices for the junk TV they offer, with advertisements every four minutes. Of course you can upgrade to premium channels and enjoy obscenity every four seconds, but fruit flies don’t need all that. The food channels are fine.

The sad fact is that as one gets older, the Comcast offers get more tempting, particularly those of us who are miserly and stuck with “limited cable,” which is the affordable minimum required by Congress as a condition for gouging everyone. With minimum cable, you get the the broadcast stations, C-Span, Wildcat TV, the Hallmark channel whose sappy movies have been overlaid by a large turkey the past few weeks, and various shopping channels. When I first signed up years ago, we also got the TV Guide channel and C-Span 2, both of which were taken away with no warning. Through what presumably is some Comcast foul-up, our limited household also gets Fox Sports Northwest and ESPN, channels 30 and 31. But Comcast has been scrolling for months that everything above 29 will be going away soon, so no more Mariners games next spring. Many older people buy limited cable, and they’ll lose their Mariners unless, of course, they pay for a special box of some sort. That’s out, because we’d have to hook it up ourselves and many of us don’t have the electronic ability of a fruit fly.

Hey, maybe Comcast is onto something with those six-month specials.

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