Having just moved house to a small market town in the midlands of England I found conventional TV reception in the area to be nothing short of woeful.
It's so bad our digital terrestrial service (Freeview) is unavailable.
Sky are the only satellite providers for the UK, for English language entertainment and movie channels anyway, but they're a Murdoch company which makes them iffy in the first place. There's two basic contracts you can go for, the first can be setup over the phone and you can be viewing within a couple of days, the catch is their box is wired to your phone line and uploads your viewing details every night, this data is then sold on. Call me Mr Fussy but I like my privacy. The second type of contract is less intrusive but Sky actively discourage customers from pursuing it, this type of contract typically takes about three weeks to set up and you have to buy your own equipment and get it installed at your expense. I don't mind the cost if it means I keep my privacy, but why the three week delay ??
Our local cable provider is NTL, 'nuff said really. They only take payment via direct debit and there's been too many horror stories of them taking too much cash out of peoples accounts for me to trust them. We do get some basic free-to-air channels via the cable box left behind by the previous tennant, and BBC News 24 keeps my appetite for current affairs sated.
But it isn't all doom and gloom, we do have 1MB ADSL from one of the UK's best providers, Zen Internet (www.zen.co.uk), and I've been using BitTorrent for a couple of years now, so do I really need a multi-channel TV service ?
With BT I can download whatever takes my fancy and watch it whenever I like. With my Archos 420 I can even watch it wherever I like.
But doesn't this hurt the studios and threaten future program development ??
Well cry me a river, do those guys give a stuff about the viewing public ? Only in terms of numbers, which are directly equated into revenue, almost always advertising driven.
How many cheap and downright awful "reality" shows pollute our screens these days ? Do we want to support even more of that crap ?
Those programs that show a modicum of intelligence and who's creators actually listen to their fans invariably get cancelled. Firefly, Farscape, and to a lesser extent Jake 2.0 and Tru Calling are all prime examples.
Yet dross like Andromeda and the achingly PC Joan of Arcadia are churned out on a conveyer belt.
Even when a show has run long enough for the discerning viewer to figure that maybe *this* one is worth an emotional investment we wind up getting the legs cut out from under us. Think Farscape getting culled after four years, think X-Files disappearing into it's own navel after the studio refused to let it die after having lived thru its natural life cycle.
So no, no guilt, no one going to hell over here. As a footnote I'd just to add that, yes the good shows do get supported financially. I've bought every episode of Farscape on DVD after downloading them. My girlfriend's bought the first two series of Alias and Six Feet Under, I bought no less than three copies of the Firefly boxed set (two as gifts).
Broadband and BT give the viewer more control. We're not held hostage by companies like Tivo when they start to buckle under pressure from the studios, whatever happened to "TV your way" huh ? TV my way involves no ads, timeshifting, being able to sample current series then decide to go for a full season or not. It involves being able to archive older shows, rediscover ones that some kind soul has captured and uploaded.
TV my way ? I've already got it, without a dish, without a co-ax cable and without a digital tuner. Truth to tell I couldn't be happier.