Will our generation pay for cable?

Most nuclear families I know own a basic cable TV subscription. I was very fortunate to grow up with a television set in my family with access to sports and regular channels. It fostered my love for sports and TV, both of which I spend regular time writing about nowadays. It entertained me after school. It provided a distraction when I needed an escape.

Families that can afford a cable subscription will continue to purchase one. How can you deny yourself that visual access to the current events? It seems like an unquestionable decision for families with children.

But technology, as it continues innovating, provides us with alternatives. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime offer more variety at the expense of timeliness. Online streaming offers convenience and any-device support. For roughly $400 this year, I streamed on-demand baseball and basketball and accessed dozens of quality television series and movies. A regular TV subscription — with HBO — would’ve cost over twice that. Of course, I haven’t considered bandwidth and hardware costs in the former. And maybe I want to watch my favourite shows the week they release — which means venturing into iTunes for $2.99-each episodes.

After initial set-up or transition costs &mdash; which exist in either scenario &mdash; the streaming model seems to win financially. Depending on what you value, a cable subscription may still beat the trendy streaming option. Some families prefer the news on the television in the background rather than online; some must watch <em>Game of Thrones</em> without delay; some might enjoy the activity of leisurely channel surfing and the serendipity of finding <em>The Shawshank Redemption </em>on the air.

My dad (hi, dad!) enjoys simply chilling on his sofa after work, watching hockey and flipping channels while recording his favourite primetime shows for later. Does that utility outweigh the potential savings of switching to pure streaming? For many, it does. Even if not, inertia wins out.

But as our generation ages, streaming could slowly become the dominant choice &mdash; especially if we suffer from early financial burdens. We might be forced to forgo entertainment completely if we can&rsquo;t pay off our loans, but that&rsquo;s too dark for this column. We can be na&iuml;ve for a little longer and enjoy our TV on laptops. Because that&rsquo;s what we do: we watch TV, but not on TV.

For nearly two years, I&rsquo;ve written about television in this space, and the industry has experienced incredible growth and momentum in quality, variety, and coverage; I write about what we watch often, but not so much how we watch. Too distracted by the upward quality, I rarely think about how differently I watch TV relative to my parents. I stream basketball games on a moving bus. I watch old episodes of Cheers whenever I want. Everything is <em>amazing</em>!

Streaming has transformed the shape of ratings. It&rsquo;s launched businesses like Roku, Aereo, and MLB Advanced Media. It&rsquo;s bridged culture gaps and opened a gateway into the past. Conventional television couldn&rsquo;t do that for 80 years.

Now, families are cancelling their cable subscriptions. Today&rsquo;s graduates survived university without it, and presumably, they&rsquo;ll continue to rely on streaming. The idea of not having a regular cable subscription seems ridiculous, but if you&rsquo;ve made it this far and you still have 20 different series on Netflix to watch, it doesn&rsquo;t feel that ridiculous, does it?