I grew up in the era of cords, Vera — specifically, cords connecting cable to television sets. America — indeed, pretty much the entire developed world — was connected. And then greed took over. And technology provided alternatives (live streaming and Netflix). And things changed.
I cut our cord over four years ago. I haven’t regretted it.
I’m not alone. Eleven days ago AT&T reported that its losses of traditional TV customers worsened. The trend has been apparent for some time: America is engaged in cord-cutting on a widespread basis. It’s not surprising that share prices of AT&T, Dish, Comcast and Charter Communications fell. I think they will far more.
I mentioned above that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is greed. It was greed and short-term thinking that led networks to stuff more commercials into their programming. Today, if you sit down and watch an hour of network shows, you’ll end up spending a third or more of your time watching commercials. Frankly, that exceeded my level of tolerance.
I suppose crappy content was part of the problem, too. When I had cable, I frequently wondered how it was possible not to be able to find something decent to watch with over 100 channels. But it was.
Networks are like the vast majority of businesses today. They care about only one thing: making money. As much as they can. In the near-term.
This obsession sometimes blinds them to the long-term consequences of their decisions. There is a saying: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Cable isn’t the only hog in America today.
Colleges have allowed their greed to ruin the college football experience for many of us. (See My Final Football Game) Attendance at college football has been on a downward trend. It’s a predictable consequence of the NCAA’s hoggish values and decisions.
So, unless you find yourself running a cable company or the NCAA, does any of this make any difference to you, Vera? Probably.
You see, the principle is universal. It’s not limited to businesses and sports franchises. It impacts individuals, too.
Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Unconstrained greed has the potential for major long-term blowback.
A world in which everyone is trying to squeeze another dollar of profit out of every transaction and experience is not a very pleasing place to live for some of us. It’s a world without meaning or beauty. It’s a world where everyone becomes a target for someone else. A world where humanity is sacrificed at the alter of gold and glitter.
How can I make more money off of you? How can we maximize our profits today (without regard to long-term impacts)? How can we cross-sell more products to you whether you need them or not?
Too many people are obsessed with these questions today. As a result, we see a bank such as Wells Fargo, which had (past tense) a stellar reputation, now being run through the gutter as a result of rampant fraudulent practices that were fueled by a desire to squeeze the last dollar out of its customers. It turned out that integrity wasn’t a core value of Wells. Greed was.
When we get to the point of not caring about each other but only caring about making more money for ourselves, irrespective of the impact on others or, more broadly, on society and the world, we effectively are returning to the jungle. We become more animal than human.
I cut our cord. And I no longer attend 3+ hour baseball games or 4+ hour football games. And Wells Fargo is no longer one of my primary banks. And I no longer donate to nonprofits that care more about fundraising than their original missions and that lavish high salaries and other perks on their officers and employees.
In other words, we have some choice in the matter. We’re not entirely free. We are hostage to this culture of greed somewhat. But we still have some choice in the matter.
I for one choose to resist as best I can. And to interact with people and businesses that care about something other than new ways to separate me from my money, even if it means paying more for the service or product in the short-run.
And the days of sitting in front of a television set and watching commercials are forever gone. If I need something, I know where to find it.