Planning to cut the cord this summer? 10 reasons why you shouldn't bother
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Watching television programs without having a television has always been a distant dream, a futuristic utopia devoid of the shackles of television schedules, of the compulsive need to return home just in time to catch the primetime show, of the compromise of having to let go of one favourite for another just because they are airing at the same time. Television is a sort of a dictator and if you happen to have a dusty old TV set lying in your drawing room, chances are you are bound by the diktats of program schedules and of course the adverts. But just like the Allied Powers to Hitler's Axis Power, like Waterloo to Napoleon, the stalwarts of video streaming entered the country to change the game.

Services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar (Premier subscription service to be precise) all stormed into mobile and computer screens in 2016 (HotStar was admittedly there before), with libraries full of varying content. From blockbuster Bollywood to documentaries to obscure foreign titles to the most-watched television series to live sports. Everything and almost anything. Making the act of cutting the cord a real possibility. But not really.

India is a dichotomy of a whole other level. While it offers everything on paper, the real-world scenario will beg on its knees to differ. And for reasons galore, it is next to impossible in this present state of things to truly cut the cord and escape the clutches of television programming schedules. I enlist 10 reasons why switching to streaming services for your daily content fix is still a distant dream in the country.

Horrendous state of internet connectivity

To stream your content, first, you need internet. And not just internet, you need uninterrupted, fast internet. And according to the Q3 2016 State of Internet Connectivity Report by Akamai, India has the lowest internet speeds in the whole of Asia Pacific. Only 30 per cent of all internet users enjoys speeds over 4mbps while just 6.6 per cent of the entire internet-savvy population have access to speeds above 10mbps. And even if you do manage to have fast connectivity, an unfair fair usage policy means you have to be a miser in spending the data allotted. This metric is reason enough to understand why no one is ready to sell their TV. Services may all be there, but the basic infrastructure is missing.

Steep subscription costs of streaming services

One good thing about television is you pay for one package and you don't have to worry about any other hidden costs. To get the same amount content on streaming services, you cannot rely on just one service. You need the whole suite. And that has a steep asking price. The top three streaming services combined comes for a price higher than cable. Netflix's HD content comes for Rs 650 per month, Amazon Prime Video for Rs 500 a year and Hotstar for Rs 199 for a month. And they still don't cover the entire spectrum of what's airing on TV. And mind you, these are just introductory prices which are bound to rise in the near future. In contrast, cable prices have remained constant and some have even become cheaper. As a result, you need to have deeper pockets to attempt and afford to cut the cord. Additionally, when you take into account the price of the internet connection itself — then you’re talking about a whole new numbers game which isn't feasible in a country like India.

Buffering Blues

Buffering is a pain. Be it in the middle of a cliffhanger in a movie, or just when Ibrahimovic gets the ball outside the D-box or when Dhoni hurls at the ball. Television doesn't leave you hanging high and dry like that. But the same can't be said about streaming services. Chances are, with so many users on a platform streaming the blockbuster cricket match, the servers get really stressed and even if you have a decently fast internet connection, you end up getting frustrated by the loading icon. Perhaps for platform companies like Amazon and Netflix that isn't the problem, however, the bigger issue is that live streaming is never live — it is for some reason or the other always a few minutes behind TV. So then why’d one bother with online when your neighbour next door is already screaming when a ‘6er’ is hit by Yuvraj Singh and you’re yet to witness it?

But then, cable is still so cheap!

Say what you may, once you have invested in a television, the cable connection doesn't really burn a hole in your pocket. On an average, an HD connection with all the usually-watched channels will come for not more than Rs 1,700. And that is all you need to pay. For streaming content on a big screen, however, you will need to buy a television or a monitor, a Chromecast dongle, or an Apple TV and fast internet. That's a whole lotta money to spend for leisure.

Hey, where's Game of Thrones?

So you shelled out Rs 650 for a Netflix connection and just when you are about to tune into the season premiere of your favourite show, you find it doesn't exist on Netflix. So you go to Amazon Prime. Not there as well. So finally, you land on Hotstar and the whole HBO catalogue awaits you. By the time you figure out where to watch it, you have already lost much of your hard-earned leisure time. Content is very haphazardly spread around services and you will have to use a lot of brainpower to figure which is where. On TV, though, you just need to know which channel it is airing and of course the time, and you are set!

Sometimes, choice is a problem

So you come back dog-tired from work and all you want to do is put something on to watch and chill. On TV, you just need to tune into a channel and let things be. On a streaming service however, with the plethora of content available, you will end up spending the whole time just choosing what to watch. It is the classic curse of choice. Spoilt is an understatement. Confusing is the working definition here. Is People vs O.J. Simpson a better choice or Orange is the New Black? Maybe another episode of Black Mirror? How about that Edward Snowden documentary? Nah. Might just rewatch old Breaking Bad episodes, but wait, isn't The Crown rated to be an intensely engaging show? You get my point, don't you? Sometimes choice is a problem — cable TV doesn’t give you with a choice and that’s is its beauty.

We are Indians. Where are our Saas-bahu soaps?

One reason why I can't ever imagine my mother cutting the cord is the aggressive push towards content alien to most viewers in the country. In your group of friends, Game of Thrones may be a rave, but if your mum decides to watch it, she will be scarred for life. But get out of the bubble and you will realise, 'Naagin' on Colors TV is the second most watched television show in the country (the first being the recently concluded India vs England ODI series on Doordarshan) while Sun TV is the most watched television channel this week (according to BARC data). Where will this majority find their daily soap fix? Not on Netflix. Definitely not on Amazon Prime Video. Maybe on Hotstar, but not all. And that's part of the reason why television will never go out of trend. There is no universal solution — on cable you have many providers but they more or less have the same content — the differentiator being the service and the plans. Online — the differentiator is the content and the way things stand there is no one place to get everything.

Old habits die hard

Despite the youth in the country adopting technology like bacteria to antibiotics, certain pet peeves and habits are not going to go anytime soon. In conversation with a friend on social media, I learnt how despite Hotstar offering live coverage of sports content, from cricket to football to tennis, he would call himself old-fashioned and stick to television when watching a match live (buffering is a bitch remember?). The willpower to choose and zero in on something to watch is also high, deterring many to ditch the remote and take the laptop on the lap. Basically, it will take a mountainous effort to move the TV-addicted Indian population to streaming services, even if every other roadblock is removed from the way.

Where the hell is the pause button?

It took ages for people to get used to TV remotes and even more to figure out the set-top box menus. The content classification and the UI in general on the streaming portals are on a whole other level. Some have television shows and movies in separate sections, some just show them on a perpetual scroll. Some don’t even have options to classify content by language But discovery is one thing. Playback is even more complicated. Video quality, subtitles, captions, trivia, offline downloading, volume. More the options, more the choice and more the time spent fiddling around. From discovering content to watching them, streaming services have a short but steep learning curve. In contrast, for television, you just to point your remote (which many painstakingly learnt to use) and go to the channel you want to watch. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But there are torrents, dah! Why pay for Netflix?

Here’s the deal. As long as there are free alternatives to subscription-based streaming services, Netflix and co. will have a hard time becoming the status quo. The recent crackdown on P2P torrent websites may have been favourable towards them but alternatives are still there in plenty. And more often than not, a simple Google search will take you straight to them. Never mind the malware-love people get in return, at least it’s free. And with the terrible connectivity in the country, torrenting content have always been the most obvious choice. You take your time downloading it and no qualms of buffering after that. No wonder Netflix and the rest are rushing to introduce offline streaming in a market like India.