The Evolution of My Television Viewing Options
#1
I'm old enough to remember when we had only three local TV stations (all VHF channels) and some "out of town" (UHF) stations that were hard to receive. For many years, most Americans were lucky to have 3 good stations to choose from.

Selections began to improve in the 1970s, in my experience. The UHF stations invested in stronger transmitters, more VHF channels began to launch, and cable TV networks arrived.

The first really good UHF channel I remember enjoying was WTCG in Atlanta. They launched a satellite feed as TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) and eventually swapped call letters with another TV station so they could become WTBS.

With cable TV we were able to watch movies without commercials for the first time on HBO and Cinemax. I'm not sure if we got any other movie channels, but we also enjoyed access to WGN in Chicago.

Cable TV expanded my world until VHS players came along. And then we had Cable TV, broadcast TV, and VHS. Imagine how delighted I was as we adopted DvD technology, which was more durable than VHS tapes.

The problem with cable TV went from not having access to not having many good choices to having tons of choices to having too many choices. I think the explosion of cable-only networks ruined the cable TV experience for me. But maybe it was just time and the universe moving on from the novelty of having dozens of channels/networks to pick from.

Also, a lot of the early cable networks shifted away from what made them so good: MTV stopped playing music videos, CNN stopped running 30-minute news shows around the clock, the History and Science channels began showing weird stuff. Some of the changes were entertaining, but many didn't interest me.

I didn't stop watching broadcast TV until sometime in the early 2000s. The popularity of syndicated science fiction and fantasy shows ensured I had reasons to watch local stations that broadcast my favorite shows. But I think I eventually lost interest in broadcast TV around the time Legend of the Seeker was cancelled.

By then even my favorite cable shows were winding down: Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Warehouse 13, and Battlestar Galactica. Really, from around 2010 onward, I've watched considerably less TV (broadcast or cable) than I used to.

New shows came along - the whole slew of Marvel and DC superhero TV shows have captured new audiences. I tried watching Krypton and Supergirl but I couldn't really get into them. And I never watched Flash, Arrow, or the other shows whose fandoms have taken off.

I became more devoted to the movies. The Marvel Cinenamtic Universe captured my time and attention. And as long as I could watch my shows on reruns, I still occasionally watched TV.

But somewhere along the way I began shifting to online streaming. I put off cord-cutting for years because it makes no financial sense. Even now, as I'm subscribed to multiple streaming services, it makes no financial sense to me.

There are many free, advertising-supported streaming services but their free shows and movies are quite old and most of them don't interest me. I re-watched all the Librarian movies on Tubi but eventually lost interest in the service. We've tried Peacock and a few others, but the quality of the offerings is not very good. You can pay for premium content but I don't want to do that.

Amazon Prime is the reason why I began paying for streaming options, but they've lost licensing deals over the past 1-2 years that make their offerings less interesting. As more studios set up their own streaming channels - making streaming/cord-cutting more expensive - I turn my back on more and more entertainment options.

I subscribed to Netflix for a month so I could binge on Stargate SG-1 episodes for a while, but we decided to let it go. There wasn't anything else in their inventory that we wanted to watch.

We subscribed to AT&T's Streaming app earlier this year. We're not happy with it (and now they've rebranded as Direct Stream or something). There are fewer channels than U-Verse offers, but we're not inclined to go back to U-Verse.

We could subscribe to Comcast again - in fact, I did that for an hour a few weeks ago. But we were looking for access to West Coast NFL games and couldn't get it through anything we tried. We've signed up for NFL GamePass, ESPN+, DisneyPlus, and more in that quest. And we've cancelled some subscriptions right away after learning they didn't do what we need.

These streaming channels make promises that they disclaim in the fine print. You really need to read everything carefully to understand what you're getting into.

It was the quest for NFL games we can't get on AT&T's streaming service (they and the NFL decided not to renew their agreement last year) that led me to try a technology I'd only read about for years.

A few weeks ago I finally decided to buy an Antenna Signal Amplifier - a Signal Booster. This is an indoor model. You attach a floppy mat to a window somewhere and it picks up digital broadcast channels from up to 150 miles away. Some signal amplifiers promise to pick up signals from up to 200-300 miles away.

We did not get access to the games we hoped we would but we're keeping the amplifier. As it turns out, you can watch dozens of special interest channels that run syndicated TV shows, classic movies, and some international options. I think many of these channels are satellite channels, but I haven't had time to research them.

And, yes, we can watch TV stations in other markets.

Except for an occasional glitch, the signal quality is comparable to cable feeds. These broadcasts look really good on our smart TV.

Do I want to watch all these old shows and movies? Not really. But now that I have the option, I may do a little research and see if I can find some things I'd be interested in.

I can still watch a lot of shows on computer, as well. My ad blockers make YouTube an enjoyable experience. They don't do so well with IMDB TV (where I occasionally watch Warehouse 13).

Anyway, I decided to share this because as I was pondering my place in the TV universe this morning, I realized I had come full circle. And I thought that was mildly ironic. Here we have all this technology and all these modern options and I'm going back to watching broadcast TV.

But at least this time around I have access to more than 3 channels.
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#2
Sadly, the old joke about hundreds of options, but nothing to watch seems to be more accurate than ever. I usually end up watching old stuff, too. I wait until there are a few things I want to check out before I subscribe to a streaming channel to check them out.
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