Bob McKinney

A few weeks ago, I made a passing reference to the complications of watching TV these days.

For nearly ten years I have shared with you my frustrations, but also my progress, with technology. I own a smartphone and an electronic reader. I recently purchased a new laptop computer. I use Bluetooth technology.

Anyone can see I have come a long way. I did not, however, plan on television becoming as challenging as it is.

I am not a big TV guy. I can go days without watching anything and I don’t like having it on as background noise. But when I want to watch something, I want to watch it. Sadly, it’s not as easy as that anymore.

My wife and I are not cord cutters. We subscribe to one of the cable services – AT&T (and I’m saying “cable” for lack of a better word; maybe it’s not even called that anymore.)  That’s also the company we use for internet and our phones. They were also the provider when we had a land line, which we had to unplug when we longer wanted it (upon AT&T’s advice) because that was cheaper than taking it out of our “bundle.”  You know, pay more and get less.

No, that doesn’t make sense to me either, but that ship sailed a long time ago and for a couple of years, we had a land line with no phone attached to it. Eventually we were able to eliminate the land line from the bundle.

But back to television. As I said, we have cable. We know a fair amount of folks who have switched to YouTube TV, which is web-based (if I were talking to you, you would see how “web-based” just rolls off my tongue as if I know what I’m talking about.)

YouTube appears to have been successful with their basic TV service and they offer a good price. But because it’s web-based, you might occasionally see it “buffer” which is evidenced by seeing, rather than the programming you wish to watch, a perpetual circle that goes around and around for an indefinite period. I have witnessed this at the homes of folks who have YouTube TV.

To use an illustration for when this might happen, think of Atlanta Braves’ First Baseman Freddie Freeman coming up to bat with the bases loaded. As the pitch is thrown, the buffering begins, and the picture doesn’t come back until Freddie is rounding third for home, having hit a grand slam – that you missed.

YouTube TV advocates would likely tell me the buffering is due to deficient internet service. I’m sorry, but I can’t deal with that.

And come to think of it, the Freddie-at-bat illustration is not a good one after all. Braves games are now aired by Bally Sports. YouTube TV and Bally Sports have apparently not reached an agreement with each other, so there’s no Bally on YouTube TV.  

Consequently, there is no YouTube TV for us, if we needed another reason. It would not be pretty if I told my wife she could no longer watch the Braves play.

I would not say we are loyal AT&T customers, but we’re satisfied, and Lord knows I don’t want to go through the hassle of changing. I have recently learned (as in just a few minutes ago as I conducted research for this column) that the service we have, AT&T U-verse, is no longer offered to new customers, and AT&T is pushing a new package. That is already making me uncomfortable.  

Perhaps the most vexing component of today’s TV watching for me relates to all the streaming services. As I wrote a few weeks ago, a book I read, “Nomadland,”was made into a movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s on Hulu, a streaming service we don’t have.

We have Netflix and, with the recent purchase of a new iPhone 12 (see how I continue to make progress), I got a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+. I activated it because I want to watch the second season of “Ted Lasso,” which starts in July, and that’s the service that airs it. (I managed to watch the first season by getting a one-month free trial subscription and canceling it. My conscience is clear.)

Come next May, I will not be renewing. It’s probably less than ten dollars a month, but all those payments add up and I would not watch it enough, especially after I’m done with “Ted Lasso,” to justify it.

I’m certain there are people who have mastered this, enjoying an array of streaming services with various offerings, and paying less than I am. And although I have in fact made tremendous progress, there comes a point where all of it makes my head hurt.

And happily, a friend who read my column about “Nomadland” sent me a text saying he has Hulu. He suggested the wife and I come for dinner and a movie.

Seems if I just poormouth it a bit, things work out.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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