Stick a fork in it: Iowa confirms it's over
BONUS: Thinking of cutting the cord? We've got you covered
Finally, after months and months of posturing and prognostication, the first votes were cast Monday night in the most bizarre presidential campaign of my lifetime — and presumably yours as well. Considering that the electoral process has only just begun, that superlative is especially jarring.
Every four years, it’s always a relief to hear from actual voters after seeing poll after poll, endless panels of punditry on cable and the requisite interviews with regular-Joe Iowa voters. And if ever there was any doubt about whom the Republican Party belongs to, it was officially removed last night. After Donald Trump ran the table, winning 98 out of 99 counties in the Hawkeye State (smashing a record), it’s a fait accompli. Even if Haley narrowly defeats Trump in New Hampshire next week, it’s hard to see how she mounts a serious challenge given the Trump-leaning states holding GOP primaries in the ensuing weeks. Heck, the 538 polling averages show Trump leading former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley by a 2-1 margin even in her home state of South Carolina.
The race thus far has been notable because of the unwillingness of the also-rans to beat up on the frontrunner. Typically, the only way to make up ground against the leader is to go strongly on the attack. None of Trump’s major competitors were willing to do that, with the exception of the pitiable former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who dropped out under pressure earlier this month.
You can also look for the hapless campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to end soon. He came in a distant second after burning through tens of millions of dollars courtesy of his Super PAC, ironically named “Never Back Down.” The best he can hope for is a distant third in New Hampshire next week behind Trump and Haley. Then next month is the South Carolina primary, held in Haley’s home state but still dominated by Trump. Time for DeSantis to “back down” and go back to Florida to punish corporations who don’t like his policies.
Meanwhile, barring a catastrophic health event, we will be bracing ourselves for a November presidential election between two old men born in the 1940s who are clearly in decline and, statistically, won’t even live through a four-year term that will end on — get this — January 20, 2029. Isn’t America great?
To think, perhaps to stream
As I discussed with Paul Pacelli earlier this week during my weekly appearance on WICC 600 AM, I’ve been thinking about the streaming industry for awhile but decided to write about it over the weekend after NBC took a lot of heat for deciding to televise the Chiefs-Dolphins game exclusively on Peacock, the network’s $6-per-month streaming service. This was the first time in my memory that an NFL playoff game had not been televised on either broadcast network TV or a no-extra-cost cable network like ESPN.
NBC’s decision was met with howls of outrage from fans who objected to having to pay the equivalent of a cup of coffee and a bagel to view an important NFL playoff game. I already had Peacock because I rely on Comcast for my broadband. The cable giant owns NBC and, for the time being, allows select customers to watch Peacock at no additional charge.
If you’re tired of paying all that money for cable and are looking to switch to streaming your TV over the internet, you can save some money but, depending on your preferences, perhaps not as much as you might think.
We switched during the pandemic, so I no longer have access to our cable bills. But I do recall doing the math and determining that the savings weren’t as great as I expected they would be. The key question to ask yourself is whether you are looking to replicate the cable experience, with lots of live news, sports and entertainment channels on one platform, or whether you’d just as well stream from content providers that offer on-demand content such as movies and TV series (both classic and proprietary).
We decided we wanted a service that mimics the cable experience, while still having the ability to continue to subscribe to select on-demand services such as Netflix and HBO (now called “Max”).
The greatest savings came not from the content options but from no longer having to rent two digital cable boxes from Comcast/Xfinity for $15 each per month. Instead we purchased our own streaming devices and connected them to our home wifi network. Our devices of choice are Roku and Apple TV set-top boxes. They cost about $100 for premium models.
There are also numerous fees associated with cable television (company imposed fees and government taxes) that appear on your monthly invoice and add an average of 24 percent to cable bills, or nearly $450 per year, according to Consumer Reports. Depending on your existing cable bill and what you choose to replace it with, the savings can be anywhere from negligible to substantial.
For more details, see the video below produced by my Connecticut friend and colleague Lon Seidman, an extremely talented tech nerd who produces and hosts YouTube tech videos for a living. You can subscribe to Lon’s channel free of charge by clicking here.
Between cable fees and rentals, Lon was able to save his mother an astounding $600 per year off of her annual cable bill.
If you want to replicate cable through streaming, the best options include YouTubeTV, FuboTV and (if you’re on a budget), Sling. We chose Hulu + LiveTV. Our Hulu package is pricier than the others, but Hulu has an extensive library of on-demand content, some of it original, and Hulu offers a basic, on-demand content with commercials, as well as a higher-priced commercial-free tier. The live channel offerings are roughly the same as YouTubeTV and Fubo.
All three have an outstanding line-ups of sport channels. If you like soccer (“football” to those outside North America), the aptly named Fubo has you covered, though Fubo does not carry any Warner Bros. Discovery channels, which means you have no access to important Major League Baseball and NBA playoff games on TNT and TBS. In addition, Fubo does not carry CNN, which is also a Warner property.
But Hulu’s Live TV line-up is a veritable feast of sports programming, thanks in part to majority owner Disney, whose holdings include ESPN. In addition to the requisite ESPN offerings, there are several ESPN+ channels. There are some regional sports networks as well, though no NESN and no YES. The service also includes Disney+ and an unlimited DVR.
For a great live TV streaming service roundup, see:
It’s from earlier this month so the price points are all current. CNET rated Hulu + Live TV the best overall.
For a YouTubeTV review, Lon has you covered:
On the business side of streaming, we have this:
David Leonhart of the New York Times also explains the economic challenges of the streaming industry here:
Streaming technology has allowed people to spend much more time watching entertainment than they did in the past. They can binge entire shows if they enjoy the first episode. They can watch almost any movie on an airplane flight or a subway ride.
Normally, a big increase in the use of a product also increases the profits of the companies that make that product. But something strange has happened in Hollywood lately: Even as Americans spend more time watching movies and television shows, the studios that produce this entertainment are struggling.
Read more from Leonhart: ‘Generational disruption’ (free link)
Finally, in the podcast below, Sonny Bunch of the Bulwark interviews Brandon Katz of Parrot Analytics, which has produced a new report on the business of streaming. Note: Bunch was a streaming skeptic but has recently seen the light: