I have been a Videotron customer for more than eight years. I have my home phone, internet and TV service with them.
In that time period, they have increased the price of my bill 14 times, for a total increase of more than $24 a month more for the same services. That’s more than a 30% price increase, for those who aren’t counting. During that same time period, they’ve made serious billing errors five times, one of which cost me several months of follow-up calls, and they’ve had countless service outages. I’ve phoned up their retentions department as a matter of rote for these past few years, each time wasting my time in order to go through the motions to negotiate the discount that I know they’re going to give me anyway, like a dance where everyone knows the steps but we still have to suffer through the music.
But none of that is why I’m on the verge of finally pulling the plug (pun intended) on my cable service.
No, the simple reason is as follows: None of the TV that I want to watch is available through my cable.
Quick quiz: What are the five best shows on TV right now? The answers may vary, but in my opinion, no such list is complete without the inclusion of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Big C, Sons of Anarchy, and maybe the Colbert Report thrown in for good measure. With the exception of the last one, which airs on the Comedy Network here in Canada, I can’t actually watch any of those shows on TV.
Mad Men and Breaking Bad air on AMC, Sons of Anarchy airs on FX, and The Big C, which airs in the States on Showtime, airs on a delayed schedule on Superchannel. Guess which of those channels is carried by Videotron? That’s right, zero.
In contrast, our friends in Ontario who are slaves to the dreaded Rogers, or even the folks here who are signed up with Bell-Hell via satellite, can access almost all of these shows as they air, and be part of the Facebook and water-cooler conversations that ensue. Meanwhile, law-abiding Videotron subscribers are left waiting for the DVD release, while the less law-abiding resort to illegal downloads to get their fix of whatever show strikes their fancy. And the channels I pay for languish unwatched.
The trouble is, Videotron doesn’t care about me. I’m anglophone, and as such, I represent only a tiny segment of their customer base. For every one customer who wants to watch Mad Men, Videotron figures there are a few dozen who would rather watch Star Académie. The company has been extremely slow to add English channels to its lineup, and I don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
I’ve resisted taking the step of cancelling cable for one reason: Hockey. The one channel I watch regularly is RDS, just because it has exclusive rights to the Habs’ games, and really, there’s no point in watching a hockey game if it’s not live. RDS still doesn’t offer a streaming package, so I’ve been paying out the nose for a bunch of channels I never watch, just for the privilege of having hockey on TV. But as the price of cable keeps climbing, it’s getting harder and harder to justify this expense, especially when I could just as easily watch at my favourite pub around the corner and spend the money on a beer or chicken wings.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are cutting the cord on cable. Will 2012 be the year when I finally follow suit? Well, let’s just say that the next time I contact the retentions department over at Videotron won’t just be a rote request for a discount.