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Author Topic: Bad cable TV systems  (Read 3651 times)

bandit957

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Bad cable TV systems
« on: September 26, 2023, 12:03:40 AM »

Anyone have experience with really bad cable TV systems?

In the 1980s, our local cable system was Storer Cable. It was truly miserable. Their customer service would cuss out people over the phone. Stations would go out all the time too.

They had a channel called Network Preempt, which was supposedly for the many times our local network affiliates would preempt network shows. But whenever we tried to watch a preempted show on Network Preempt, it was just showing our local station that had preempted it.

There was also a channel called Color Bars, which was just that. Vertical multicolored bars, all day and all night.

I remember Storer cutting into the MTV video awards with local commercials once because someone told a mildly risque joke. We were also late getting MTV around here.

Storer used to carry WKYT Lexington, but when they dropped it, they made a big issue of it and kept running ads blaming it on the local newspaper.

Also, VH1 was always really fuzzy, with the ghost of another station visible, but I guess that was no big loss.

Later, in the '90s, we tuned in to Storer's weather radar channel, but all it had was a Windows error message.
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MikeTheActuary

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2023, 07:40:52 AM »

I do not miss cable or DBS TV.

I still have a cable connection, but that's just because it's been the only viable option for broadband internet at my location.
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SP Cook

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2023, 09:24:48 AM »

Cable TV is evil.  To understand why, you must simply understand the history of television.

In the beginning, there was OTA TV.  You put up an antenna and got the local stations.

Unless you lived in a rural area, especially in the mountains, where the signals were unreceivable (and the government, in its indifference to Rural Americans, refused to permit repeater stations).  So there came in CATV.  Community Antenna TV.  Which was simply building a single large antenna for the whole area, such that no one person could afford it. 

What was the business plan?  To screw over the consumer, to provide the least service possible, to do the bare minimum.  It is where cable TV came from, and what it is all about. 

Then came the "cable" channels, like ESPN, or HBO, or TBS.  Begrudgingly, Big Cable added these channels, but in analog, and as few as possible, and crammed into its existing inadequate cable infrastructure.    Because cable is about doing the least possible.  They were the only game in town, and they knew it, and the DID NOT CARE ABOUT THEIR CUSTOMERS.

Then came DBS.  Death From Above.  100s of channels in crystal clear digital perfection. 

Now, the "linear model" of TV is on its last legs.  And people are letting the cable company be their ISP.  Why?  They are evil.  They don't care.  They will do the least possible for you. 

It is who they are.
 
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2023, 11:15:32 AM »

MTV wasn't even an option on the cable TV in my hometown until it was basically over as anything worth watching.  We're talking middle 2000's so they had already turned MTV into a shitshow of reality bullcrap and reruns of movies you've seen 1200 times.  So I had to watch Beavis & Butthead at a friend's house; they had a satellite dish.

But where I grew up, you needed cable or satellite to watch Fox until 1999.  There was no OTA channel for Fox before then.  The ABC affiliate aired all the NFL games that would have been on Fox in the 90's.

Then when they finally did get a local station up and running, it was a much weaker signal than the ABC affiliate so everyone was pissed off they weren't getting good reception any more for Packer games.  That was the case for at least one season and it never really had the oomph for as long as that OTA channel existed.  The digital switchover finally leveled the reception quality, though many would say not for the better.
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RobbieL2415

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2023, 01:58:41 PM »

I remember some channels on our old Cox analog system (the Manchester, CT, franchise) being really poorly modulated, with a noisy/static-filled picture.
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bandit957

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2023, 02:00:31 PM »

I remember some channels on our old Cox analog system (the Manchester, CT, franchise) being really poorly modulated, with a noisy/static-filled picture.

Storer Cable had the video bleeding into the audio for a while, so the sound on some channels was nothing but a loud rumble.
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kphoger

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2023, 02:30:32 PM »

I remember some channels on our old Cox analog system (the Manchester, CT, franchise) being really poorly modulated, with a noisy/static-filled picture.

In multiple houses?  I'd have thought that would be due to a specific frequency being affected by location-specific wiring deficiency.
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SectorZ

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2023, 04:20:57 PM »

In the early 1990's, the TV in my living room hooked up to Lowell Cable had a buzzing noise out of it when watching cable-only channels and when it transitioned from national ads to local ads. Happened in no other TV in the house, and later on a new TV in the same outlet didn't do it.

Poor Lowell Cable tried everything to stop it, and got Magnavox involved, who replaced the guts of the TV (still made the sound) then replaced the TV entirely (and still made the sound). At some point everyone gave up and we dealt with it, and after a few years just got a new TV and that problem was over.

Was always curious if the transition to digital cable (in 1997 for us) would have ended it, but we replaced the TV in 1995.
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2023, 06:59:24 PM »

Back in the day, the only cable channel I would watch religiously was WGN, back when they had the Cubs' TV rights. The other channels I could care less about, but now, I've had some bad experiences with cable lately, such as skyrocketing rates. With more OTA choices available (such as MeTV, Buzzr and Ion), I'm seriously considering cutting the cord simply because it's not fun anymore.
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ZLoth

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2023, 08:31:20 PM »

One of the issues with multi-channel providers (so that I can include others forms such as Direct Broadcast Satellite (DirecTV and Dish Networks) ) goes back to the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 which resulted in the TV stations either specifying "must carry" status or obtain retransmission consent where the station can require a per-subscriber fee to carry the station on a multi-channel provider. This has resulting in multiple carriage disputes where a major media provider owns both the TV stations across multiple markets as well as multiple cable channels. As an example, Disney owns the following stations:
  • WLS-TV - Chicago, IL
  • WTVD - Durham–Raleigh–Fayetteville, NC
  • KFSN-TV - Fresno, CA
  • KTRK-TV - Houston, TX
  • KABC-TV - Los Angeles, CA
  • WABC-TV - New York City, NY
  • WPVI-TV - Philadelphia, PA
  • KGO-TV - San Francisco–Oakland–San Jose, CA
They also own ESPN and the Disney Channel. So, the carriage agreement between Disney and the multi-channel provider covers not only the TV station, but also E$PN, Disney Channel, and other, lesser watched Disney-owned properties. Funny how the TV contracts expire right around major events such as the New Years Bowl Games or the Oscars. Those carriage contracts include which programming tier the channel is carried at, which, for E$PN, is at all programming tiers except the most lowest and limited tiers.

The other pet peeve is, of course, the $ports Channels. Outside of the premium channels, E$PN and the Regional $port$ Network$ are the most expensive channels on a per-subscriber basis. During Covid where sports were shut down, the channel providers still have to pay the monthly fees. During the last few years, some of the multi-channel providers have dropped carriage of the sports channels citing the costs and low viewership, with Dish dropping the channels entirely. And, it is well known that one of the RSNs, Bally Sports, is in bankruptcy while AT&T Sportsnet will be shutting their RSN services down if new owners aren't found.

There are many consumers who would love the ala carte version where they can only select the channels they want. The media providers just won't let them.

Quite frankly, I stronly believe that the era of watching a program at an appointed time is over unless it's sports programming. I have felt that over the past twenty years, the cost-benefit ratio of the linear programming provder has gone downhill. I will admit that some of this is related to changes in my personal life.
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Road Hog

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2023, 10:29:57 PM »

My tiny-town cable system in the 1980s had WGN and TBS but not MTV, which I had to access in the next town over on visits. Night Tracks on TBS had a fair share of videos that MTV eschewed but broke bands big, like a-ha and Dead or Alive.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2023, 10:44:44 PM »

We had Storer Cable also at the beginning.  Their customer service office was 3 windows with speakers and at least 1 inch thick glass.  Banks have less protection between their customers and employees.  We had MTV, but it took forever to get Comedy Central.  I don't think we ever did under Storer.  We also had one of those boxes that maxed out at 36 channels, like this: https://tinyurl.com/3vbf86rj

Back at the time, the main premium channels were HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.  The Philly area only had HBO & Showtime, but we had a different 3rd option:  Prism.  It was a premium channel unique to the Philly area that carried some movies, but specialized in Philly sports, especially the Phillies, and somewhat the Flyers & Sixers.  Another sports cable channel, literally called SportsChannel, also had a short life in the Philly region, but at least that was free. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(TV_channel) . 

Comcast bought out Storer, and we finally got Comedy Central and other long awaited channels.  Some of their customer service centers are outright pleasant now.  Sit down at a desk with a rep and have a pleasant conversation.  Sure they want you to buy stuff, but they're nice about it.
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bandit957

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2023, 10:46:24 PM »

We had Storer Cable also at the beginning.  Their customer service office was 3 windows with speakers and at least 1 inch thick glass.  Banks have less protection between their customers and employees.  We had MTV, but it took forever to get Comedy Central.  I don't think we ever did under Storer.  We also had one of those boxes that maxed out at 36 channels, like this: https://tinyurl.com/3vbf86rj

We had a box with a slider, but it also didn't have many channels.
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doorknob60

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2023, 12:45:08 PM »

When our family moved to Bend around 2006, the cable provider there (Bend Broadband) didn't have the Disney Channel. I still occasionally watched the channel, and my two younger brothers probably watched it even more, so that seemed like a pretty crazy omission, enough that we opted for Dish Network instead. This is the same provider that later implemented one of the worst broadband internet caps I've seen. It was something like 100 GB included, and $1.50/GB overage with no limit on overage charges (most providers cap their overages at something like $50-100 in a month). That was well beyond any other cable provider like Comcast, though I think "bad ISPs" would be a different thread.

Roughly 2008 to 2015, or somewhere in that time range, Charter/Spectrum, one of the biggest cable providers in Oregon, didn't offer Comcast Sports NW so there was no way to watch Portland Trail Blazers games. Dish and DirecTV didn't get it either, people in those areas literally had no legal way to watch the games (this was before services like Youtube TV). That said, I blame Comcast/the network, more than I blame the cable providers on that one.

kphoger

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2023, 01:08:44 PM »

When our family moved to Bend around 2006, the cable provider there (Bend Broadband) didn't have the Disney Channel. I still occasionally watched the channel, and my two younger brothers probably watched it even more, so that seemed like a pretty crazy omission, enough that we opted for Dish Network instead.

When my family moved to small-town Kansas in 1990, we realized that the Disney Channel came through, even though it wasn't part of the package we were subscribed to.  Same with the Movie Channel.  Years went by, and we were able to watch those channels for free.  Eventually, it came to light that the entire town was getting those channels for free in error.  Apparently everyone just decided, individually, to keep the secret to themselves?

Now that I work in the cable industry, I realize that whoever was hooking customers up back then probably just neglected to install a filter or two on every installation.
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bandit957

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2023, 01:10:59 PM »

When my family moved to small-town Kansas in 1990, we realized that the Disney Channel came through, even though it wasn't part of the package we were subscribed to.  Same with the Movie Channel.  Years went by, and we were able to watch those channels for free.  Eventually, it came to light that the entire town was getting those channels for free in error.  Apparently everyone just decided, individually, to keep the secret to themselves?

At my old apartment, I didn't have cable, but the previous tenant did. Right before I moved out, I discovered that the cable company had never deactivated their connection, so I could have gotten cable for free for 4 years.
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bandit957

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2023, 01:11:48 PM »

Also, I know I could have gotten in a heap of trouble and probably gone to jail if I had been caught.
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kphoger

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2023, 01:20:10 PM »

At my old apartment, I didn't have cable, but the previous tenant did. Right before I moved out, I discovered that the cable company had never deactivated their connection, so I could have gotten cable for free for 4 years.

I was excited when I moved into an apartment and cable channels came in.  It only lasted a week or two, because then presumably the cable guy finally came out and trapped out service on my line in the MDU box.

Also, I know I could have gotten in a heap of trouble and probably gone to jail if I had been caught.

Why?  You didn't tamper with the line to give yourself cable, did you?  It wasn't your doing.

Now, if a cable tech had agreed to hook you up without your being a paying customer—say, he agreed to take a cash bribe to remove the trap on your line or whatever—then that cable tech could have gotten in a heap of trouble and possibly gone to jail.  It hasn't happened in a long time here at my office, but my old boss says he's seen a cable tech led out the front door in handcuffs for stuff like that.  Cable is considered a utility, so hooking it up illegitimately is a felony.  Back when he was a field tech and people would ask him to hook them up under the table, he'd say, "Sure, for $50,000!  Because that's what it will cost me to lose my job and go to jail."
« Last Edit: October 02, 2023, 01:22:25 PM by kphoger »
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bandit957

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2023, 01:22:42 PM »

Back around 1989-90, a family member was picking up ESPN on TV without cable. I think it was on Channel 3. The signal was perfectly clear.
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2023, 11:22:58 PM »

Now, if a cable tech had agreed to hook you up without your being a paying customer—say, he agreed to take a cash bribe to remove the trap on your line or whatever—then that cable tech could have gotten in a heap of trouble and possibly gone to jail.  It hasn't happened in a long time here at my office, but my old boss says he's seen a cable tech led out the front door in handcuffs for stuff like that.  Cable is considered a utility, so hooking it up illegitimately is a felony.  Back when he was a field tech and people would ask him to hook them up under the table, he'd say, "Sure, for $50,000!  Because that's what it will cost me to lose my job and go to jail."

What happens if the same thing happens, with the same tech, but with cable Internet service instead of cable TV? Because my understanding is that Internet connections are not considered a utility.
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kphoger

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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #20 on: October 03, 2023, 10:44:12 AM »

What happens if the same thing happens, with the same tech, but with cable Internet service instead of cable TV? Because my understanding is that Internet connections are not considered a utility.

I'm not sure.  Over coax (HFC), television and internet signal are transmitted the same way, over the same infrastructure, just at different frequencies.  It's not clear to me if the law is applied to accessing the infrastructure that supplies cable TV signal or the end product.

But, back before the Go All Digital transition, modems were already addressable.  That is to say, the modem had to be tied to an active account with the ISP in order to actually deliver internet service.  This was not the case with cable TV:  all you needed to get basic cable channels was a connection to the mainline that was free of any signal traps.  So there were plenty of people out there illegally removing traps (or drilling them out and stripping back the coax sheathing to hide it) in order to get free cable, but the reverse situation wasn't technologically possible.  Now that everything is digital, it matters even less, because all cable channels from the ISP require an addressable set-top box to show up on your TV set.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2023, 10:48:34 AM by kphoger »
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2023, 01:10:40 PM »

There are many consumers who would love the ala carte version where they can only select the channels they want. The media providers just won't let them.

Ala carte would actually decrease consumer surplus in cable, so I doubt they would actually like it. Media providers did not do it because it was technologically difficult until 15 years ago and even then the overhead costs would have been non-negligible.
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2023, 07:40:37 PM »

This area has had 2 cable systems forever.

Outlying areas of Fort Collins, got what was then known as Intermountain Cable, aka "Intermittent". They're now TDS, but everyone says they suck, too.

In town's never been ... terrible.

But remember badly formatted Weather Channel local info?
In Virginia, in the mid-80's you'd get this thing sometimes on there like:

SMITHFIELD ISLE
of wight cablevision
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2023, 09:45:16 PM »

There are many consumers who would love the ala carte version where they can only select the channels they want. The media providers just won't let them.

Ala carte would actually decrease consumer surplus in cable, so I doubt they would actually like it. Media providers did not do it because it was technologically difficult until 15 years ago and even then the overhead costs would have been non-negligible.

Yeah a lot of people don't know that there are a lot of channels paying to be on cable such as home shopping, religious programming, C-SPAN and unpopular channels rather than getting paid like ESPN, Fox News and TNT do.
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Re: Bad cable TV systems
« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2023, 10:44:07 PM »

When our family moved to Bend around 2006, the cable provider there (Bend Broadband) didn't have the Disney Channel. I still occasionally watched the channel, and my two younger brothers probably watched it even more, so that seemed like a pretty crazy omission, enough that we opted for Dish Network instead. This is the same provider that later implemented one of the worst broadband internet caps I've seen. It was something like 100 GB included, and $1.50/GB overage with no limit on overage charges (most providers cap their overages at something like $50-100 in a month). That was well beyond any other cable provider like Comcast, though I think "bad ISPs" would be a different thread.

Roughly 2008 to 2015, or somewhere in that time range, Charter/Spectrum, one of the biggest cable providers in Oregon, didn't offer Comcast Sports NW so there was no way to watch Portland Trail Blazers games. Dish and DirecTV didn't get it either, people in those areas literally had no legal way to watch the games (this was before services like Youtube TV). That said, I blame Comcast/the network, more than I blame the cable providers on that one.


Slightly off-topic, but the Portland broadcast sports situation is weird.  The Seattle Mariners disappeared from Portland broadcast TV years before all the games went to cable-only.  Then a few years ago Portland didn't even have a Mariners radio affiliate.  I subscribed to mlb.com in late 2021 so I could hear the Mariners games on my Yellowstone vacation, but I was in dead cell zones so often that it didn't work out anyway.  I noticed that Portland businesses placed ads on this internet service which went out to everyone, indicating they had a lot of listeners by then.  By the first few weeks of the season in 2022, I noticed MLB switched to Audacy as their subcontractor for the game audio.  They probably had few board ops monitoring many games, because they routinely placed multiple minute ad sweeps instead of 90 second ads in the middle of the game, instead of during the pre- and post-game shows when they would fit.  Often they would rejoin the game after two outs had been made.  This was extremely unprofessional and my complaints went unanswered, and I couldn't have been the only one to notice it.  So I dropped my subscription at the end of the season and haven't looked back.

Back on topic: when our family decided to add more cable outlets, the technician cut the cable directly onto one of our patio chairs made up of plastic straps, cutting the straps and ruining the chair.  At work, the adjoining warehouse needed cable, so they ran it through our warehouse.  They took one of our good carts, and became very indigent when I asked what happened to it.  Luckily I don't have to subscribe to cable and nothing has shown me that they have improved their customer service ways.
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