Why cable TV, home phones are falling out of favor
In the past several weeks, I got two notices posted on the door of my home. One was from a local phone company that had cut off the landline and informed me where to find them if I wanted to continue. The other came from a cable TV provider, saying it would terminate its service because I’d not renewed my subscription.
It occurred to me that my family had abandoned the traditional landline for more than half a year, with the old phone gathering dust in a corner in the living room. Meanwhile, we’ve stopped watching news and entertainment on the big, flat-screen TV on the wall, once a nightly family ritual.
But weaning ourselves off a landline or TV doesn’t make us any less media-savvy than others in the Chinese capital. In my family of five, including two young children and an ayi or domestic helper, there are three smartphones, two laptops and two tablets that are all
connected to the home Wi-Fi network.
On a typical evening after dinner, my wife and I would browse news and social media on our cellphones, while our ayi plays lullaby downloads on her phone with our baby girl. If my son finishes his homework early, he may be allowed to watch a cartoon film in his room streamed through a paid video site.
Making a phone call is increasingly being replaced by sending a text through the WeChat app, which means plenty of unused minutes at the end of every month on our cellphones. When my cell phone rings, it’s most likely a telemarketer or fraudster who will be either ignored or left on the blacklist.
I tried to keep the landline as a backup in the house, especially when my parents lived with us. At least, it could help you locate your cell phone when you couldn’t find it before going to work in the morning.
But eventually we had to part ways with it, realizing it could be source of potential trouble.
We never chose the phone company. Instead it was “allocated” to the residential compound where we had lived since it was built 10 years ago. Representatives from the company used to call or knock on our door to promote offers beyond a basic service. It made me nervous when my parents told me they had entertained salesmen during the day.
And for some time, even paying phone bills, which I used to do through the ATM downstairs, became difficult after the provider changed owners.
I gave the landline up after my parents left. So did many others for one reason or another. Last year, 18.43 million Chinese users said goodbye to it, while mobile users increased by 19.64 million, according to official figures.
We’d ushered in the cable TV into t he living room like t he phone, without a choice. Over the years, the company broadcast programming from different provinces and cities. When I surfed the channels, I often saw homogeneous content, because local stations tend to vie to air the same hot shows.
Now the myriad streaming options available to audiences have changed all that. Besides rich content, they enable fans to decide when and where to watch a video. Analysts have noticed a major growing migration of users from cable TV to internet devices.
It’s a trend with profound implications for various business players and consumers. Chinese tech companies are already world-class smartphone makers and they are jumping on the bandwagon of internet TV.
During the global Nov 11 online shopping event, one of my colleagues bought a 55-inch smart TV with an 80-month free subscription to content streamed through the internet.
Her TV and subscription package cost less than $500. In comparison, I paid more than $1,000 for the TV in my living room.
I wonder how long such aggressive marketing can last for tech companies. But they have certainly got a head of steam, while traditional rivals continue to figure their way out of their comfort zone.
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Children use a landline phone in a kindergarten in Chaohu, Anhui province.