Why ca­ble TV, home phones are fall­ing out of fa­vor

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By BAI PING Con­tact the writer at dr.baip­ing@hot­mail.com

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 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 the liv­ing room like the 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. sales­men 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.

MA FENGCHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Chil­dren use a lan­d­line phone in a kinder­garten in Chaohu, An­hui province.

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