President Garfield said today that the number of viewers for this past weekend’s Academy Awards was down, and that it was because of him. And isn’t everything about him? Besides being orange and mean, President Garfield is very intuitive. He has the best intuits. He is basically a huge tuit-head. But I have another theory.
This year, as I started planning my 14th annual Oscars party, I gathered fun cups and napkins, I created hilarious movie-themed food puns and purchased way too much food, and I even cleaned up the house a little. What I didn’t do was to make sure that, you know, we could watch the Oscars. You see, we cut the cord this past year and gave up cable. We do everything streaming now. Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Vudu, and network websites give us all the tv we need. Or so I thought.
When I went to test out the streaming capabilities of the ABC network the day before the party, I discovered that, well, they don’t. Stream, I mean. Not on Sling, not Playstation Vue, not online, not on their app, nothing. They SAY that they do, but there is a big fat asterisk next to that statement, indicating that they only stream if you live in either Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham or San Francisco. If you don’t live in one of those eight places, you are out of luck.
Really, ABC? You are “testing it out in select markets?” Waiting to see if this whole “watching video on the internet” thing catches on? In a time when traditional broadcast networks are struggling to maintain relevance, how are you not all-in on streaming? CBS does it. NBC does it. Fox does it. Where the heck are you? But fine, you don’t want me to watch your programs, see your ads, and increase your revenue. Totally fine.
So I bought an antenna. I attached it to my TV. I got 20 stations. For free. I got pretty much every station but ABC. You see, everyone else in town is running a UHF signal, except ABC obviously. They are still on VHF. And that is harder to pick up with digital antennae. If I didn’t live at the bottom of a hill, my view of Mount Mansfield blocked by the University of Vermont, I would be fine. But I do, and I’m not. I brought my TV to the attic and climbed out onto the roof with my antenna, but to no avail. I was not going to be able to watch the Oscars at my Oscars party.
That was when I started to get desperate. I put out a plea on Facebook. Would anyone who lived in one of those cities share their television account with me for a few hours, to save the party? I had many offers, and I signed in as my friends. And I was blocked. You HAVE to stream ABC from your home, connected to your box, if you want to stream it. What the heck is the point then? If I am streaming TV, it is probably because I am not at home. Maybe I am at the airport. Maybe I am sitting in the waiting room. But I am probably not at home in front of my TV. Seriously, ABC? SERIOUSLY?
In full on desperation mode, I was setting up Skype screen-sharing with my friend, who was going to stream the show onto his laptop and then put the feed onto MY laptop, which I was going to hook into the TV. Desperate times. It was at this moment that my wife got sick, and I had to cancel the party. Or at least move the party.
I loaded the children and food for a medium-sized army into the back of my car and I drove 90 minutes across the lake to my mother’s house, where we enjoyed Moanazerella Sticks, La Lasagna, Hacksaw Shrimp, Fantastic Treats and Where to Find Them, Nachoturnal Animals, MeatCheesester by the Sea, Hell or Soda Water, and Hidden Fingers (I was going to call them Hidden Pigures, but Ruby had the much better insight that the hot dogs looked like little fingers, and voila!). We sat down, ate too much, and watched the craziest Oscars broadcast in history. But we almost didn’t.
Do you know how I watched the Super Bowl? Roku was streaming it for free. Everyone was streaming it for free. Fox, the NFL, various outlets, they all wanted me to see it. I was’t even going to watch! But that was another crazy event show with a twist ending this year, and I found myself glued to the screen as the Patriots pulled out the biggest comeback in history. And why did I do that? Because it was available to me in the way that my generation and I consume media. ABC, do you want to know why your numbers are dropping? There are probably many reasons, but I can tell you one thing for sure. If you continue to insist on doing things the way you have always done them, you will die. You will fade into irrelevance like so many before you. Get with the program. Be a forward thinker. I am excited about watching the show again next year. But not on TV. I hope you’re there with me.