Today’s editorial is about something that is weighing heavily on my mind lately, which is the Hallmark Channel. It’s no secret that I’m OBSESSED with cheesy made for TV holiday movies. Like, I even have a checklist in my Tick Tick account so I make sure to see EVERY SINGLE ONE that I love. About a year and a half ago though, I cut the cord to cable, as many of you already have. My 2 main concerns in doing so was the Olympics, which went SUPER well by signing up for a PlayStation Vue account for the month, and my Hallmark channel movies… which I’m still trying to figure out.
There is the Feeln channel for SOME of the Hallmark Channel movies, but it does not have nearly all of them, nor will it have the freshly released ones that will be new for 2016. Last year, I used a friend’s DirecTV login to stream the new movies to my computer… which I would then Chromecast to the TV in my bedroom. It was a complicated setup. This year, that same friend has also canceled her DirecTV account, so now I’m back to square one again.
Speaking of DirecTV… in my research to figure out what I’m going to do for my holiday movies this year, I came across some buzz about DirecTV now, which seems to be a Sling TV competitor. The release date for DirecTV now is still “4th Quarter 2016”, which we are already in, but lasts until the end of December. I’m hoping they launch sooner than later… and that when they launch, Hallmark Channel will be included in the offering. If you are unfamiliar with Sling TV, they are actually owned by Dish and allow you to purchase a base package of channels and add on additional channels which you access through a streaming device like a Roku. There is no contract, no set up fees, no equipment. You sign up, and you can be watching those channels instantly. PlayStation Vue is similar, but has a WAY better interface. As I mentioned, it’s how I was able to survive the Olympics (cause I watch like EVERY SINGLE EVENT). Currently Hallmark Channel is not available on PlayStation Vue or Sling.
In trying to discover the solution, I’ve been thinking a lot about where TV is heading, and what is happening with the old way of doing things. In the past we would sign up for a cable package, either through actual cable, or via some sort of satellite network (such as Dish and DirecTV). We would pay an arm and a leg and get a bazillion channels, and watch MAYBE 10 of them on a regular basis. We would still brag, though, about the plethora of channels we had access to!
Then DVR came along. I remember when we got our first TiVo, and then wondered how in the world we ever lived before it! Suddenly, we could do TV on our own time, and didn’t HAVE to be home or set a complicated VCR timer! It was life changing for sure.
Next, Netflix and Hulu came along. Now, not only did we not have to be home, we didn’t even need to wait for an episode to air to be able to watch it, we could watch all the previous seasons any time we wanted! Appointment TV was officially a thing of the past.
Now that we have access to watch the things we want to watch when we wanted to watch them, we didn’t need to sit in front of the TV searching the guide for something good on, we could pull up something good any time. THIS is when people realized they did not need a bazillion channels of things they never want to watch. We were not going to stand to pay for that much content that we didn’t consume. So, the cord cutting started. More and more people are cutting the cord every single year, and sales for DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, etc are declining at a very fast rate. It’s definitely time for them to pivot, and find out what their customers (and potential customers) want before they become Blockbuster (who didn’t pivot to the Netflix model nearly fast enough to be relevant).
So, what is it that customers now want from a television package?
First, I need to be able to pick the channels I want to watch. If I could JUST purchase all the NBC channels during the Olympics, and Hallmark channel during November and December, I totally would. I’d even pay $20 or more for those individual months. Occasionally I’d sign up for other channels as well. We really like the AMC shows like Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, so I would pay AMC for their channel to show up on my Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
This is really the model that individual networks should be looking at. Why have DirecTV take a cut and then pay you for your channel, when a good portion of your customers would be willing to pay you directly! Cut out the middle man, and make all the money! It just makes sense. You better hope you have quality programming though, for people to WANT to pay for your channel. That’s where the lesser known networks stay afloat, because the cable companies pay to have their channel included in their massive package, even though their customers really aren’t even watching it.
If we are still going to have a middle man though, then places like DirecTV and Dish should offer smaller base packages (or no base package at all) and just sell the add on channel bundles. So a sports add on, would include the ESPN channels and what not, but for someone like me who doesn’t care about sports, then I don’t need to purchase that set of channels. Smaller sets of like minded channels would be perfect for someone to build their own package of television (and of course, I’m still just talking about streaming, with no equipment or contracts).
The interface could use huge improvements too. The funny thing about PlayStation Vue, is that the actual PlayStation app has a worse interface than the Roku app. I much preferred to watch my PlayStation Vue on the Roku, as opposed to either of our PlayStation consoles. So, lets step it up a bit guys. A guide interface is essential, so you can browse through the channels you do have. What I liked about PlayStation Vue’s Roku interface, though was sort of like a grid of apps, but it was each individual show that was currently available to watch. Somewhat like Netflix’s interface when each show has a thumbnail. I really liked being able to see what was currently on through that interface.
I also need to be able to “record” shows I want to watch later. With Sling you can only do this with select channels right now. PlayStation Vue offers this, but it’s difficult to find and set up. We can’t go BACKWORDS and have to be around at the exact time to catch a show. Remember, appointment TV is dead! We need to be able to watch our shows on OUR time.
So, the moral of the story… the perfect solution doesn’t exist yet. I have high hopes that DirecTV Now will launch soon (as in before November 1st), and that it will launch with Hallmark Channel. If it doesn’t, I may just be stuck with all the holiday movies I’ve purchased on Vudu, and the DVD’s I’ve ripped to my Plex server, but I’m missing SOOO many.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com