TIME Opinion

Fan TV Highlights Everything Wrong with Cable Right Now

Fan TV

A new $99 set-top box aims to fix cable TV, because TV providers won't.

Fan TV has a simple proposition for Time Warner Cable customers: For $99, it will make your cable TV-watching experience better.

You buy the box and stick it in your living room, in place of a regular cable box. Instead of the the regular guide–cluttered with row upon row of channels you never watch–you get personalized recommendations, not just for stuff that’s on cable, but for shows and movies from other streaming video sources like Crackle and Redbox Instant. And instead of a huge, clunky remote, you use a touchscreen pad that responds to swipes and taps.

But as CNet points out, Fan TV also makes the experience worse in a few significant ways: You can only watch what’s available through Time Warner Cable’s mobile app, which means some channels may not be available. You also can’t record live shows for later viewing or watch recordings from another DVR. A full cable box stand-in this is not.

No disrespect to Fan TV, which has created what appears to be a pleasant interface and concept. But the whole setup is preposterous.

Here we have a cable company that is unwilling to reinvent its stodgy old system for watching television, but continues to increase prices year after year. To justify these higher prices, Time Warner Cable and other providers point out how they’re offering more channels than ever, regardless of whether subscribers asked for these channels. Meanwhile, the licensing costs to carry all these channels keep going up, and all subscribers get is more clutter in an increasingly mind-numbing TV guide interface.

So now, instead of addressing those problems, Time Warner Cable turns to another company that promises to fix the clutter–not for the same exorbitant prices you’ve been paying, mind you, but for an extra $99. Oh, but no DVR allowed. Sorry.

No wonder more people are ditching or skipping cable in favor of cheaper, smarter, more convenient online video services. And no wonder companies like Google and Apple have delayed or given up on plans to make cable TV better. It’s a lost cause.

On a section of Fan TV’s website, the company wonders aloud whether it’s crazy to compete with the tech giants and instead cozy up to pay TV providers like Time Warner Cable. At last, we know the answer.

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