Back in the early ’70s, WMUR still broadcast its local news and original programming in black and white while everything the Manchester station carried from ABC appeared in color.
Channel 9 had yet to upgrade its video equipment, so all those kids on “The Uncle Gus Show” attempting to name all 50 states on a wordless map were just as monochromatic as Annette Funicello was on the “Mickey Mouse Club” nearly two decades before.
Fast forward to 2020, and the Hearst-owned station is part of the corporate-owned media landscape — one experiencing dizzying changes as technology and competition offers consumers more choices on what channels they watch and how they access them.
I was reminded of how much things have changed a week ago when WMUR announced its parent company’s impasse with AT&T, which meant WMUR went dark for a few days for customers who receive the station through satellite provider DirectTV, including my local gym.
WMUR noted the affected customers could still watch the station for free over the air — if they could remember how to do that. Consumers these days are probably more adept at finding ways to stream video channels than they are at playing with a TV antenna. And battles over licensing fees between two corporations are likely to inspire more customers to learn how.
My wife and I are among the consumers who still pay a cable company to deliver internet, TV channels and a telephone line (one that we have never once used). But we’ve also added streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, both of which we can now access through Comcast’s Xfinity X1 system.
With so many customers cutting the cord, cable providers have realized they’d better form new partnerships to hold onto as many as they can. And companies like Comcast are making bigger bets with their high-speed broadband service to increase their market share.
Verizon Communications reported a third-quarter net gain of 30,000 Fios internet customers — and a loss of 67,000 Fios video customers, Bloomberg noted last week. The news was part of a report about how Verizon was abandoning its bundled packages in favor of letting consumers choose from a variety of video-channel packages and internet speeds without signing a contract.
Comcast has made a similar pivot, offering its X1 flex streaming device as part of internet services that don’t require a contract. The company added 1.4 million internet subscriptions in 2018 and was expected to hit that number for 2019, according to Kristie Fox, vice president of video and entertainment for the Philadephia-based company.
“About three years ago we made an intentional shift to broadband and internet as our hero product, and it’s really become the center of our company,” Fox said during an interview with the Union Leader in December. “Video continues to be a critical part of our offering, but we’ve really shifted to broadband.”
Meanwhile, we all need to learn a new language. I had to buy a Roku to use my Hulu. Got that?
I am getting Hulu for free as a special bonus from Spotify. But Hulu no longer supports the streaming device on my 8-year-old Sony Blu-Ray player so I had to buy that little Roku box. Otherwise I could only watch Hulu on my iPhone or iPad.
What’s Hulu? A streaming service that offers access to network TV shows on demand, plus some original content.
What’s Spotify? A music streaming service that offers access to millions of songs for about $10 a month. Apple, Amazon, Google and Tidal offer similar products.
What’s Roku? That’s a small digital device that connects to your TV and allows you to stream hundreds of video and music services, including YouTube and premium channels like HBO, with a subscription. (If you own a “smart” TV, you probably don’t need Roku.)
I was first introduced to Roku about a decade ago when my sons bought one shortly after Netflix starting offering streaming service over the internet as a free bonus along with its DVD by mail program. Who would want to watch movies on a computer?
Everyone, it turned out, when your TV becomes the computer screen.
If you have a hankering to name all 50 states on a wordless map, you can still find Uncle Gus on YouTube. But he’s forever trapped in the black-and-white world with Annette Funicello — and a rabbit-ear antenna.