Pay to Watch a Presidential Debate? I Wanted To.

Would you pay a few bucks to watch a live event on TV?

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There was a story in Variety the other day about the pay-TV sector losing customer to cord-cutters, like me. It was an interesting read, and between that article and the Republican Debate, to me it’s like the TV people don’t get it, kind of like the record companies were late to the party in the shifting of how people would get their music. They like their business model, like the pay-TV money rolling in, but seem to be going too slow to adopt the change in content delivery, and soon they’ll be playing catch-up and blaming people who steal their content for their losing money.

Sometimes, though, stealing their content occurs because it’s the only option available at the time.

I know, you’re probably saying something like “How does cord-cutting relate to the Republican Debate that started the Donald Trump/Megyn Kelly kerfuffle?” Well, here was my experience of watching the debate.

There it was, the night of the debate, and like many a folk the “Will Donald Trump’s head explode as he actually tries to answer some questions?” curiosity was on my mind. Simple enough, let’s watch the debate! Problem. I’m a cord-cutter. No cable TV means no Fox News for me, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Solution? “I’m sure they are going to just be streaming it online.” So I head to the Fox News website, and they were streaming it online, sort of.

And here is where the TV folks just don’t seem to get it, at least for someone who would have actually be willing to pay a couple of bucks to watch the debate.

They were only streaming the debate through their “Fox News Go” service.

Fox News, like many a cable, and for that matter over the air, station, have these “Go” or “Watch” channels. I first saw them when they were popping up on my Apple TV, and at first thought “This is great! They are streaming their stuff online! Screw you cable company!” I quickly realized that to actually watch the streaming content you needed a cable or satellite TV subscription to “unlock” the channel. What is the fucking point of that? I know it has to do with some kind of financial arrangement with the cable channels, but people, I’m an adult, I would actually pay you a few bucks a month to watch your channels at will if you would let me.

Now let’s get back to the debate.

With no option to watch an actual Fox News feed of the exciting Republicans I resorted to my younger computer self of wondering if someone was pirating the signal out there for all to see.

Thank you Periscope.

I launch Periscope (A live streaming app that lets you watch what someone else is video-streaming with their device). It doesn’t take me long to find someone who is streaming the debate, I use Airplay to put the stream on my TV, and there I am, watching the debate without paying for it. Okay, the system isn’t perfect as I can’t figure out if there is a way to have my Apple TV view the stream in landscape mode, so I’m watching the debate sideways, but the audio was really the exciting stuff, and The Donald almost looked better at a 90 degree angle.

The thing is, as exciting as the debate was, or wasn’t, the secondary fun was the dude streaming it. Every now and then someone would walk in front of his phone so you would see them walk by the TV, and he would reply to people commenting to him on Periscope. As his viewer count topped 3,000 all around the world, in true entrepreneurial mode, during the commercial breaks he would show his Twitter handle to get more followers, and even more ambitious, he would show his Paypal information so that you could make a donation to his college book fund (or probably more likely his college beer fund). At last count with about half an hour left in the debate the dude reported he topped over $170 in Paypal donations. Not too bad for some dude who was just pointing his phone at the TV.

Did I feel bad for viewing the debate without paying for it? Kind of, but there wasn’t really an option other than planning ahead of time and reconnecting the cord, or hopping in my car and going to visit someone I knew with cable TV.

The thing is, living in the instant gratification world we live in now, much like renting a movie instantly on the Apple TV, if those “Now” and “Watch” channels somehow figured out to let me click a button, give them a few bucks, and let me live-stream events I would have sent Fox News, much to my dismay, a few bucks to watch the debate. Sure, paying for viewing the debate seems kind of wrong in the realm of learning about candidates to run our country, but I also understand that there is a cost to providing content, and am willing to pony up in the name of commerce.

This post has a lot of wondering for me, like if you would have sent the dude streaming the debate a few bucks, if you have stolen online content, if you are considering voting for Donald Trump, but in the end this is really about my actually wanting to pay to watch a live event on TV. With that, I wonder: Would you pay a few bucks to watch a live event on TV?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!