The Cable Industry Wants to Remind You: You Really, Really Love Cable

"The Hole Saga" makes the case, quirkily, that TV and Internet access are good.

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“The Hole Saga” is a very fancy Web site — one loaded with so much video that it takes an eternity to load. It features four brief, odd skits, all of them aiming to be both comedic and creepy. Their protagonists have gaping holes in their torsos, and the plots involve stuff like mutant bunny rabbits and a cowboy who’s a little too emotionally dependent on his ventriloquism dummy.

What is it? Why, a campaign spearheaded by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. The holes represent the absence of cable service, and each of the skits pauses midway and allows you to either provide the character with cable or deny it. (Spoiler: The stories end happily if cable is involved, and badly if it isn’t.)

It’s tempting to assume that the ad is targeting cord cutters: people who watch all their TV on the Net and therefore don’t bother to pay for cable TV. Maybe it is, to some extent. In the no-cable mutant bunny scenario, for instance, the guy suffers a horrible fate because he didn’t catch the news alert about mutant bunnies on CNN.

But the campaign isn’t just about television. It’s promoting “cable” rather than “cable TV,” and two of the four chapters involve Internet access. (In one, a woman checks into a terrifying hotel with a giant fly as a bellhop because she didn’t read any hotel reviews on a TripAdvisor-like site.) In a quirky, soft-sell way, “The Hole Saga” makes the case for paying a substantial chunk of change each month in return for services delivered via coaxial cable.

Is it trying to discourage consumers from choosing alternate means of getting TV and Internet connectivity? Doesn’t seem like it. The holey people in each skit would be spared from disaster if they had satellite TV or DSL broadband, and the campaign doesn’t point out any of the actual arguments for choosing cable over alternative technologies.

As far as I can tell, the overarching goal is to bond, in a not terribly specific way, with people who have cable or might be candidates to get it. I get why that goal would be on the minds of the companies which make up the NCTA’s membership: It doesn’t seem unduly harsh to generalize that the industry doesn’t have a reputation for being lovable and consumer-friendly. But I still find it fascinating that the organization was moved to produce something this ambitious — the videos’ production values are downright lavish — to tell the world that cable is good.

I’m old enough that I remember when cable TV first started to become commonplace in the 1970s, and what a gigantic advance it was on the few fuzzy channels we got via VHF and UHF. Ditching dial-up for a cable modem, which I did the moment broadband became available in my city in 1998, was a comparable life-changing event. So my attitude towards cable as a technology remains positive, even if my interactions with my cable company (coughcoughComcast) aren’t always a joy.

But I wonder: Do folks in their twenties, who may not remember life without cable, need a reminder that it’s useful? And if “The Hole Saga” is aimed at them — as its general tone seems to suggest it is — will it have any positive impact on their perception of the service and the companies that provide it?