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Monday, September 6, 2010

Television in Abu Dhabi Sucks!

Saudi Version of the Oprah Winfrey Show
Summer refuses to leave here in the Gulf and there is not much to talk about as the potentially fatal climate precludes actually doing anything interesting and fun outside. Malls and bars, that's about it until the weather moderates, so I decided to bitch about what I have been doing too much of lately, watching TV.

I grew up and spent the majority of my adult life in the U.S. which has been the epicenter of television programming since Philo T. Farnsworth, an American scientist, first transmitted a scratchy image of Felix the Cat in 1927 to his "image dissector". The rest is history.

First Televised Image, Felix the Cat

It naturally follows that the U.S. would take the lead in producing and programming television shows, for better or for worse. I became accustomed to having access to many quality channels. Just before I moved to Abu Dhabi, I had a big screen Sony TV connected to a Dish Network 500 satellite system, This allowed me access to over 400 channels, many in High Definition. Multiple HBO, ESPN, Cinemax, Showtime, and  many others were available to me at the push of a remote button. I was in Hog Heaven. I even had Tivo!

In Abu Dhabi, I first stayed at a hotel that had limited access to English speaking channels. It seem exotic at  first but I quickly lost interest. Then I moved to a flat that had a satellite feed. I went to the local version of Walmart and purchased a Chinese satellite receiver that was insanely cheap and hooked it up  I got a few English channels but it was not enough. Much to my delight, a byproduct of this was that I stumbled upon some unscrambled Italian "sex chat" channels that got very gynecological at times. It was all free.

In my new apartment there is sadly no such potential for the satellite feed. The local communications monopoly has provided a glass fiber connection and that is it. So I had to subscribe to their service.  I decided to take a premium package at around $75 per month. It included sports channels, movie channels and English speaking channels. Well, the sports channels only have cricket and soccer and the movie channels only show 20 year old movies. There is no viewing guide so one ever knows what they are watching or what comes on next on what channel. Sometimes the same exact shows are repeated several times a day. The only saving grace is that adverts are thankfully rare.

So maybe I am spoiled with American television and my expectations are too high, but I am bummed. In Abu Dhabi, I have a state-of-the-art  glass fiber system delivering stale crap programming to my state-of-the-art digital flat screen television.  One thing I miss about the U.S. is the quality of programming. Here we get the scraps and have to pay a premium for it. I have to give credit though, the picture is absolutely crystal clear. At least that is done right. I get to see shitty programs in a flawless resolution!


Neil Roberts said...

Cricket, soccer.... perfect! :-)

Chuck said...

The only sport I follow much is pro (American) football. I don't watch a lot of TV so really one of my few reasons for keeping my pay TV service is the NFL channel. Go Packers! Hope you get to see some kind of NFL broadcast there...

CM said...

I subscribe to OSN, and it's pretty decent. Although it's a satellite, so that's a no go for you. There are new and recent movies and a lot of American TV (CSI, Glee, Daily Show, Colbert, etc) although they are usually a season behind. They also cary Fox Sports, so American Football does come on, and they even show games from CBS. I only wish they had ESPN! Go Skins! (and all the players on my multiple fantasy teams)!

Ace said...

I am on OSN thru E-Vision but I am still disappointed at the cost/offering ratio. Late shows, no OSG, the same thing being repeated several times per day, stale sports, etc. For what I pay here I could have the DirecTV or Dish Network top tier HDTV package back in the US.

I guess I was spoiled! As a Gulf Coast native I am a Saints fan...even when they were known as the 'Aints! and fans wore paper bags on their heads. Haha!