Re: Planets Money!

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and today I caught up on one of my favorite NPR programs, Planet Money. They had three great and diverse episodes this past week or so that I wanted to share, give a little synopsis and opinion of, and perhaps entice readers to check out!

The Secret History of Your Cable Bill

Why must we buy hundreds of channels when we only use a dozen? The answer is a long and complicated history of power dynamics and compromise between cable layers and service providers, and the channels themselves, that results in these giant bundles.

The detailing of the changing in television broadcast services over the decades was also fascinating to hear. The older of the pair that present this episode talks about remembering the times of just a few channels being broadcast over airwaves, followed by the introduction of cables into homes and beyond.

There were also some thoughts as to whether lack of a-la-carte channels is explicitly a bad thing for consumers. Some more detail on this would have been appreciated, because their conclusion seems to go against other, similar ideas in other industries.

I enjoyed the ending punchline, which applies to me. The younger generation is less interested in the full spectrum of television and gets much of their entertainment online. I enjoy podcasts, for example, and YouTube videos, and watch them much more than television. It’ll be interesting to see how things change going forward because of this trend!

The Invisible Plumbing of Our Economy

Why does it take days to transfer money from me to you? Why can’t this happen over the weekend? Surely this is done by computer, and surely computers don’t need weekend vacations. So what’s the deal?

Turns out the system that transfers our money used to be way more complicated, with bags of checks being passed around between banks. And now it’s less complicated, and digital, but 1970s speed digital.

Planet Money also compares our system to the UK’s and shows how a man can transfer ten quid to his daughter in a matter of seconds.

Fun mention of Georgia Tech and an old programming language within! Similarly funny were the attempts to record calls to Amazon and Chase customer service.

The Real Economy of Fantasy Sports

This episode is told in part by, and laced throughout with a tale of, a wife frustrated with her husband’s fixation with fantasy football. I wasn’t a fan of this continuous frustration with a person’s hobby passion, especially when they took so long to show the egregious downside of his behavior. But beyond that, this episode gave a lot of good information.

For one, as someone who hasn’t touched a fantasy sport ever, it was great to get a run-down of the basics, the appeal, and the types of people who play. I learned some of the culture and the jargon and, since this is an economics podcast, some of the small industries that have cropped up in response to this popularity.

People actually take out insurance against their star players being injured, and one man interviewed is hired to settle disagreements between league members. Shorter, week-long fantasy leagues exist now to get quicker turnarounds on bets and wise choices. Big money changes hands.

If nothing else, it was great to get a crash course in this popular activity. Especially after just the day before talking with someone who was just getting into it!

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