It was not always the same story. The reason they can do this is lack of real competition. The reason competition is lacking is they bought off the political process. Believe it or not, there was a time when our representatives were moral enough to make that difficult if not impossible.
The current system still profits from the exalted image of the glory days of the U.S.A. For example, people in older, wiser countries, such as Italy, simply don't pay taxes if they can't afford it. It would be considered immoral to pay, and take food out of the mouths of your children. They simply can't throw everyone in jail. In another generation or two we'll figure it out.
Even if the exalted image of the glory days of the U.S.A. isn't real any more, you still have available more options than most people do in many other countries.
For a start, most of the people living in the US have more than 20 TV channels available for free, using a simple antenna.
In many countries you have less that ten, tipically 4 or 5.
You also have lots of other offers, for a reasonable price, such as Netflix, Hulu+, Vudu or Amazon.
For those outside of the US, the only option is to pay extra cash and use a VPN, from almost everywhere to the US.
And even like this, you need to have some friends in the US, to get you iTunes card codes, a real address to get stuff and so on.
As an alternative there are a few companies in the US that can take care of a few of these details for you. For a price of course.
Even so, for many of those that dont live in the US, it makes sense to pay for all of this.
One reason is that local offer of TV series for instance, doesnt have the original US soundtrack, and is exhibited sometimes a year later, and the local price is higher.
I insist that you are free to purchase, only if you want to.
Let me add, that like you, i dont fancy this kind of situation ...