It has been about a year and a half since we ditched cable. I had to stop and think about how long it has been because honestly we haven’t looked back. Originally, it wasn’t a money decision so much as a “how much are we really watching all of these channels?” decision. It all just seemed wasteful and I noticed that I was spending more time managing my DVR than actually watching anything on it.
What the hell are all of these channels?
The last time I signed up for cable I remember how annoyed I was with the channel packages. There were roughly 3-4 specialty channels that I had to have that weren’t in the standard offering. Of course this meant that it would take 2-3 channel packages just to get these 3-4 channels. With each package coming with 15-20 other channels, it just seemed silly to add 50+ channels that I would never watch. Then, there’s that additional charge for HD, which in retrospect, may have pushed me over the edge. I knew right then that this would be the last time I ever signed up for cable TV. There had to be a better way.
At that point, it became a matter of when, not if, I would cut the cord. I was already using my Netflix subscription on my Xbox 360 and was flirting with the idea of a Hulu Plus subscription. (I couldn’t pull the trigger on Hulu because it seemed a bit redundant with my cable tv subscription.) I started to smell freedom once I subscribed to Amazon Prime which comes with Amazon Instant Video. I subscribed to Prime on its own with no consideration for my tv/movie habits (free two-day shipping is glorious). Once I started looking at everything I was subscribing regardless of my cable subscription status, it was hard to find anything substantial content that I would be missing. That was that.
Here’s my new TV package:
Netflix covers miscellaneous TV and kids’ TV. Hulu covers network TV. Amazon fills in the gaps and lets me subscribe to active shows that I would end up buying anyway. That replaces just about every use I had for my DVR. On the occasion that we do want/need to watch live TV, I grabbed an HD antenna ($50) for news, network live shows and major sporting events.
In searching for a cable-free liferaft, I considered an Apple TV, Boxee Box, and Roku. Roku won out for its simplicity of use and app support. Truth be told, out of personal preference I avoid the Apple infrastructure when I can. Had I had a beefy iTunes media library, the Apple TV would have been my choice. Roku’s recent interface overhaul and living room friendly (nearly invisible) hardware keep me around. We actually have 3 Roku players in our house. One for each TV.
My recent saving grace has been the Plex app that allows us to stream files effortlessly from our computer (much better than other software we had tried previously). It is a good alternative for when XBMC is not an option.
The next all-in-one TV problem I have to solve is those rare cases when I want to browse or stream content directly from a web browser. I’m keeping an eye on Steam Box rumors (aka living room friendly PCs) vs running an HDMI cable from my main desktop computer. This will double as an all-in-one living room gaming solution for me, but browsing my computer on my TV isn’t a high priority of mine. But hey, the more you can do from your couch, the cooler your couch becomes.
There are a few things that I still miss from time to time:
The lack of premium channels and PPV (read: HBO), sports not on network TV (read: College), my spotty reception of my local CBS affiliate (read: NFL), and all of these specialty apps that require a cable connection (HBO Go, ESPN on Xbox, etc) definitely leave an itch. It can be annoying, but all of those combined are not worth $100 a month to me. Plus, HBO is considering making their app universally available regardless of your cable subscription, and you can rest assured the others won’t be far behind.
My cable cutting math
Original Price for Cable TV (not including internet) – $100/month*
Services I was already paying for:
Netflix – $7.99/month
Amazon Prime – $7/month
Services I added after cutting:
Hulu Plus – $7.99/month
TV Show Subscriptions (3 shows, 4 episodes a month average) – $30/month
Streaming Movie Rentals (3 per month average) – $15/month
Total Cost Saved Per Month = $47
*No movie channels (HBO), no special sports packages
This year we are only a few content deals away from me making the recommendation that everyone should cut the cord. I couldn’t imagine making that a year ago to anyone that wasn’t a tinkerer and savvy enough to know where else you can find the content you want. If you aren’t a die hard sports fan, keep a close eye on things, do your research, crunch your budget numbers, and I think you’ll want to join the cord cutters sooner than you’d think.