Cutting the Cord

We finally did it. Our house no longer has a cable subscription (no satellite either). I’ve mentioned the possibility of abandoning my cable subscription in the past, but could never bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to miss any Mariners games. We’re a couple weeks into this new cable-free existence and the world has (not surprisingly) not ended.

This doesn’t mean we’ve stopped watching shows and movies at our house. With the exception of Mariners games, virtually everything we watched previously is available on demand in some form.
Doctor Who is the only show I watch in the current season. It’s available on demand via Zune on the Xbox, iTunes, or Amazon Prime the day after it airs on BBC America. Many television shows are available this way.

Depending on which option you choose, a season may cost about $20 or $1.99 an episode. That’s not free, but you could pay for quite a few shows on demand before you hit the $100 per month the average cable subscriber pays. If you pay for Amazon Prime, which is essentially pre-paid 2-day shipping from Amazon, you also get a fairly impressive library of streaming video you can watch as part of the package.

Netflix was already the primary source of entertainment for our kids, with everything from Blue’s Clues to kids movies on demand. For a wider selection, here again iTunes and Amazon Prime offer options.
For the Mariners games, I’ve started listening to the AM radio broadcast, which has better announcers than the TV anyway. I frequently have MLB.com Gameday on my computer, so I’m not missing much.

The Xbox is now our cable box, for everything but Amazon Prime. I’m considering getting a Roku to handle Amazon Prime, since that’s a bit more elegant than connecting my computer via an HDMI cable, but I haven’t actually made the jump yet since the net result of not having Amazon Prime connected all the time is we don’t watch it. And it’s not like I really need to find more excuses to watch television.

If you are considering cutting the cable too, Roku is definitely the most complete integration of services at this point, though I still prefer my Xbox 360 to just about any other set top box solution. I will say that ditching cable or satellite television is probably still not an option for serious sports fans. The ESPN service on Xbox Live keeps adding more college games, but it’s unlikely to have the major pro sports anytime soon. I long for the day when MLB.tv stops doing a blackout of local games – I’d even pay extra if it meant I could watch Mariners games in Seattle, instead of needing to leave the state to see the home team.

Now the question is – can we live without those DVDs?

How about you, are you still watching cable? Did you cut the cord? What are your favorite online video services?

24 thoughts on “Cutting the Cord

  1. Hi Jake.  Thanks for writing this.  I’d love to do this – but I”m in Canada and our NetFlix … well… kinda sucks (mostly due to licensing issues between the US and Canada, which seems silly to me in this day and age, but persists, nonetheless – with music too).

    Any suggestions for Canadians who want to do what you’ve done?  Amazon doesn’t work for us in quite the same way either, unfortunately.

    All the best, — Jodi (http://www.voiceoversandvocals.com/)

  2. What would a gal need to get off Cable completely? I have a Tivo box (older generation, so not a whole heck of space), A Sony Bravia (also older generation but does have HDMI input, a PC VGA hookup, and a faulty port on the TV end to take the sound signal out from my Macbook Pro). I enjoy all the higher function non-commercial TV stations like HBO, Showtime etc. as well as BBC America and regular channels for stuff like Fringe. Is there a decently priced package that will start saving me $$ fast? I’m shelling out close to $200.00 to the Cable Co. for phone/TV and internet.

    Thanks fin advance for any input that can get me out from under the claws of the Big Bad Cable Co.

  3. addendum:
    I don’t want to get an X-Box and I do have a 4 yr old Wii I barely use if that can be converted somehow.

    Thx again

  4. cool post, jake. my sis is doing the same formula, roku, netflicks, and dvd’s. she’s a huge angel fan and lives with the mlb gameday.

    i am not as chaste. i need my local teams and vin scully so i have direct tv. i so agree that if mlb.tv would charge a decent premium i would do the same.

    big fan of your post. hope all is well.

    joe in la

  5. Thanks Jake, Im a fan of your excellent work.
    the HDTV formula 1 and champions league soccer are still keepers for my cable service

  6. There’s always PlayOn: http://www.playon.tv/playon . That will bring a host of other content to xbox’s and wii’s and so forth.  One area you didn’t touch on was watching/recording free over the air (OTA) programming.  Pick up a ATSC tuner like an HDHR: http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/atsc/ .  That way you get locals in really good HD, way better than cable, satellite, fios etc.  It’s the raw HD feed not some compressed junk the subscription services push down the line.  You can use Windows Media Center with your xbox too. 

  7. Great to hear you’ve cut the cord.  I went OTA TV about a year ago and have withdrawn from cable very well. I get 42 channels in the evenings so there’s plenty to watch.  I do watch NCAAF on my computer on watchESPN.com.  You can watch up to 4 games at once. With a TV tuner(USB), I can record and watch later.

  8. You still need cable or some other Internet connection to get content into your house, so you can’t completely give it up. Where I live, all other Internet providers are too slow. 

    Showtime has a bunch of their programming on Amazon Prime. BBC America shows are available through Amazon, Xbox Live, and iTunes. You may be able to get some of your shows through Hulu as well. My suggestion would be to start cutting features and see what you can really live without. 

  9. I tried PlayOn and then decided I couldn’t stand their marketing practices. I was getting 5 emails a week with conflicting deals for the same thing.

    ATSC works, but there’s not much worth watching on OTA here. For instance, I have to have cable or satellite to get Mariners games as far as I know.

  10. I don’t much like PlayOn either.  They down right hosed me in the past.  Not once but twice!  It’s awesome when you buy a life-time subscription as an early adopter and then they decide to renege and start charging a subscription…  Or, when one buys a gift subscription that is not redeemable when trying to be redeemed 6 months later.  Their practices are borderline illegal imo.

    Getting sports is tough.  The OTA stuff is only good for the sit-coms and local news and some sports.  It’s excellent considering it’s free.  I know there is Veetle.com not sure of its legality but I’ve watched games there before.    

    The golden days of ClearQAM are gone in most areas.  

  11. Wii has crappy netflix though.  Only SD, if you’re ok with that then it’s fine.  Xbox, Roku and Playstation are much better… 

  12. I think most of the watchESPN.com games are what is being shown on the ESPN Xbox 360 service as well. It would be great if they’d start including professional services in their offering.

  13. I’m confused now, sorry, this is all new to me. Is the Roku something that replaces a Tivo box? If not, what does it do for me. If I wanted to give up all the higher HD cable channels and HBO/Showtime, can the Roku somehow replace the need for those channels in a more cost effective way than paying the Cable company directly?

    Where can I read up on all of this so I don’t bug you with more questions?

    Thanks a bunch,

    Dorit

  14. I cut the cord, or dish, about 6 years ago. Last Christmas my wife bought me a Digital Entertainer Live (EVA 2000) box. That is how we watch many of our shows now. It is the precursor to a Roku, but it has many features the Roku does not. For instance, it comes with a trial of Play-On. You get full access to the Play-On service for two years, then it drops you down to a basic package. If you like it, a lifetime subscription is about $80. Not a bad deal when you think about it. If you don’t care for their paid version, you can freely download many user created scripts to watch websites or even some streaming TV channels. Play-On even has partnered with Revision 3 to create a script for all shows available on their website. You can also use it to stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD, or even media stored on your personal computer.

  15. So when you say cut the cable you only mean the tv shows, not the internet feed. That’s what I have done. I would not want to go back to ATT just to get DSL. Magic Jack and Virgin Mobile have virtually eliminated my phone bill. I also have Roku and Apple TV and am waiting for Google TV to be ready for prime time.

  16. Great post Jake. I’ve been thinking about cutting out cable for a while and you certainly make a great case for doing so.

  17. Roku was the first internet appliance I purchased and still the best thing out there for the price.  I had a pc wired to my stereo for 10 years and the Roku let me do away with that for streaming radio.  I never sprung for cable but quickly got hooked on Netflix streaming.  Most Bluray players are all you need for netflix streaming but Roku does nearly everything else as well.  My internet service was out for two days and I had to read a book.  Also dropped Netflix dvd’s for the time being at least.

  18. I had my cable down the barest minimum, and it was going up often (it was $12.95, then $13+something and when they shot up to $16+something for JUST LOCAL programming, I cancelled.
    I got a HD converter box on my old analog TV, and rabbit ears.
    My father-in-law told us about a deal for a new TV (with HD tuner and flat panel display) at Menards, with a Menards rebate, so my wife snuck over there and got it.
    I have since gotten an antenna to get better signals, but it is behind the bushes outside. I just need to run the cable to the attic, and put it up there (and see how well it working in the attic). It is a unidirectional, and seems pretty good (better when I put it higher, so the attic should be good; I’m just not sure if it will be good inside).

    We also watch a little streaming, Hulu mostly, and occasionally connect the laptop to the TV.

  19. I cut the cable 1 year ago after watching the bill rise from $40 to $72 for basic cable service within a 9 year time span and after numerous cable tv blackouts  due to renegotiated term fee’s between my cable tv provider and content program providers; i.e., YES Network (Yankee’s.)  I’ve kept cable Internet which I feel is totally overpriced but the alternatives are limited.  I own a digital TV so went and purchased an OTA antenna for local programming, watch Hulu on the computer and my collection of DVDs.  I changed my tv viewing habits, lowered my monthly expense and have found I’m much happier for cutting the cord.  My feeling, the cable TV service provider business model is out dated and needs to change from a forced offer of channels you don’t want in their available bundle package to one of customer selection of only those channels you desire, at a reasonable cost per month.  This is only TV (entertainment) we are talking about here and not a necessity.  Problem is, the Cable TV service providers now have a Utility mindset like the Verizon and telephone companies they competed against years ago.  Another typical example of the pervasive corporate greed that permeates this country.  The only way cable tv service providers will change their business model is by loosing customers in mass numbers, hence $$$ to their bottomline.   It is refreshing to read that other’s have come to the same conclusion I reached 1 year ago.  Keep up the good work Jake…this article really hit the core of humanity and technology.

  20. I’m a really big sports fan, so I don’t think I will ever
    cut the cord on my DISH satellite. I actually don’t mind having DISH at all.
    That isn’t because I’m a customer or employee with them; it is because they
    give me my money worth. A lot of you are probably like how? That is easy!
    DISH offers the Sling adapter, which allows you to watch LIVE TV everywhere you
    go. So no matter where I am, if there is a game on I can watch it LIVE from my
    phone or computer. I can even watch DVR Recordings with the Sling adapter on my
    phone or computer. It is the best and it is free right now after rebate! The
    other thing I have is for movies and that is the Blockbuster Movie Pass. It is
    free up to a year for new customers to DISH and it allows you to stream on
    demand titles, get movies through the mail and get 20 extra movie channels from
    DISH. I get best of both worlds all on one bill and for cheaper than any other
    company! You have to check it out today with DISH and stop getting more for
    less. Don’t cut the DISH cord until you try all these amazing deals!

  21. I agree. We cut our cord a few months ago. Mostly because of the poor quality that UVerse gave us. Luckily, many of the nation broadcasters like ABC has their shows “on-demand”. Netflix has really turned me off. They don’t add frequently. From week-to-week, the new releases seem fairly static.

    For us, it’s either iTunes or RedBox, which does a pretty good job. Plus, with our Samsung smart TV’s, we get our news and sports easily.

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