Cutting The Cable

Ten years ago, people watched television shows on their television and had to use cable, satellite, or an antenna (non-HD signal) to do so.

In 2012, people are watching shows on their TVs, tablets, smartphones, and laptops. They are still using cable, satellite, and antennas (HD signal). In addition people are also using Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and other online sources to consume content.

Since there are so many ways to watch television there is a growing trend of people "cutting the cable" and relying on the internet and digital antennas as an alternative to expensive cable and satellite bills.

Earlier this year I interviewed a college student, my dad, and a family friend about their experience with "cutting the cable". I have also included my answers to each question.

Transient

When did you cut the cable and why?

Luke:
We live in an apartment that is on campus and our cable has been broken for sometime now. We never really "cut the cable" we just have no reason to get around to getting it fixed since we never use it.

Dan:
Approximately 6 months ago. I was disgusted with the $180.00 monthly cost of cable.

Holly:
Well, first off, we were signed up for a bundle from Charter such that our internet, cable, and phone service were all Charter based. I guess it was about a year ago that I got fed up with all of the telemarketing calls. We were paying $30 per month for the phone service and it seemed that most of the calls we received were junk calls, that is, calls from people trying to sell us something. We also felt we were watching too much TV thoughtlessly. We would sit down on the couch and watch whatever was on rather than decide ahead of time, so we tended to watch programs we wouldn't choose to spend our time on if we had thought it out. Since we have cell phones, a Google voice number, and Netflix streaming through the internet, the only service we really needed was the internet.

Mike:
My wife and I made a conscious choice when we got married to not have cable or a television in our home. We made this choice so we could focus more on relationships and experiences. We are both so busy that I don't think that the television would get much use.

What has taken it's place? (Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Reading, Exercise)

Luke:
We watch netflix, and stream movies from the internet.

Dan:
Local over the air channels and Netflix for TV watching. More reading and face to face socializing.

Holly:
We cut down to receiving just the internet service via our cable company. Since then we have used Netflix streaming with great satisfaction to provide most of our TV entertainment. They have quite a few shows for elementary age children that our eleven-year-old enjoys watching plus we all have settled on some TV series that we like watching together. Another entertainment change since we've cut the cable line has been more time playing computer games and Wii games, mostly individually but also as a family. A big plus for me has been my own increase in exercise. I still have to plan ahead to make sure I get it done, but I look forward to walking up and down the stairs and around the house while watching Netflix or PBS shows on my iPad. So far my family has been very patient with me as I walk and giggle or exclaim (I am rather expressive).

Mike:
We use Netfix and Hulu. We prefer Netflix to Hulu becaues there are no ads on Netflix.

What does your entertainment set up look like now?

Luke:
Entertainment include movies, Redbox, and anything else where we can watch TV/Movies online

Dan:
Not much different than before. I have an HD antenna in the garage attic area connected to my 2 TV's and a ROKU box at both TV's

Holly:
We still have our big television in our living room. We have occasionally rented a movie from Amazon.com or watched Hulu shows by connecting a laptop to the living room TV. Normally however, we stick to the TV shows we have picked out on Netflix, using the Wii to send them to the television.

Mike:
We use our laptops or the iPad to watch shows. We use to rent movies from Redbox but we found that we would forget to return them and it would end up costing us a few bucks a movie so we just rent movies on iTunes when they are not available on Netflix.

How do you handle live events? (sports, award shows, etc.)

Luke:
Live events, football games, etc are usually at a friends house or Buffalo Wild Wings.

Dan:
If they are not on the local channels we don't get them. We try not to make TV the most important thing in our day. There is always better alternatives like reading, playing games and there is always the Internet.

Holly:
As you know, our big test came on Super Bowl Sunday. With our son's youth group coming to our house for the Super Bowl, he figured out how to connect the digital antenna and receiver we had purchased a couple of years earlier but had never tried out. It turned out it didn't require any major installation. Happily, the event went smoothly.

We have been pleasantly surprised by how many channels are available and how clearly they come in. We have left the antenna attached, but we still tend to choose Netflix streaming for most of our TV viewing.

Mike:
The only live events that we care about are football games and World Cup Soccer. We typically watch games at someone else's house.

How much money are you saving since you cut the cable?

Luke:
Money saved is $0, cable is free on campus and it's free to get it fixed. Just no reason to have it fixed. It doesn't bother any of us to not have cable.

Dan:
After an initial investment of approximately $250.00 for the antenna and Roku boxes, I am saving around $100.00 a month.

Holly:
I think we are saving about $80 per month or so. We now spend $62 on high speed internet service including fees and taxes.

Mike:
None. We technially get cable included with our rent and we just choose not to use it. We probably spend no more than $20 in a given month on entertainment (Netflix, iTunes movie rentals).

What do you miss not having cable/ satellite?

Dan:
Not much. I grew up without a lot of channel choices on TV. It took a little getting used to not having hundreds of channels, most I didn't watch anyhow. I figured the $100.00 a month could go to better activities.

Holly:
By getting rid of cable we gave up DVR ability. In order to watch a broadcasted show at a later time, we would have to connect the TV to the VCR, but we have not tried that yet. As I said, Netflix streaming has been our primary viewing option and we can watch these shows anytime.

The only other thing we have missed has been the ability to watch sports at home. However, now that the digital antenna has been set up, that should no longer be a problem, at least with local teams. And my husband and I have enjoyed going to the local sports bars together a time or two to watch a game which we never did before.

Mike:
The only thing I miss about having cable is not being able to watch sports highlights on ESPN, but it is easy enough to find them on NFL.com or other websites.

What advice would you give someone who is considering cutting the cable?

Luke:
You feel more free from the TV and not tied down to be home at 8pm to watch the show you have to get to.

Dan:
Try it, you might discover some new things about yourself and your family. There are a number of options available so don't feel like it's all or nothing.

Holly:
We have no regrets. Plenty of viewing is available via the internet, even without Netflix. Hulu is one service that has a variety of shows for free, as do PBS and the major networks. (Do a search for “watch full episodes of __” your favorite shows to see if they are available). If you need more selection, Hulu Plus and Netflix both offer streaming for $8 per month. Of course, simply giving up TV is a good option, too, and certainly the cheapest.

The greatest thing is the lack of commercials. If I did the math right, the average child in the U.S. loses about a week per year watching commercials (20,000 30-second commercials per year). In our family we now have a hard time handling all those interruptions when we watch regular TV.

Before cutting the cord, check out the selection available online and via TV broadcasts. See if the digital antenna will work for you (reception varies based on where you live). If you like having cable, but don’t want to pay so much, talk to your cable provider; they have the ability and often the willingness to lower your costs without cutting service.

Mike:
I would tell people that they should try cutting the cable. If after a couple months you don't like it you can always get it again. If you find you don't miss it you will end up saving a considerable amount of money and perhaps find time for other activities.


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