November 8, 2011

Cutting The Cable

The other day I sat down on the couch and flipped through easily 400 channels and there was nothing - absolutely nothing - to watch. Or, rather, nothing I wanted to waste my time on. So I flipped on my Wii, logged into Netflix and watched something there instead. Which got me thinking...we could totally cancel our cable subscription and, most likely, never know the difference.

We have the aforementioned Netflix subscription, an Amazon Prime membership and Hulu Plus so we've got a bit streaming entertainment potential. But while the glory of Netflix is easy to capture in our living room, Amazon's video streaming for Prime members and Hulu aren't quite that handy. Owen and I headed to the local big box store that I loathe and picked up a little device called Roku. It sounds like sushi but it's not. It's basically a hockey puck sized thing that sits next to your TV and streams movies and TV from about 300 different sources. Cool. I plugged it in and I was good to go.

So we're trying a cable-avoidance campaign. So far, we've caught the latest episodes of House and Grey's Anatomy, rediscovered The Daily Show (which I could never remember to DVR) and are halfway through the all-too-brief first season of The Walking Dead. When they're allowed to watch TV, the kids are perfectly happy with cheesy old cartoons or shows we actually own and watch courtesy of Apple TV.

But I can see chaos brewing ahead. There's no good way of getting to CSI (which sucks, I know, but we're still watching) and Survivor. Though we don't watch local news, I can see a definite need for the ability to do so. One day the kids are going to ask to watch something from our cable's on-demand library and the answer won't be taken well. And frankly the selection on all of our options is limited. Right now, there's no single solution to get all the entertainment you want from one source.

That said, I feel victimized by my cable company and wouldn't mind kicking them to the curb. I'll let you know how the experiment goes.

How do you consume entertainment? And how has technology changed that?

Posted by Chris at November 8, 2011 7:17 AM

My husband and I primarily watch stuff via Netflix. We watch streaming when available, but we get DVDs too. Although we have had a Dexter disc since the end of September that we haven't made it through yet. When we actually watch cable, it is usually HGTV or DIY. The kids love to watch t.v., but I'd say they are 50/50 between watching Netflix or cable. I think we should get rid of cable, now that I think of it. We aren't big t.v. viewers (no DVR) because it isn't convenient.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 8, 2011 8:03 AM

We did this a few months ago. I bought a Roku with plans on cutting the cable and putting up an antenna to get the local channels. The downstairs TV has access to streaming stuff through XBox live. However, when I called DISH to cancel, they kept offering me better and better offers, and finally they gave me all the local channels plus History, HGTV, Discover, Comedy Central, and a few others for $14.99 a month. At that price, the payback on putting an antenna on the roof is over 2 years - so I went with it.

I have enough stuff queued up on Netflix and Hulu to last years. We are in season 4 of Friday Night Lights right now - highly recommended if you haven't seen it.

Posted by: COD at November 8, 2011 8:39 AM

We cancelled our cable a few years ago, and now stream Netflix thru our will. Our kids are falling in love with shows like The A Team (we've decided that we should go as the A team for halloween next year) and Voltron. Seriously? I used to LOVE those shows! We watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb too - I don't know why anyone would NOT watch P & F... They can watch cable at grandma's house, but most of the time, they're playing outside there... we don't miss it at all. Sure, there is an adjustment, but you can find just about anything you want on line.
We actually get quite a few cool channels with our antenna too - I've been watching I Spy and Dragnet a lot lately. TV was so good back then!! :)

Posted by: Kim at November 8, 2011 8:58 AM

We had a very lengthy chat about getting rid of it altogether but the fact is: we put a satellite in the ground so we could have NFL Sunday Ticket. So the TV stations stay. We do only Netflix dvds - 2 at a time - and rip them to a server. At one point, we were doing the streaming thing but we sort of got tired of its ease and as an easy out for dealing with a whiny kid. So now, we just broke through that hurdle and told the kid to go play. I am ok with this. He's ;earning to be patient and realizing not everything is "On demand". I think it'll probably change someday, as technology is evolving and we are subject to its whims, but for now it works.

Posted by: Claire at November 8, 2011 9:05 AM

I haven't had cable in over four years and haven't missed it one bit. As long as I don't mind waiting a week to see the latest episode, I've been able to watch every show I've wanted to for free on my laptop. Unfortunately Kansas basketball season is coming up and I do miss the ability to watch the games!

Posted by: Heather at November 8, 2011 9:27 AM

be thankful none of you live in Canada! I am paying roughly $80 a month for about 70 or so channels through cable, and that is with a discount already!! Our netflix here is nowhere as near good as in the US, I used to have Dishnetwork thru my illegal sat dish (gasp!) but that is no longer working.
But TV unfortunately is a necessary evil right now for me and the kids

Posted by: @charmedone17 at November 8, 2011 10:01 AM

be thankful none of you live in Canada! I am paying roughly $80 a month for about 70 or so channels through cable, and that is with a discount already!! Our netflix here is nowhere as near good as in the US, I used to have Dishnetwork thru my illegal sat dish (gasp!) but that is no longer working.
But TV unfortunately is a necessary evil right now for me and the kids

Posted by: @charmedone17 at November 8, 2011 10:02 AM

We haven't had cable in about 10 years. We have a 4 y.o. and an 11 y.o. None of us have missed it. The kids get their Animal Planet fix at Grandma's once every couple of months and my husband and I pretty much stream everything. We don't mind waiting a week to watch new episodes, either. The nice thing is that we don't add to the entertainment time-suck by watching endless shows on cable. (Now if we could only tear our eyes away from the internet more often!)

Posted by: Tara at November 8, 2011 10:08 AM

We haven't had cable or satellite for well over a couple years now and haven't missed it. We stream Netflix and Hulu through my husband's PS3 (which we use for that and to watch Bluray movies, but he doesn't have any games), and we also have a digital antenna that picks up all the local stations.

My husband just upgraded ours from actual bunny ears to a flat one which he bought at that Big Box store for a little under $100 and so far we haven't had any skipping of signals with this new one the way we did with the other. My kids get PBS (which is the only channel we let them watch), and the other affiliate channels come through so we can get the local news and watch PBS shows live.

Posted by: Heather @CritterChronicles at November 8, 2011 10:19 AM

My husband is trying to convince me we should cancel our cable. We do watch a lot of our shows via online methods, and now that you mention it, I have Amazon Prime too. Plus, Comcast just raised my bill $20 per month for no particular reason after raising it in the spring as well. I'm at least going to cut back on the level of service we have.

I'll be curious to hear how your experiment goes.

Posted by: Hillary at November 8, 2011 10:52 AM

Well, I AM in Canada, and we haven't had cable for nearly 10 years. At this point, any time I watch TV at friends/relatives I can't see what the appeal is anymore. Local news is the internet. Shows we WANT to watch we wait for the DVDs. We have an antenna that gets us CTV which we use for popular shows and sports or any event like the Olympics or Royal Wedding or whatnot. What little else I actually want is available via torrent, if it's worth the bother.

I have not missed TV in forever. But then, I have no kids, so perhaps that makes some kind of difference WRT watching TV. Somehow though, I doubt if I had a kid tomorrow I'd suddenly want cable. *shrug*

Posted by: Martin at November 8, 2011 11:44 AM

We canceled our cable about 5 months ago. We have an Apple TV (two, actually), so we watch Netflix through that. We also use iTunes for Mythbusters and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We don't have Hulu but we'd like to. I am waiting to see whether Apple will add it to the Apple TV menu as rumored. We can always stream Hulu and Amazon Prime with our laptops, but Netflix keeps the kids happy. When our DVD player dies, we'll get a Blu-Ray that streams the Amazon videos. I don't watch a lot of TV, and not having cable saves us $100 a month.

Posted by: Brooke at November 8, 2011 11:52 AM

Yes! Victimized is the perfect word for how I feel I've been treated by my cable company. I, too, have considered going the Roku route, but the problem is that my husband primarily uses TV to watch sports, which you just can't get live except through cable. So for now, we're stuck, but I truly hate it.

Posted by: Catherine at November 8, 2011 12:16 PM

We have had DirecTv for about 6 years now...Love it! BUT - I am considering switching to FIOS... their 2 year deal would be a significant savings for me. My husband is a weather buff - so I don't think we could get rid of local channels or the weather channel :)

Posted by: Sue R at November 8, 2011 1:25 PM

Being in Canada, we don't have quite as many options as you do, but we do get our fair share of entertainment from various sources. Netflix streaming, Zip (aka Netflix mailed DVDS for Canucks), downloads and basic cable. Basic cable because, like you, we were finding that even with hundreds of channels there was still nothing on, so we downgraded. In fact, if we could find a reliable source for watching hockey and football we would get rid of cable entirely. I think cable is on the endangered species list these days and the cable companies know it and are shaking in their boots.

Posted by: Procrastamom at November 8, 2011 1:33 PM

For CBS shows, grab a laptop and stream after the kiddies are asleep. is great and ABC has a great ipad app too with the last 4 episodes of all their shows.

Posted by: Jules at November 8, 2011 2:16 PM

We bought a Roku back in the spring and it paid for itself in the first month just with the children's programming we were able to access for the kids.

We're thisclose to cutting the cable back quite a bit. The only thing holding us back are the few channels we do watch that are not part of basic and not readily available for streaming. Yet.

Posted by: jen at November 8, 2011 2:38 PM

We don't have cable (or TV). We stream Netflix for the kids and I use free hulu for my tv shows. So far, it works out for us. The kids are little and we have a tiny house.

Posted by: bouncy at November 8, 2011 3:04 PM

We dropped cable tv almost 2 years ago and don't miss it. My kids (16 and 14) don't watch tv but if there is something they really want to see they can usually find it online. We do have Netflix streaming but gave up the DVD via mail when they raised prices. If there is a must-see show we will buy the season on iTunes. For watching the news on local channels we have rabbit ears.

Posted by: Mary at November 8, 2011 3:23 PM

We agree. Apparently, we are into S&M. We feel victimized by our cable company, and have looked into Dish and others . . .

But the fact is?



Hockey, F1 racing, rugby, curling, and all things skiing.

Posted by: Mindy at November 8, 2011 6:46 PM

I was actually looking into a Roku yesterday. We stream tons of stuff via Netflix, I also have Amazon Prime. Actual TV we have satellite, which we would probably cancel if not or the roommate who watches it all the time. But we ourselves only watch maybe an hour or two o TV a week.

Posted by: Deb at November 9, 2011 1:02 AM

I cancelled our cable and access Netflix through our Wii and hulu through my laptop.

The kids haven't noticed a difference. They like being able to watch episode after episode.

I miss my "cooking shows" (the ones that aren't available yet) but for the most part haven't noticed a difference in our consumption.

Posted by: Emily at November 9, 2011 11:47 AM

I made a realization a couple of years ago. We are probably 10 or 15 years away from being able to watch any and all live sports we want over the Internet. Therefore, I'm not getting rid of my DirecTV. Since I'm going to continue to pay them, I ordered two DVRs through them and just record everything we like and watch it when we want to. Half of our "season pass" is kid shows and the kids know how to work the DVR by themselves. They don't even know what channel their shows are on.

I also decided that I would avoid the AppleTV, Roku, Hulu, GoogleTV, etc that are fun options because I'm already paying enough through DirecTV. We do Netflix sporadically but when we get busy we put it on hold (like now). Not enough new titles to warrant a monthly fee.

I think in 20 years we'll have it all together, but I don't think it'll be any cheaper than it is today, paying everyone separately.

Posted by: Brad at November 9, 2011 11:57 AM

Well I'm in Canada so my Netflix is not nearly as entertaining as the one you have access too and I have a 1 & 3 year old so tv is not a big player in their lives (don't get me wrong the 3 y.o watchs Dora and Diego, but like your kids they are content to watch what we own or can access via netflix). We stream any tv show we're interested in and have dropped the ones we can't stream. But we still have an on again off again relationship with our cable company due to hockey season.

Posted by: jackie at November 9, 2011 1:02 PM

I find this funny. I did the exact oppisite. I canceled all the rest, but kept cable.

Posted by: Issa at November 9, 2011 3:48 PM

Having to choose between cable and internet service for financial reasons, I chose the internet. Any movies or tv shows my son watches are on purchased dvds (the $5 bin, lol), downloaded and burned onto dvd or very occasionally streamed from netflix on my netbook. I do the same. Saves me from wasting time with junk tv (and there is so much of it - some of the stuff on Treehouse is just 'what the hell are they smoking?' scary). Netflix is new to us (I'm only 2 weeks into the free month trial) and we'll probably keep it. Also, really enjoy American Pickers (thanks).

Posted by: Jen at November 12, 2011 8:32 AM

Interesting. Especially the comments. We live in China, as expats. The shows we want to watch are not available on cable here. What I do is wait until my show is for sale on iTunes. We watch it on Apple TV. Done. It would be insanely expensive, if we actually watched more than one show a season. But we're not big TV people. At all.

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Posted by: Lancel at November 18, 2011 3:48 AM