A while back I said goodbye to our cable provider. This was not something I saw coming in advance. I’d read an article or two about how easy it was to live without cable service and still see nearly all of the quality programming on TV right now but I was suspicious. I’m pretty certain I consume more TV than the average viewer. How could I live without instant access to 100+ channels? Once I was through working and staying home with Carolina full time, there was no doubt I was going to need cable, maybe even a more comprehensive package than before.
One afternoon, while scrolling through our 100+ channels, something dawned on me. I only actually watch about 5 different stations with any sort of regularity. And when I watch said channels, I’m really only watching a few shows on each one. Especially during the day when the only thing on is reruns of shows I love but have already seen time and again. These thoughts stuck with me for a while and proved themselves more and more true. I figured that I only watched four channels more than once a month. Some people who find themselves in this situation surely say “there’s nothing on TV, we need more options, more channels” but I wasn’t particularly unsatisfied with what was on, jut with how much I was paying for it. All those extra channels just produce more crap that I’m not interested in watching. This was worth $80 a month?
That’s when I got a well timed e-mail from Netflix. A free trial for returning members. I’d heard good things about House Of Cards, an original series starring Kevin Spacey that they were releasing around that time, plus they were about to make Arrested Development’s long rumored fourth season a reality so I figured, why not? Linn and I dived in and loved it. Here were 80% of the syndicated shows we watched during the day plus plenty of shows that can’t be found anywhere but the most exotic (read: expensive) cable channels or long out of print DVDs. We just saw the movies that were available as a bonus. We didn’t change the input on our TV to cable for more than three weeks. I hooked up the antenna I had in storage and found that we get a great signal on all of the broadcast channels, called the cable company and never looked back. I think a lot of people don’t realize that after the “digital switch” a few years back, all of the broadcast channels are still absolutely free, and they’re broadcast in HD. I promise the picture is exactly the same as the one from your cable provider. If you have a newish TV set, all you need is a $10 set of rabbit ears to plug into the back. I think we get 17 channels over the air but that will vary with where you live and how close you are to the local satellite towers.
So what about all of the outstanding shows airing on cable channels right now like Mad Men, Archer, Breaking Bad, The Americans, and Justified? All of them will be released on DVD in a few months, most of them will come to one of the streaming services next season, and some of them will even air on the network’s website the next day or the next week for free. If you can just can’t wait for one of those things to happen then it turns out that $80 we were spending every month can go a long way. First we subtract the $8 for a Netflix streaming membership and $6 for our Amazon Prime membership. This leaves us $66 each month to buy episodes a la cart from either Amazon or iTunes. At $2-$4 per episode, you would have to be watching way more shows than we do to not end up saving money. If one day we end up feeling like there isn’t enough content, there is always HULU Plus to check out or we can just start buying DVD seasons of older shows that we haven’t seen yet, or haven’t seen since we were kids.
The only real gap with this system is sports programming. I understand that both MLB and NHL have pretty good apps for viewing games (I don’t personally use either of them) but other than that, it’s very hard to find live streaming of major sporting events. This was the worst part for me at first but it didn’t take long to realize that even this isn’t the end of the world. Anything big enough to feel like it is a “must watch” is going to be on one of the networks anyway. If it isn’t, I’m happy to go out and support one of our local bars for a couple of hours. Just take the tab out of that $66 I have to spend on shows this month.
It’s been three months and I honestly don’t miss cable at all. Right now, Monday mornings are actually the toughest because I am trying to avoid spoilers for both Mad Men and Game of Thrones but other than that TV is still great. I don’t think I watch any less TV but what we are watching is probably better. We have started watching shows based on what we want to watch and not how convenient it is to watch. There is no reason to have something on just because it is on. There are no dead hours in the schedule because all of our programs are always available.
If you’ve been thinking about cutting cable, or are just trying to save a few bucks each month, there is no reason not to do it.