Pulling the cable plug

Well, we did it. We’ve cut the cord. No more cable television. Sure, we’ve been without cable TV before. I recall stints after leaving for college and after marriage where I didn’t have my own cable TV subscription. Well, today we’re without cable again, but not because we can’t afford it.

Why? Well, for many reasons.

Coax plug

1. Really, who needs that much TV?

The truth is, we like TV, and we want TV, but not 24-hour TV. Certainly we don’t need 95% (more?) of the programming cable TV serves.

2. It’s antiquated.

Broadcast is the past. The future is on-demand and à la carte. I will select exactly what I want to see. (Cable companies are starting to offer “on demand” service. I quote “on demand”, because it’s really “on demand (as long as it’s something from our preselected menu of programs we happen to have available today)”. In other words, as long as they have it, you can demand it. That’s not what I mean when I say “on demand”.)

3. No bargain.

While we can afford cable TV, it feels more and more like we’re throwing money away. And I hope I’m never comfortable doing that.

4. Sick of ads.

Yes, we know about DVRs. No, it’s still not ideal. And it’s just a matter of time before you can’t even fast-forward through those ads.

5. TV news is BOOOOOORING!

I haven’t read a printed newspaper in years, and I’m growing increasingly frustrated with televised news. Local news; national news; international news, you name it. I will select the news and sources I want from the Internet. And none of them have those dreadful scrolling tickers.

6. For the children.

Our kids would live in front of our television if we’d let them. We do our best to limit them to an hour or two per day and it’s a daily struggle. The average American child watches at least twice that daily and that is disconcerting.

7. So many more things to do.

Sure, there’s always work to be done. But it is important to set aside time to unwind. I have dozens of books that I have either never read or stopped reading after the first chapter or two. I have bunches of unfinished video games I could be enjoying instead. I mean, as long as time is being wasted, I should at least enjoy myself in a more engaging way.

8. I have choices.

Despite their best efforts, the cable companies are not monopolies. Sure, most places still just have 1 cable company provider, but I’m talking about the Internet. Namely, iTunes. Ironically, my Internet service provider is my former cable TV provider. So in a small way, they still serve our TV content, but we pay someone else for it. Hmm. I wonder how long that will last?

So what are our alternatives? How will we possibly fill the void? I feel another list coming on…

iTunes offers content from
these networks today

1. DVDs

Bought, rented, borrowed. DVDs are most certainly versatile. The corner movie store has them. Netflix has them. All our friends have them. Even the local library has them (for free!). You can even get TV shows on them. The ads are even removed for you. How ‘bout that?

2. iTunes “Media” Store

I refuse to call it the iTunes Music Store any longer because they sell more than music. Sure, the video quality is low, and it’s DRM-laden, but it is pretty cheap, they have an increasingly large quantity of it, and it is ad-free (at least, it is today).

3. Network freebies

ABC recently had an experimental ad-supported video player that let you view some of their better shows. I’m hoping they resume that in the fall and that other networks will offer something similar.

4. Independent video (YouTube, Video Podcasts)

I find myself at youtube.com more and more these days, being entertained. I also subscribe to a few video podcasts and that is bound to increase now.

5. News via podcast

NPR and other news organizations offer news you can listen to. It’s sorta like radio, but digital. It’s less distracting and far less annoying than televised news.

News podcasts

6. To Be Invented.

It seems there’s a new medium that is attempting to supplant your friendly neighborhood cable company each week. Rumors abound about Netflix offering a movie download service. Or TiVo. Or MovieLink and CinemaNow letting you buy and burn DVDs.

(As a side note, when I called to cancel service, the customer service representative I spoke with made every effort to keep me from canceling. They analyzed my bill and current services. They trimmed here and there and offered to reduce the basic cable service down to $35, then eventually down to $17. Is it me, or does it seem a little disingenuous for a company to offer discounted services only when you threaten them to quit. I imagine you could get a decent discount yourself if you do the same. Feel free to PayPal me $1 (brad (at) bradchoate.com) if this tip serves you well.)

I just hope and pray iTunes offers a higher-resolution option for Battlestar Galactica and Lost this fall. With the savings we’ll be seeing from cutting cable TV service, I can justify cherry-picking a few purchases like that.

So how about you? Are you still getting your fix via cable?


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Chad Everett said:

We actually only have a "local channel" cable subscription, which costs about $10 per month (somewhere around $12 including taxes).

Mostly we do that because having the local channels is useful, we can't get much with rabbit ears (I have tried) and $10 a month is worthwhile. But strangely, we actually get every basic cable channel available (everything that doesn't require a converter box), including HBO.

Now if we had to pay for that, it would be vastly more expensive. And at least once, it's gone away. It could be because the cable Internet somehow interferes with whatever they have in place to prevent such things from happening. Or they don't expect anyone to just buy the $10 package.

But we only ask for the $10 package and do nothing whatsoever to circumvent their system, so we really have no qualms about using what they choose to provide. Should they cease to do so, we would likely take the same avenue as you. :)

bryan duffie said:

Congrats on cutting the cable cord. I've been cable TV free for several years now. It's a liberating experience. And makes commercials all that more distracting when you do see them.

I hope you're able to stay with it!

pooya said:

How long before we start cutting the internet cables? My laptop was broken for a week and I sent it back for warranty. I was feeling a better life (well, atleast different if not better) those days. Thanks for sharing the ideas.

fozboot Author Profile Page said:

I don't have cable... I get by on a mix of broadcast TV (most of the shows I like (Lost, Veronica Mars, The Offfice, 24) are on broadcast TV) and I watch the rest via the ITMS and DVD. I get a bit antsy sometimes hearing about the latest Sopranos or Entourage episodes, but I figure patience is good for the soul.

fozboot Author Profile Page said:

Oh, and by the way, I tried signing in using OpenID and got an error. (Which I can't now reproduce since I'm signed in via Typekey and thus the OpenID option has gone away.)

Congrats. I've been cable-less for something like 6 years now. And I love it. I use to tell people I only watch "video on demand. DVD's from $webshop straight into the letterbox." Better quality, no ads, no 24/7 hanging behind the screen, no wasted money, etc...

It's funny how half the world thinks you're some alien if you don't watch cable TV. I was walking down Oxford Street (London, UK) and some Vodafone promotion team stopped me to try and make me buy this new phone and get a free DVR (SkyBox) thrown in! When I told them I don't watch/like tv they were flabberghasted for minutes.
It's a strange world....

timsamoff said:

Awesome, man... We recently decided to do the same thing.

Ralph Author Profile Page said:

Disconnecting from TV was the best thing that I did for my children. In our family, we only watched TV on Friday after school and Saturday. After homework, the kids mostly read and we played games. After some initial discontent they forgot about TV. It is amazing, but I found TV and video games were much more likely to make them violent or angry. Home life is much better and more civil without TV or video games.

Susan said:

Congratulations! :) I love your philosophy of doing it for your children. My son's six, and I know he should be out with his childhood friends or in school, but mind you, he spends more time at home, but not with me--of course, with the tube.


This article was published on July 20, 2006 11:41 AM.

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