Cutting Cable

In mid-September my wife and I made the decision to cut cable television and go the route of OTA and streaming. It was a tough call, and it required me to do some math and research to figure out if we’d be able to get most of what we got with cable via other means. Good news was that aside from HBO and Showtime shows like True Blood or Weeds, we were going to be able to get most of what we watched on cable via digital downloads. This post will go over how we get our television shows now that we’ve cut the cord. Please note, that while we did cut cable television, we did not cut cable internet. We still get cable internet through Xfinity.

Broadcast Television

We get our broadcast television shows using a basic over the air (OTA) antenna, connected to our Tivo so that we can record the shows and watch them at our convenience. This process has been mostly full proof with the exception of a 2 week period where some electrical issues in our house caused the Tivo to randomly reboot, sometimes mid-recording. Those issues seem to have worked themselves out as they haven’t happened in about a month. The Tivo we have is a Series 3 HD model, so we pay a yearly subscription for the Tivo service that comes out to around $10 a month. The Tivo has a digital decoder in it, so it handles the digital TV signal just fine. Our antenna is a basic (what looks to be hand built) roof based antenna that was placed (and left) by the previous owner of our house, no “HD Antenna” here, just a basic run of the mill signal catcher.

Cable Shows

My wife and I like quite a few cable shows, like Burn Notice, Warehouse 13, and Haven. Since we cut cable, we can’t watch these on their respective channels. The original solution for this was to use Hulu Plus, but after some research, we determined that this wasn’t really a great idea. One reason is, we don’t like to get too far behind in our television shows, mainly because we already get behind due to our son’s medical issues. So having to wait until a season was over to watch it on Hulu Plus, and with commercials no less just didn’t seem all that appealing. Fortunately for us, pretty much all of our basic cable televisions shows are available for purchase from Amazon the day after they air. Yes, at $2.99 for an HD quality video, it can get pricey, but what’s interesting is that it doesn’t even come close to the 80-90 dollars we were spending on cable. To come close to the cost of cable, we’d have to buy every episode of every single television show we watch at $2.99 for a month to come even close to hitting that amount. During the summer season, when most of our cable shows air, we’d come close to going over, but we’d at the most break even.

We use a couple of methods to watch these shows that are purchased through Amazon. The last couple of months, we have relied on our Tivo to handle the playing of these videos. Amazon gives me the option to tie my Tivo to my Amazon account, and when I purchase these episodes, I can choose to push them to my Tivo from Amazon’s webpage. The other and more recent option is to use our Roku box. This little device allows us to access a multitude of streaming services all in one place, and all through a single HDMI connection.

Premium Cable Shows

This part we haven’t figured out yet. Channels like HBO and Showtime don’t put their stuff up for purchase until it’s in video disc formats. Showtime eventually makes their shows available to watch in digital form, but it’s usually after the whole season has aired and in most cases after its available on DVD and/or Blu-Ray. So for these shows, at the moment, the only options are to either get cable during these show runs, wait and get the released season sets, or download the episodes through illegal means. What the premium stations should do is offer their shows for sale through Amazon, Vudu, or another service just like the non-premium cable channels. There’s no rules that say they can’t charge more per episode than the other stations (say $4.99 for an HD video download). Yet, these channels are very stuck in the old way of doing business. HBO is a perfect example of this in that in order to get HBO Go, you have to tie it to your cable television account through your cable provider. Why can’t HBO offer HBO Go as an online service that I have to pay money for? Why do they insist on continuing to require a cable subscription? It’s 2011 HBO, lets move on.

Online Services

The final thing for our cutting cable needs was utilizing online to fill in the holes left by the hundreds of channels we lost by getting rid of cable television.

  • Netflix – For movies and older television shows. While an item’s availability can fluctuate, Netflix is continually adding content. You just have to keep an eye on what’s new and catch things as they show up to help ensure the longest possible timeframe to watch them.
  • Amazon Instant Video – We have an Amazon Prime account, which in addition to free 2 day shipping on anything we buy, also gives us access to a large (though not as large as Netflix) selection of free streaming video.  Also, we can do streaming video rentals through Amazon. This can pretty much only be done on the Roku box.
  • Vudu – High quality video on demand service. These people stream new(ish) releases to your television in full 1080p with 5.1 surround through their proprietary HDX format. It’s not Blu-Ray quality, but for streaming it’s pretty dang close. Renting a movie can be somewhat costly, $5.99 in the HDX format. But buying it in the HDX format will get you the SD and HD (720p) versions too, so if you have to downgrade due to connection issues, you have the option with the HDX streams.

The combination of these services, helps fill in the gaps of the channels we lost to cord cutting. Amazon and Netflix give a decent selection of streaming television shows and movies to watch at any given moment, and for newer releases we can rely on Vudu.

Conclusion

The result of the last few months has proven this experiment rather successful. My wife and I haven’t really noticed the lack of channels and we’ve made some progress in catching up on older television that we’ve wanted to watch (via Netflix) but haven’t gotten around to.  Our 9 year old daughter has been the most vocal about the lack of cable, but the less television she watches, the better right?

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