Life without Cable TV: One Month Later

What I've learned in the past 30 days.

cordAbout a month ago, I joined roughly five million Americans and cut the cord. Here are some thoughts on lessons learned so far:

  • Cutting the cord is empowering. Let me channel my inner Dee Snyder for a moment.¬†There’s something fundamentally liberating about saying “We’re not gonna take it anymore.” Paying nearly $200 per year to¬†rent a ISP-sanctioned DVR is just plain excessive these days when I can buy one for that amount. Beyond crazy hardware costs, it seemed silly for me to pay for quite a few channels that I would never watch. (Sorry Oprah.) At least when I buy an episode of Mad Men,¬†Louie, or¬†Fargo, it’s because I enjoy¬†watching those shows. Ditto for Page One, a great documentary about the New York Times. Amazon’s purchase e-mails serve as really useful reminders that a new episode is available, something that not every network or channel does.
  • Policies need to change.¬†I like to watch live sports like basketball, golf, football, and tennis.¬†Because of this, I submitted a request to my HOA¬†to install¬†an antenna on my roof. It was promptly‚Äďand illegally‚Äďdenied. No, I can’t put large pink bunnies on my roof, but US citizens have a legal right consume on-air content. I didn’t call Saul Goodman, but I appealed the decision and pointed out an obscure FCC ruling. In 1996, the¬†FCC¬†affirmed the rights of homeowners to place antennas on property they own or control. I suspect¬†many HOAs will have to revise their policies in the near future.
  • Bandwidth spikes.¬†I still pay Cox¬†for Internet access. There’s just no way around that for now. Because I stream more content than I did before, it should be no surprise that my bandwidth usage rose precipitously. This isn’t unlike using more cellphone minutes after eliminating a landline, something I did late last year. In mid-May, Cox sent me an system-generated e-mail indicating that my upload and download speeds may drop because I’m exceeding my allotment. I didn’t notice any decline, though. As usual, Reed Hastings is right:¬†Net Neutrality is a really big deal.
  • It’s really hard to completely untether yourself.¬†Want to watch NBA games on TNT? You’ll have to log in with your existing cable credentials. Ditto for HBO, Showtime, ESPN, and other premium networks. I for one think that it will only be a matter of time before these networks offer their content √† la carte¬†(read: without an existing cable subscription). I’d wager a great deal of money that many people borrow their friends’ credentials to watch content for which they are not paying.
  • I think differently about consuming content now.¬†It was never critical that I watch Charlie Rose or¬†The Colbert Report¬†in real time. The next morning is typically sufficient. Rather than aimlessly jumping around channels, I’m much more disciplined now. I just block¬†time in my schedule to watch a show.
  • Metadata is often lacking.¬†I wish that every network¬†provide a date and description of each of their¬†shows. There’s really no way on some networks/apps to know if you’re watching the most current episode. Sure, on May 29th you can assume that the May 22nd episode of¬†Colbert¬†isn’t current, but what about for shows with¬†like¬†Modern¬†Family?
  • Bring your smartphone or tablet.¬†Think of these as digital TV Guides. Because of metadata limitations (see above), you typically need to look a few things up. The IMDB app is very helpful in this regard.
  • All apps are not created equal.¬†TNT’s app doesn’t offer a full-screen stream to AppleTV. Nor does TBS’s. (No shock; they’re owned by the same company.) Hopefully, this gets fixed soon. It seems like a glaring omission.
  • Get used to ads.¬†Even HuluPlus makes users¬†watch 30-second commercials. With cable TV,¬†I¬†could forward delayed live TV or my¬†DVR to ignore advertisements, but the same isn’t true now.
  • Fragmentation rules the day.¬†There’s no one place to go to watch everything, not that there ever was. To this end,¬†CanIStreamIt¬†is remarkably¬†useful. It’s a content aggregator of sorts. Check it out. On a different level, if you want to watch¬†60 Minutes, then you’ll have to purchase the app for $5. CBS seems particularly reluctant to make its content easily accessible. For instance, new episodes of¬†Big Bang Theory¬†are only available for free about two weeks after it airs. HBO shows like Veep and Silicon Valley, however,¬†hit HBO very quickly.
  • Things will improve.¬†I have very little doubt that devices Roku, AppleTV, and Chromecast will up their games. Universal search on Roku or AppleTV would¬†be great.
  • I actually watch less “TV” now.¬†Maybe I’m less likely to discover a great new show because I’m more deliberate in my viewing habits. Still, I don’t waste as much time trying to find a show to justify my monthly cable bill.

Cross-posted on HuffPo. Click here to read it there.

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2 Comments

  1. John Roccesano

    Good for you! I too cut the cord over a month ago and I haven’t missed it. My deciding factors were not paying the DVR fee, as well as provider fees for content I don’t watch anyway. Glad you pointed out your antennae dilemma – that’s just ridiculous.

    Reply
  2. Anthony Samuels

    I had a great experience in dealing with Jade Communications. Their customer service was outstanding and the quality of work was excellent. I will be recommending them to family and friends in Boca Raton. Visit their website at http://www.jade-com.com/ to check out more about them.

    Reply

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