We cancelled our cable service this week. We don’t have a hipster-esque reason for belonging to the Cord Cutter Club but simply because it was getting too expensive for something we rarely used. Rather, it was not cost-effective. We are not those that eschew television watching; in fact we do watch quite a bit albeit a lot less after Ruan was born. It is just that our TV watching habits have changed. We rarely watch anything live anymore except perhaps for college football games, the occasional NFL game, or an award show here and there. We used our DVR a lot and almost always watched the TV shows a day or two after they had aired. We had moved on to delayed gratification which was working out just fine for our lifestyle. No more centering our life around television schedules. In fact, we watched the last season of ‘Chuck’ months after it had aired before eventually giving it up even though it is in its last season.
Cable television by the nature of its business bundles several channels we never end up watching. If we could choose our channels al a carte, perhaps we could talk. In the current model, it simply is not cost effective especially when you are not only paying for the basic cable package but also to rent the DVR and other hajjar associated license and regulatory fees. Our cable bill even without any premium channels easily touched $100 a month especially after Comcast snuck in a stealth monthly charge on deferred equipment rental costs. The new year gave us an opportunity to reexamine our priorities, changed preferences and usage patterns.
Legal streaming options provided by content providers and other associated services like Hulu, Netflix, and Apple in addition to devices like the Apple TV and the iPad make downloading and renting shows that you watch a breeze. Although most of the network channels are available over the air in HD quality in most of the cities, we live just outside the zone. So we only get CBS in crystal clear HD with the cheap antenna I bought off Amazon. I was told by our local public television station manager that if I got an optimized antenna we could probably get the local public network too. If you live in the U.S., you can check what free OTA channels are available to you by simply entering your address at this website or this website. I might experiment with some more optimized antennas but largely our viewing is now going to be via the Internet.
For now, we have subscribed to Hulu Plus which has a majority of the shows we watch including Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We simply play it on our iPad and mirror it to our TV. The quality is decent with rare hiccups due to streaming lags. Apple TV also lets you subscribe to TV shows and even if we subscribed to season passes of all shows we currently watch, it will cost us about $500 for the year which is still less than half of our annual cable bill. We may choose this option starting Fall which I believe will also help us winnow down the number of shows we watch (Economics 101). The ideal solution would be, if Hulu was a built-in app with Apple TV or the iPad app at least let us AirPlay it in which case the quality would be much better. When asked, Hulu replied saying due to “content licensing issues” it doesn’t have AirPlay yet but are working on it. This is typical Luddite attitude on part of the content providers who are trying to squeeze as much as they can from you unmindful of the fact that technology often finds a way or pushes people to piracy. This merely ends up as a sub-standard experience for the customers who pay or as a total loss from potential customers who now chose to pirate content.
As far as live sports is concerned, ESPN3 live streams college football and soccer matches. The OrbLive app for the iPhone/iPad lets you direct that stream to your device from which you can AirPlay it to your TV. I guess I have to live without NFL games or the Oscar/Golden Globes unless they are broadcast on CBS. I’m sure people survive without watching them.
So far we have had no withdrawal symptoms as our online strategy is working well. Yup, the monthly bandwidth usage will go up but our ISP provides a cushion of ~250 GB per month (capped Internet is here!) and will charge us $50 for every additional 50GB; still a lot cheaper than cable.