A year without cable and I’m still alive

We gave up our TimeWarner Cable addiction here over a year ago. We kept the phone for a few months, but eventually dropped that and ported the number to Google Voice. The only product we buy from TWC now is high-speed internet. Without it, we would in the darkness.

Quitting cable wasn’t something we came to quickly, but it something we’re happy we did.

With two young kids and our own screen time habits, we were average consumers. Perhaps we were even less than average because we only have two televisions, and the second one was used only occasionally. Our TimeWarner DVR was filled with shows we watched regularly, and we scheduled time to watch our favorites on cable (or satellite)-only channels.

We had to consider this decision for awhile. My wife and I asked ourselves and each other whether we wanted to live without certain shows. She had her favorites. I had mine. We shared a few, too. We eventually answered the question with a question: Why not try it?

The decision was forced on us a bit. We were happy with the service we were receiving from TimeWarner. It was clear and consistent. But it became too expensive. For three bundled services it was over $170/month. This wasn’t question of value for us, either. It was a question of affordability. On top of all the other monthly utility bills, this was the one we could “live” without. We couldn’t maintain a household without electricity, gas, or water.

Before giving it all up, we also tried a few different options. We priced out the dish, and it wasn’t really any different. Their pricing deals were pretty much the same. Our local phone company had also just started offering its own “cable” service, but it was priced the same. I also called TimeWarner and asked for a reduction in price. I told them I couldn’t afford it anymore and I would have to cancel. That was when I found out I was locked in at that price until the next price increase. Meanwhile, new customers were being enticed to sign up for TWC with great yearlong introductory prices like all three services for just $99/month. That was a difference of over $70 a month, and I couldn’t even get a reduction in price of $20 or $30 a month.

So, we paid the early termination fee of something like $150, bought a Roku and an antenna, and signed up for Netflix and Hulu.

And we haven’t looked back.

It took some getting used to, especially since we gave up the DVR. We had to go back to the “old” days before DVR (I think that was 2004) of watching TV shows when they aired. We quickly found out that many of broadcast shows we watched were available via Hulu Plus or the networks’ own websites for later viewing anyway. Eventually, like everything else, we settled into a new routine. Dialing up Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon to watch a show or movie became the new norm.

The biggest missing piece has been live sports on ESPN or other cable networks. Luckily, MLS, MLB, NBA, and NHL all sell some form of subscription streaming service per season. I think we could even buy British Premier League if we wanted. Some of the college conferences also sell streaming subscriptions. I believe that this will be resolved in the next couple of years. These content providers will have two converging reasons. The first is the contract disputes with the companies that own the bandwidth such as cable and satellite. Negotiating contracts with each company is always a counterproductive process and it only benefits the delivery service, not the creator. The second is the increasing number of people who are turning to streaming video, live or recorded. I might be a pioneer in dumping cable, but I’m not alone.

The biggest hole in the content we stream is from CBS. The broadcast network’s CEO, Les Moonves, has notably avoided the streaming market. There are reports he and the late Steve Jobs talked about a deal, but it never materialized. That’s a shame. NBC puts a decent amount of its broadcast content on Hulu Plus, but limits it to web-based streaming only which means those of us who stream through a Roku, game console, or web-enabled television or DVD/Blu-Ray player are exempt. Fox, by far, has embraced the streaming environment by making most of its shows available on all devices.

Before we quit cable, I had apps on my iPad for major cable networks like ESPN, but those apps went dark as soon as we cancelled our cable television. This was a big disappointment. We pay $42 month for broadband Internet from TimeWarner Cable. I would pay $100/month if it meant I could stream just the channels I want to my television.

Despite that, I don’t lack content. I live in a constant on-demand video state, and I like it. My wife likes it. And my kids like it. In fact, I see more of what interests me now than ever before. For me, at least, I feel like I’m a smarter television watcher.

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