Gearing up to Ditch Cable

Back in 2007, I was in Portland, Oregon for three full weeks for work.  I did a lot of sightseeing, and drove along the Columbia River Highway, stopping at many of the scenic viewpoints along the way, including Multunomah Falls.  I drove to the Oregon coast to see Haystack Rock and the Tillamook Cheese factory.  And I drove around downtown and enjoyed a stop at Powell’s books.

But, a lot of my time was also spent watching Netflix movies in my hotel room.  I actually changed my Netflix address for those three weeks and had DVDs delivered to my hotel.

It was during my stay in Portland that I also decided to try Netflix’s nascent streaming service. It was so, so awful.  There were about two movies I was even remotely interested in watching.  The movie I did end up watching, The Smartest Guys in the Room (about the Enron scandal), was so slow to stream that the audio was constantly several seconds ahead of the video.

I declared at that moment in 2007 that “streaming sucks” and never thought of trying it again.

Late last summer, I realized that streaming services seemed to be increasing in popularity everywhere. Heck, they were even producing their own original content!  We could access Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming right through our PlayStation 3 or our Blu-Ray player, but I was still in that “streaming sucks” mindset, and never bothered to try it.  But, I figure something must have improved in the past six years, otherwise streaming wouldn’t be so popular.

So I logged into Amazon Prime from our PS3, and I was blown away.  There was so much selection for no cost (well, no additional cost from our Amazon Prime fee that we pay anyway).  The video quality was great, even for a high definition snob like me.  I started watching the West Wing from its first season, and added a ton of other shows to my watchlists.  Ken has also started watching many free streaming shows, like How I Met your Mother and Parks and Rec.

About a month ago, we came the the realizations that A) We watch TV so infrequently these days, and 2) The vast majority of TV we watch was either on Blu-Ray or streaming.  We started to wonder if we could ditch cable.  We aren’t quite there yet, but we’ve taken a few steps in that direction.

1) We downgraded our Verizon FIOS channel service.  Ken created a simple spreadsheet to determine which channels we would lose by downgrading to a different Verizon FIOS package.  Only five channels, which we rarely watch anyway, would be lost (BBC America, CMT Pure Music, CNN International, The Cooking Channel, and Palladia).

Savings: $30/month


2) We currently have two dual tuner TiVo’s, meaning we can record up to four channels at a time.  Thanks to our video setup, we can watch those TiVo’s from any television in the house.  Because we don’t have a cable box, we have to rent “cable cards” from Verizon for each of those TiVo’s, at a rate of $10/month each.  Ken has started switching show recordings around so that all network shows record to one TiVo, while shows on non-network channels record to the second TiVo.  That way, we can eliminate the cable card on the first TiVo, since we’ll only be recording network shows, which can be accessed using a digital “antenna” over the air.

Savings: $10/month


There are a few things that are keeping us from fully getting rid of cable.  There are shows we watch frequently on AMC, the History Channel, and Food Network, that are not available on streaming services for free in real time.  Meaning, for instance, we couldn’t watch the Walking Dead (an AMC show) for no additional fee on Netflix or Amazon Prime the day after it airs.  Same thing goes for Pawn Stars on the History Channel or The Soup on E!.

But, we’ll do some math to determine whether it would still be cheaper to just buy those individual episodes instead of paying for a full cable package each month.  For example, would we still come out ahead if we had to pay $1.99 each week to watch an episode of the Walking Dead or Pawn Stars?  We’ll definitely do some calculations on that to let you know.

One of the common complaints I hear about ditching cable is the fact that people like sports and wouldn’t be able to watch them without cable.  Well, neither one of us are big sports fans, and the sports events we do watch (Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, the Olympics, etc.), those are always broadcast on network channels, which means they can be accessed without cable.

Either way, we’re already saving $40/month on cable just by making those few easy changes.  Hopefully in the next few months we can cut it even more!

Have you ditched cable?  How was the transition?

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