My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Jan 3

Written by: Heather L. Sidorowicz
1/3/2013 12:39 PM  RssIcon

While you were off drinking eggnog over this holiday break, I did a grand experiment. I will admit I didn't set out to do this. I lived—and survived—two and a half weeks without "cable." (Gasp!)

Here is my experience as it unfolded:

Day 1 (The Crash): Monday was finally over. I made it. I sat down on the couch ready to watch Homeland, which I recorded on Showtime. The show begins to play, we get through the introduction, and about five minutes later my screen goes blue. So, down to the basement I send my husband, where our DVR resides. We do the ol' unplug and plug back in to reboot. And then we wait.

And we wait.

And we wait.

FINALLY, we have picture. Thank goodness. Monday night is not lost. We settle back in and once again we fire up Homeland. Again, we get through the introduction and again the DVR crashes. I GIVE UP! (At least for tonight). We flip over to AppleTV and watch a few TED Talks.

Day 3 Without Cable: Still have not fixed DVR. (Come on, it’s the holidays. I'm a busy girl). Tonight we considered Hulu Plus. They have a one-week free trial, but I can't find what shows they even have. I do get as far as the credit card page and decide I don't want to give them my information for fear I will forget to cancel. (I’m still paying monthly for a Consumer Reports online subscription from 10 years ago! You can see my dilemma). We settle for a movie on Netflix.

Day 4 Without Cable: I will admit that I get a little sad on Thursday for all the shows I'm going to miss. Tonight we get a bit more creative. We bring out the MacBook Pro, and via mirroring on the AppleTV, we jump over to the NBC website and watch Parenthood. However, I am forced to watch commercials, and I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. For the first time in years, advertisers have my attention, and what do they do? Show me the same darn commercial over and over. It wasn't even a good commercial. I guess the resolution is technically HD, but it is CHOPPY. I don't complain, though, since I am watching a new episode and it’s free.

Day 6 Without Cable: It’s Saturday night and the husband is out. I give in and sign up for Hulu Plus via the Apple TV app. It was too easy. They already had my credit card information (from my iTunes account) so I didn't need to enter anything. I watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy.

For those of you who don't know, Hulu Plus is a paid service similar to Netflix (which we do subscribe to). You pay $7.99 per month for a "bowl" of content. They seem to be focused TV shows rather than the Netflix movie model. I was curious to check this service out. I had played with Hulu a few years back and wasn't in love with it. I do like a good picture and I do not like commercials. I had thought that by paying for the service (Hulu Plus) there would not be commercials, or at least they would be limited. WRONG!

There were so many commercials during Grey's that I started timing how often they happened. Every 4-8 minutes there would be a commercial that would range between 30 and 60 seconds. Meh. Not a fan.

Once Grey's was over I wasn't sure where to turn. I got bored, missing Mr. Cable again. Watched a TED Talk while I tweeted. It wasn’t the escape I had hoped for.

Day 12: It has been almost two weeks without cable. All the shows I watch are now in repeat so not having cable isn't bothering me so much. I have gotten much more use out of my Netflix subscription. I've watched a lot of movies I would probably never have watched. We also started watching Mad Men (the first season). When I can't find a movie on Netflix, we've "rented" one via AppleTV. It's not so bad.

Day 16: We're back. We made it. It was even a bit of an adventure to survive life without the "box." So what did I learn?

You can survive. Yes, I'm still hurting for the fact that I missed two Homelands —including the season finale. However, you can find most shows through more than one outlet. I wouldn't call it easy, though. Those of you that follow me know I like things to be easy. I want technology to be easy. Easy to use. Easy to watch. And I want it to work every time. This is exactly what I sell to my clients.

Again, you can watch most shows, but not all of them. And you definitely can't watch all “current” shows legally. (This experiment was done completely legally, by the way). You have to be flexible in what you watch. I also want to note that after the horrific shooting in Newtown, Hulu Plus had clips about the incident. So, there is a small connection to "live" TV.

You can't get "Premium" channels (legally), either. Life without cable wasn't unbearable, but missing the new season of Shameless would have made me sad. Or Nurse Jackie, or United States of Tara, or Homeland (really hope I can find those last two episodes). When I think about it, the best shows on TV are those shows. I think I watch Grey's Anatomy out of habit these days. You could wait a season or two and then buy the season on iTunes or on Blu-ray, but if these shows are a subject of conversations with family and friends, then you need the subscription.

We could have gone a step further with this experiment. We could have purchased an antenna and a DVR. We could have put some of these shows in one place. We could have made it easier. But we didn't. We settled for what we know, and then we got our service back (probably because I just want it to be easy). Yet, if you're really committed to cutting the cord, you could make the experience better.

Will a day come where you really can cut the cord? I think so. With chatter of an Apple television and the popularity of these paid services, I'm sure there will come a time. But for now, if you like simple, then fork over your funds to the cable and satellite companies and bide your time.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to cancel Hulu Plus…

Heather L. Sidorowicz
 is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.

13 comment(s) so far...


Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

I ditched cable almost 2 years ago. Watching ANY television now days is rather depressing to me and the marketing is WAY out of control. I'm on a Netflix only diet and I have LOTS of time for all kinds of other things that a person can enjoy in life. Not to mention an extra $60 a month to put towards the power bill...

By nate on   1/3/2013 3:46 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

You missed the obvious solution. Get a TV antenna and watch over-the-air TV. And, by the way, it's FREE.

By videojohnh on   1/3/2013 3:48 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

How about DIRECTV with 5 tuner Genie ?

Coulda been out the next day with new system up and running !

By Lou on   1/3/2013 3:58 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Thanks for the comments guys...

Nate - Good for you! I would miss my shows (and I only watch a few) to give it up forever (at this point). Glad you're out there enjoying life.

Video John - I mention that I could have done an antenna... However, my goal 'at the end of the day' is NO commercials. So I could have done an antenna and a DVR, but this was just an experiment. It is a good suggestion.

Lou - For this experiment I would consider DIRECTV, Dish, Fios all 'cable' but yes, I could have...

By Heather Sidorowicz on   1/3/2013 4:50 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Apple Television would be bad for those who support their family working for those cable companies that people want to get rid of. Technology can also kill jobs. Hopefully Apple stays out of the cable business because that won't be good for us.

By Al on   1/3/2013 4:58 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Greys anatomy is free over the air. I cut the cord 2 years ago and haven't looked back. I spend about $20-30/month on content on AppleTV

Wrote article here:

By mark anderson on   1/3/2013 5:05 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

This is why I have Direct TV. I haven't had cable in 12 years and NEVER will again. As many customers as I have, it seems they all have BAD CABLE BOXES There's no way I would ever put one in my system EVER again. They all suffer from all kinds of problems. It's not just one problem. It's all over the map. The question I would ask thought after reading the 1st paragraph of the articale is, How many times have you had to reboot this box? It seems a fair answer is you've been doing it quite a bit. Why didn't you get this addressed sooner then waiting for the holiday weekend? So I'd have to point fingers at both you and the cable company for this problem as it probably could have been avoided. Also I guess the next thing you could have tried is bypassing the cable box and just getting beasic cable sent to the TV if it was just the DVR on the fritz.......Or yes even easier the antenna trick as mentioned above...sometimes a raw stripped piece of coax is all you need to get a few channels....Yea the article isn't about how to fix the cable box as you mentioned there's a million ways to get content to your TV these days so it's not the end of the world and not that hard to get by when the cable goes out..When this happened to me 12 years ago I went to best buy and bought my 1st satellite system. I had it installed in less than and hour and by 10 pm that night I was back up and running and looking better than cable...So I thank the cable company for that, 12 years on Direct TV without ANY outages or major problems.... Why you'd have anything but satellite is beyond me although some people stuck in condos and such may have no choice.

By Emersive Audio/Video llc on   1/3/2013 5:43 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

I cut off satellite almost a year ago and already had a Roku, so it wasn't a complete shock. I joined a health club and try not to spend the rest of the difference.

By Highfigh on   1/3/2013 5:54 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Both radio and television are worthless media these days. On the rare occasion a program is on, commercials are blanked out. For events like the Super Bowl, I refuse to patronize those companies who offer their ridiculous, information void, repetitive advertisements.
A good rule of thumb is: excellent products sell themselves, the rest are on TV.
Moving in two weeks--have Internet but not cable ordered.

By DoktorThomas™ on   1/4/2013 7:56 AM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

so... what happened between days 6-12, and 12-16? did your husband finally go pick up a new cable box?

By dan on   1/4/2013 1:06 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Heather, in your reply to John's comment, you stated that you would miss your shows. What would happen if those shows go off the air, major cast member dies, writers strike, etc? You would most likely find a replacement show on another network, spend that time (like you mentioned in the article) watching movies, or maybe you would spend that time on another activity. I recently replaced my DirecTV subscription (which I loved) with an antenna and a TiVo (I'm a dealer). When my wife and I discussed dropping pay TV, what it really came down to was whether 3 shows that were on throughout the year made it worth it to give DirecTV $67/month. The answer for us was no. If those shows were cancelled, our world wouldn't end. If we want to see them that bad, we can get them on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, or wait for them to come out on DVD. So I guess it really came down to whether or not it was that important to watch those shows NOW. The answer for us was that it wasn't.

The bonus is that I now feel like I belong to an elite group that isn't bound to TV commercials wrapped in sitcoms.

By Brent on   1/5/2013 12:03 AM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Interesting article and comments!
Although I still use cable (primarily for all kinds of news), I find that my "Smart TVs", ROKU, Apple TV or (e.g.,) my Sony Blu-ray player all give me access to Amazon Instant Video which is included "free" with my Amazon Prime account. There's a ton of great shows on Amazon that come with Prime. That plus Netflix, there's more content than I could possibly watch.

I have tried Hulu Plus as a paid account but am about to cancel. I really, really dislike the commercials. Your article just reminded me... I need to cancel Hulu!

By DrummerCT1 on   1/7/2013 3:36 PM

Re: My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

Has anyone tried Low Income Cable?
I hear all my neighbors raving about it. It's supposed to be cheaper with all the additional options like HD, etc.

By Anthony K on   9/3/2013 12:52 AM

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