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My Two Weeks Without Cable TV

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.

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.