A TV Junkie Cuts the Cable

January 28, 2013

Unemployment can be a strong motivator. For a long time, we have been thinking about cutting back on our cable services, but all we did was talk about it. Now that trimming expenses is critical, the cable bill was the first thing to hit the chopping block. I do love TV; my husband does as well. We used our DVR to record just about everything we watched. We didn’t want to give up our shows, but we needed to make it all more budget friendly. I had read and heard about a lot of people who had dumped cable, so I knew it was possible and potentially painless. So now that we were motivated, we set about making changes.

We didn’t completely sever ties with Time Warner, who is our local provider. We kept our Internet, because that has become an essential utility. And it makes the rest possible. For right now, we also have our landline, although we are considering cutting that as well and just using our mobile phones. Lastly, we did keep Basic Cable for local channels and access to news and sports. However, even that reduction cut our bill almost in half.

To fill the TV gap, we turned to streaming. We’ve had a Roku box for a long time, and we love it. We had Netflix’s streaming service already–although up to now we’ve used it primarily for movies and to re-watch Alias and The X-Files when there was nothing on cable, which was happening more and more. To this we added Hulu to get access to first-run shows shortly after they air. We did upgrade to a newer Roku box so we could also add Vudu, which allows you, among other things, to rent movies to stream. Although for that, I think Redbox is still cheaper.

This all happened last week, so this will be the first week we are depending on streaming to watch the shows we like. Luckily, just about everything is available on Hulu, so I have high hopes. I was leery of Hulu because there are a lot of negative reviews, particularly regarding the commercials included. However, we got the free trial to test it out, and I didn’t mind the commercial breaks at all. For what we watched, they were short–I think the ad breaks when watching through the network apps or their websites are far longer. And, as someone noted in a review I read, they have to pay the networks to get access to these episodes so soon, so it is either ads or higher monthly fees. I’ll take the ads. So, we’ll see how that goes. The only shows missing at those that air on CBS, so we will have to stream those from the website.

I have an iPad, so to complement our Roku, we also got an Apple TV. This allows us to mirror the iPad on the TV screen and watch shows via the apps or website. We went back and forth about needing both, but the Apple TV doesn’t allow streaming from Amazon, and since we have Prime, which includes free streaming of a lot of their video, we wanted to have access to that. While there is overlap, both have enough different features to justify having one of each. And, while it was a bit pricey to get these new toys–and the cables and whatnot to connect it all–a few months of lower Time Warner bills will cover it.

I have to say the worst part of the whole thing was trying to negotiate something with the cable company. Everyone you speak to, it seems, has different information and access to different deals. At first we were being told that reducing our channels would be more expensive as they are all about the bundle. That was just crazy. But after several calls, the last of which lasted 52 minutes, we got our current package. Although we intended to drop the phone, we were told that was not possible to do and keep the bill low, so we have it for now. I have since been told by another TW representative that we were given mis-information, but I didn’t have the strength to make further changes at that point. We’ve just decided to try ignoring our landline for a month to see if we can really go without it.

So, I will post more after we have spent some time with this new system, but I figure if I can take the leap, just about anyone can!

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Kim Harrison

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