Some begin a new blog when they take on an adventure, like an extended vacation to an interesting place. I look at dumping cable TV as an adventure. Since others have been asking me questions, I decided to log my thoughts and experiences here. I’ll be putting my ignorance on display, but that’s okay if it helps others.
Since there are no contracts in the options I’m using, I can always go back to cable, but I just don’t think that is going to happen. Time will tell and I’ll post here about any such changes.
This is all very new to me and finding a way to drop monthly costs related to watching content on a TV is appealing. Some do it out of necessity; others like me can afford cable TV, but simply don’t like the idea of a cable bill being as much as a car payment or as much as a gas and electrical bill combined.
My adventure began about a month ago when I tried the first indoor HDTV antenna to catch local over-the-air (OTA) digital broadcasts while I was still connected to cable. I was amazed at the great reception I was getting. Quite honestly, when analog signals disappeared, I thought cable was the only option (you may laugh). Watching the local networks OTA is clearer than I ever got through digital cable. I’m only 15-20 miles from most towers so that is helpful. I get 25-26 channels cleanly, but only the local HD channels are useful to me – 9 in all. The rest are all standard definition (SD) and while the picture is good, I have other options that will likely render them unnecessary.
Within days, I picked up a Roku box. More on that in a moment.
Is cord-cutting wise for sports fans?
One caveat is that if you are a big sports fan, you don’t want to cut the cord – not yet, anyway. Football might be one of the few things where I’ll be able to catch local games on network TV. However, the Detroit Tigers games, as well as other things like hockey, are almost all on Fox Sports Detroit, and this would require a cable TV subscription. But, unlike football, which I love, I don’t have to watch every baseball game. Also, many times, I would rather listen to a game over the radio while I’m doing something else. For playoffs, I can always go to a local establishment for a meal and watch. There are options for live stream, like MLB.TV, but read the fine print that says local games are subject to blackout (but not audio).
Must have: Streaming
Local network TV these days is not sufficient for some who cut the cord and I’m one such person, so I bought a Roku 3 streaming box where lots of free content can be found. If you have Netflix and/or Prime, as I do, that can be streamed on this device, as well. I got it for $89 after it went on sale ahead of an enhanced Roku 3 coming out. Some of these earlier Roku 3’s can still be found. I read multiple reviews on the many streaming devices and settled on the Roku 3 for reasons I’ll explain in another post. And some of you, like I me a month ago, may not even know what a Roku box is! We’ll get into that soon.
So, one month after installing two indoor HD antennas, a Roku box in my living room, and a cheaper Amazon Fire Stick for a TV used in my kitchen/dining where I spend many hours cooking, I ended my cable TV service yesterday. The investment of these items cost me less than one-and-a-half months of my former cable service bill, which jumped in January after a promotional period ended. Because I was an existing Comcast member, they would not give me a deal on Internet-only service. I had to pay full price.
I’m blessed to live in a competitive area with regards to cable/internet service providers and WOW was glad to give me a deal. In January, my bill jumped $40 to $200/month for the Comcast Triple Play (Internet 50 Mbps speed; TV – Digital Preferred; unlimited phone – which I used about 3x/yearly to find my iPhone; and modem/boxes). I’m now paying $50 for WOW Internet only (50 Mbps) – locked in for 12 months, without a contract (that’s a $42/month savings off regular price). My total may go up to $75 as I found two paid streaming services I’m using through my Roku box in free trials that I like, and may keep: SlingTV and Acorn TV. The latter has some excellent British originals (recent and current programing) and it seems to be a real bargain at $49/year or $4.99/month. The volume of content is not insignificant and there are options to catch up on prior seasons/series. SlingTV is basically taking known channels associated with cable and bundling them for online streaming, for $20/month – with a bunch of different $5 add-on packages. Both are contract free and can be canceled any time. I may very well cancel Sling, but after they added some additional channels in the free section this past week, I’m wondering if more will be added in the future. One thing I am mindful of is that it is very easy to end up paying as much as cable TV, if you add to many paid, streaming services.
When comparing costs with cable, finding a 50 Mbps download speed, with 5 Mbps upload speed, combined with any kind of low cost HD TV package is not easy. I found upload speeds are often locked in with certain download speeds. Download speeds are often tied to certain, minimum TV packages, if you bundle. I could have paid $75 for a WOW TV plus Internet plan. At the time of this writing, that bundled package of cable TV and Internet provided only 4 Mbps download speed. I would not consider anything less than 10 Mbps, and preferably 15, for any kind of streaming – which is the lifeline of cord-cutters looking for something more than OTA network TV (more if there are multiple users on devices at the same time). Chances are, the upload speed for that plan is a turtle’s pace of 1 Mbps (same as their 15 Mbps download plan). That kind of plan might be good for a heavy TV user and very casual Internet user who checks email and lightly surfs the web, with little streaming.
Adapting to a new ‘normal’ without cable TV
Something I’m learning is that the taste for some things on cable fades once you stop watching them, and some fade quicker than others. I suspect there will always be certain appetites that remain. But, I find myself quickly adapting to this, as well, especially as I learn about new things and alternatives . Rather than just cut the cord, then learn, I decided to use some typical cord-cutting tools while keeping my cable. What ended up happening, was I naturally gravitated towards these new and interesting choices. I’ll be getting into more details in individual posts in this blog.
I have no schedule on when I will publish continuing posts, so follow in the various ways available.