While our digital streaming experiment has gone well over the past month (see Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve held off cutting the cable—or, rather, returning the cable box to Time Warner Cable—until this week. We finally ordered and installed an analog/digital convertor box, so now we can receive network shows through our antenna. Setting up the convertor and antenna was surprisingly simple, and took no more than ten minutes. After some minor fidgeting with the antenna (“Higher, to the left, wait, go back!”), we now get about 20 channels, including several duplicate HD and foreign language channels. We’re also impressed with the image and sound quality.
Once we determined that our set up worked, we called Time Warner to officially cancel our cable. The Time Warner representative was very accepting of our decision to cancel, and barely made an attempt to keep us as customers. (We got the feeling that he’s been getting a lot of calls like this lately.) More importantly, we discovered that we had been paying close to $70 a month for cable. $70 for shows we had no interest in viewing, for HD channels we saw in regular D, and for endless commercial breaks.
Expenses and Estimated Savings
So far, we have spent $160 on new equipment: a Roku 2 XD ($80), an antenna ($40), and an analog/digital convertor ($40). At a savings of $70/month, that means we’ll end up paying off our investment in just over two months, which is what we had hoped when we originally began the experiment. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals we’ll save even more over the long run, subscription-wise. If we continue using Hulu+ ($8/month), Netflix DVD Delivery ($5/month), and Amazon Prime ($79/year), we’ll spend around $235 a year, compared to $840 with cable. Even if we subtract our investment in equipment, that’s a savings of over $300 a year. We’re sold.
What We’re Watching
Our viewing patterns are still shifting, especially now that we don’t ready-made Law and Order: SVU Marathons. Instead, we’re discovering new fare like Avec Eric, and revisiting
shows guilty pleasures we never thought we’d see again, like Felicity and Young Hercules. (We never claimed to have high-brow taste.) So although it takes time to find shows of interest, there’s more than enough content to keep us entertained. And we love being able to stream Pandora on our TV, even if it doesn’t display the lyrics, thus limiting its potential for informal karaoke.
Is this solution perfect? No. We’re still not sure how we’ll watch some of our favorite shows that aren’t available through streaming, like Mad Men or True Blood, but we have a few options:
- Pay to download the shows individually after they air.
- Wait until they come out on DVD.
- Find a bar that screens them (admittedly easier in a major city like New York).
It used to be that we’d go to a friend’s house to watch, but we’re running out of friends with cable.
So, Should You Make the Switch?
Yes. It’s cheaper, it’s easy to set up—much easier than setting the clock on a VCR—and content availability is only going to increase in the coming months and years. If you’re still feeling nervous about completely cutting the cable, we’d recommend doing it one step at a time: just try going a week only streaming content. If you already have a streaming-capable device, like a Blu-Ray player, both Hulu+ and Netflix offer free trials. If you do need to purchase a device, you can get a low-end Roku for $50, and it has a 30-day refund period. We think you’ll really enjoy how much control you have over your viewing, not to mention how much less you’ll be spending for cable.