Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I'm Cutting the Cable Cord

Photo credit: sam_churchill
I'm getting rid of cable. 

I'm not doing it because of Google, or Boxee, or Roku, or Apple. I'm getting rid of cable because it sucks. I'm tired of spending $150/month for an entire cable package, HD box, and DVR when all I watch is a handful of shows. I'm tired of forking over money to Time Warner Cable, which, in my opinion, is one of the worst companies I've ever had to deal with. Above all else, I'm tired of being controlled. My dad, who watches more TV than anyone I know, has been increasingly spending more time sitting in a desk chair watching Hulu on his computer instead of sitting in his recliner watching shows on his big screen TV. That alone signifies that something needs to change.

When cutting the cable cord, you basically have two options (that is, if you intend to continue watching your favorite TV shows):

Option 1: You could buy an adapter/cable to connect your computer to your TV. This allows you to watch all of the free (read: ad-supported) TV content available on the web on your big screen. However, this option is a bit inconvenient, as it hogs the computer and requires connecting it to the Television with each use.

Option 2: You could buy an Internet-capable set top box (ie. RokuBoxee BoxApple TVGoogle TV) to stream the content to your Television. This option, though more expensive, is ideal as it requires one time set up and it frees up the computer for other use.

I recently decided to test the waters by purchasing a Logitech Revue Google TV box. I found that Apple TV and Roku, while inexpensive up front, would cost more in the longrun as both require pay-as-you-go rentals and subscription services (that is, unless you pirate content, which I don't). Boxee is great, but I just couldn't justify spending $200 on the Boxee Box when the software is available as a free PC/Mac/Linux download. Google TV seemed the most promising as it offers all of the subscription services (Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, HuluPlus) and a web browser for accessing the vast amount of free content available on the web.

Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. 

All of the major networks, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC have blocked Google TV from accessing their online content. Hulu has also blocked the box. They can give all the excuses they want, but the real reasoning behind it? Networks are afraid of mass exodus away from cable and onto the Internet. Why? Because cable sucks and people aren't stupid. We're tired of spending money on overpriced bundles when what we really want is a la carte content.  Finally, a company (in this case, Google) is stepping in and trying to relinquish control that the cable providers hold over consumers - and the networks don't like it.

I'm sorry, but the fact that the big four networks are able to block Google TV is criminal. In essence, the Logitech Revue Google TV box is a computer. It comes bundled with the same Chrome web browser that I use on my Macbook Pro. All of the free (again: ad-supported) content is still available to me if I access it with my laptop via 'Option 1' (see above) - so what makes the Logitech Revue any different? Nothing. Cable providers will soon learn that double standards do nothing more than annoy and frustrate consumers.

So am I going to wave my white flag, give in, and stick with Time Warner Cable? Hell no. I'm keeping my Google TV box to access YouTube, Vevo, The Onion, CNET, and all of the online content providers that "get it". When I want to watch some network TV, I'll hook up my laptop via 'Option 1' and run the free Boxee software.

If only ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and even HBO and Showtime could see Google TV and similar services as an opportunity to expand their reach and discover new revenue streams. They have hardware and software companies willing to do the dirty work for them. All they need to do is be innovative for a change and think outside the box - no pun intended.


Boschii said...

Wow your energy in this post is infectious and tiring (in a good way) I feel like I just vented with you. Now you got me rethinking my cable decisions especially after losing Fox for 2 weeks due to contract disputes with Cablevision - What did I get in return for missing 2 weeks of Glee and Hell's Kitchen? Nada.

Matthew said...

Great post on a highly relevant topic. A few questions:

1.) What is the quality like when hooking your computer up through the television? How expensive are the adapters to do this? One of the reasons I've yet to move away from cable completely, is my 46-inch plasma screen TV. I enjoy the HD quality of movies and sporting events and wouldn't want to sacrifice that completely.

2.) Are you still accessing the internet through Time Warner's services? If so, will the rates increase since your internet is not being purchased through a bundled package with cable television? I'd hate to see 20% of my savings be diminished through rate increased for other services from the company.

Comment Terry said...

@Matthew - the quality you will see when you hook up your computer to your TV depends on the quality of the video you're streaming. For instance, Hulu and many of the network sites stream video content at 720 or 1080p, which would give you crystal clear results on your television. However, if you're watching a lower-quality video on YouTube (say, in 260 or 360p), the result would be a lower-quality picture when you maximize the video to fit your TV screen.

Time Warner sucks in general, but when I canceled my cable I opted to keep my internet services only. They gave me a promotional rate, which amounts to just over $30 a month now, and I believe around $45 after the first year. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than a full cable package, that's for sure.

I hook up my iMac to my television with a mini-display to HDMI adapter, which cost me all of $12 on I don't know what your setup is, but you can find similar adapters for pretty cheap. Also, as Joe mentions in his article, is a great open-source platform that locates a lot of free video content from across the web. You may want to install the software just to check out the content that's available to you.

In all, I can't speak highly enough about my decision to cancel my cable service. It's the best decision I've made, and I'm not looking back.

Matthew said...

@Comment Terry (clever name!) thank you so much for the valuable insight. You may have just sold another customer for ditching cable!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

no answer?

Joe Moran said...

Depends on who's asking ;)

Anonymous said...

Santa...(so make it good)

Anonymous said...

running out of shopping days, need some techy ideas, for my bad little boy...

Joe Moran said...

@Anonymous *AKA* Santa

Here's my Amazon Wish List:

I don't think I could get any more geeky than that...


connan said...

Hey this Nate with DISH Network. I do hear what your saying about paying an outrages cable bill, but DISH Network has fantastic rates and we can set you up with a cheaper package then what Time Warner can offer and since you have the Revue this is compatible with our HD dual tuner DVR's. DISH Network even has a way to enhance your integration search. You can check out our service on our online website.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I just wanted to give my input on TIME WARNER. I have DISH Network as my TV provider and there is the Sling box which allows you to download live TV content onto your iPhone or laptop. Also as a DISH employee I can tell you that as a qualified customer you can even get HD Free for Life. Check out for more info.

Fax online said...

Thanks for telling us what you decided and how it worked out for you. Someone I know decided to ditch cable at one point and watch all of their shows through the internet.

I don't think either of those options would be right for me. It would be too inconvenient to do without cable so for now I guess, I'll stick with what I have.

We really need some better options. It shouldn't be this sort of all or nothing system that we face now.

Budgeting said...

That promotional rate sounds like a good deal. Many people watch their favorite shows by subscribing for an Internet package anyway.