This past summer my roommate and I made the switch from over-priced cable (in this case it was RCN) to Over-the-Air (OTA) television and Apple TV. Our major concerns were related to a potential lack of programming, specifically live sports and show-specific channels like AMC. You might be thinking: How did you survive without a DVR service and ESPN!?! Well, we figured we’d try out this simpler way of entertaining ourselves in the evening hours by cutting the cord and trusting our ingenuity. And you know what…? We realized that this experiment was totally worth it.
In fact, by limiting ourselves to Apple TV and OTA (which comes with HD channels too) we were able to test the boundaries of lower cost TV programming options. Our monthly bill dropped from $130 to $45. Split between the two of us, we each pay $22.50 per month (and I personally spring for HBO Now which is an additional $15 per month, but worth it! How many times have you selected the bigger/better package simply because you get HBO in it?)
As for sports, we no longer get ESPN but we do get most major NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL games that come over-the-air. Appointment TV has increased because we don’t have a DVR but that doesn’t bother me much. My Dad actually suggested we go old skool and tape games on VHS! (Awesome idea Dad!)
Another thing we realized was that the less you spend on TV entertainment, the more freedom you have to ignore the TV. Clearly, some basic principles of economics are at play here. When you spend $150 or $200 per month you’ll want to get your money’s worth. That makes the boob-tube a much more interesting activity than going out for drinks, seeing a performance, or reading a book.
One more concern – how do you chat with your co-workers about the latest episode of “Modern family” or “Big Bang Theory”? Actually, major syndicated shows tend to find a place on OTA channels. CBS Boston’s “My TV38” comes in crystal clear over-the-air. And my girlfriend and I can watch Jeopardy together every night, unless the Pats are playing (NFL games interrupt Jeopardy on Thursdays).
Yes – we do lose some programming and a lot of (lame) channels. We have to watch The Walking Dead late into the season on Netflix, which my girlfriend subscribes to. We miss the latest episodes of “Tiny house, Big living” or something like that. But, we’re OK with that since we didn’t love everything about cable TV either.
We don’t miss the endless commercials on cable TV. Nor do we miss the annoying menus that mix paid-for and free on-demand content. (Everything you really want to see is at least $5 to rent on these cable systems.) And we no longer pay rental fees to a cable company for a couple of boxes that would be a fraction of the price if you just bought them out right. (A $5 rental fee on a $40 device costs you $60 per year, and you probably keep renting it for 2 or 3 years, right? Big waste… See what Consumer Reports says about the average settop box rental fees – $230 per year?!)
All in all, our experience with cutting the cord was not without its fair share of challenges. There are some creature comforts that we forego, but overall, the experience has been net positive and a lot cheaper. (More money to spend on going out! Woohoo!)