Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Fall of Cable (in our house)

The decision didn't come easily. It lurked and bubbled to the surface. Each time we contemplated the end of cable in our house we carefully and thoughtfully came up with reasons why we didn't need it anymore. They ranged from "It will save us money," to "All I watch is trash anyway," to the more common and oft used "There's six-billion channels and nothing on." Our friends, when surveyed, said similar things, but were more extreme: "We prefer to just sit around and talk about the day," or "Television is never as good as reading a book." Whether I believe those two proclamations is up for debate, nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that modern cable, as we know it, had to go.

I never had a show like many people I know had or have. We didn't subscribe to HBO or Showtime so "Entourage" or "Weeds" or pay-per-view boxing were never on our radar. We watched off-channels (non-network) and used the DVR more than we watched live. What we "taped" was the quintessential American garbage: "Real Housewives of...", anything with the words New and Jersey, the typical pop of "American Idol" and slightly higher brow of "Top Chef", "Househunters International" and "Project Runway." The last three aren't really trash, but why the couple from Montana didn't choose the house on the beach could throw "HI" into the dumb box quite easily. Onward.

Whenever you want out of something like cable or your phone contract, it's never a simple process. Dial the phone and reach India and suddenly a sweet deal has suddenly risen from the depths. "Wow, I see that we can give you three months free of HBO and Showtime," or "I can take five dollars off your monthly bill," are two knee-jerk responses from customer service. "No, I'm good" has been my comeback. Short, simple, to the point. Follow it with a "What do I need to do next" and things will go and did go the way I wanted it to. "Just take the equipment back to the local Time-Warner service center and that should be it." Easy enough. Done.

"So no cable? What are you going to do about soccer?" Good point. I pondered that dilemma prior to eliminating cable and thought there must be free streaming video somewhere. I searched and there was nothing viable, so I concluded that maybe I didn't need soccer. Maybe I should just catch the big games at a pub. Watch it with already-drunk English folk in a dingy, panel-walled dump, with tubed-televisions and smelly carpet... That could work, right?

I managed for a while, but the lure of Fox Soccer pulled me closer and closer until I couldn't stand it anymore. I plunked down the $10 per month for a subscription online, and have never regretted it. I watch it when I want and the schedule is phenomenal. We did the same with NetFlix. We were the earlybirds back when NetFlix only offered DVD's (which we didn't always watch) so we dropped it. Fast forward to now, and we decided to pay the $7.99 per month for streaming online. The figure we were at was $18 per month (soccer and NetFlix), far less than $130 we were paying for cable and internet combined. But there's more...

In order to get streaming in our room I bought the Sony Blu-Ray with built-in Wi-Fi for $129. To make it worthwhile I bumped-up our Internet connection to 30 megabytes per second, thus the Internet now runs $50 per month. In the living room, we had nothing, so we welcomed the Mac Mini on board for $520. The Mini mated with the Plasma now makes a gigantic computer, where we (drum roll) run the Internet, and of course NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, etc.

On the surface it looks like a big, complicated cluster, but at the heart of it is choice programming. We watch what we want, when we want. NetFlix has opened our world to an endless (it seems) library of shows and mind-bending documentaries like ones on Origami and dumpster-diving. It has also given me my first, official show with "Breaking Bad." I love having a show, although I've motored through all the seasons available on NetFlix which led me to go the "Underworld" route of downloading season 4. That's another story. For now, our enemy known as cable television and the bill that comes with it is gone and looks to be out of out of our house forever. Unless, we can't stand not having "American Idol" in our world. Stay tuned.