Cutting the Cord: Why we Decided to Ditch Cable

By on 24 September, 2012 in Heather Coleman with 1 Comment

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It started innocently enough. My husband and I were bored one night, and there was nothing on TV. We gave up on Blockbuster Total Access when the local store closed. As usual, Redbox had absolutely nothing worth watching. Playing around with our Wii, I discovered that we could stream Netflix through it. That was the beginning of the end. Years’ worth of shows were consumed in days. We watched movies that we didn’t know existed. I streamed things I wouldn’t admit publicly to watching just because it was so easy.

By Christmas we decided that we needed a device that could stream Hulu as well (the Wii can now, but at that time could not). Roku is pretty much the leader in the market of streaming devices, but the Hulu interface is a bit clunky, so I wanted to explore other options. Years ago we bought a WD TV that allowed us to plug a flash drive in and watch movies, but it couldn’t stream. I decided to look at WD’s current offerings and ended up choosing a WDTV Live for the living room. In addition to streaming, WD Live plays media from your home network – in other words any media stored on your home computers becomes instantly accessible. It also supports almost any format that you can throw at it, which is a huge plus. The USB inputs sealed the deal for me. They allow you to plug in thumb drives, external hard drives, cameras or even a wireless keyboard.

With Hulu Plus and Netflix access (not to mention Pandora and Spotify), our cable TV watching declined dramatically. Our seven-year-old son took a bit longer to become comfortable with the interface, but after a couple of months he was choosing to watch Netflix over cable. We also put burned DVD’s onto a thumb drive for him, so he has a couple of dozen movies to choose from at any given time, just by plugging it in.

Despite our lack of interest in cable TV, we have put off “cutting the cord” (as ditching cable is called). With summer coming and the boys off of school, we were afraid that they would grow bored with the shows on Netflix. Hulu doesn’t have a lot of kid friendly shows. We also discovered that, like TV, most Hulu shows go on hiatus during the summer, so we went from having more than we could possibly watch to digging through all of the shows that the writer’s strike of 2007-8 killed . By August I had watched most of the good TV series on Netflix and Hulu and was looking for something new.

Amazon has a number of TV shows and movies available for free if you are a prime member. Unfortunately the WD does not play Amazon Prime Instant Videos. We tried watching them on the computer a couple of times, but gathering around the computer to watch anything just isn’t quite the same. I considered getting a Roku, but it seemed ridiculous to buy a new box so we could watch shows Amazon Instant Videos for a couple of weeks  – Hulu shows were already starting back and would be picking up speed as fall grew closer.

Randomly surfing one afternoon, I came upon the idea of connecting our old netbook with a cracked screen to the TV. The main problem was that the netbook only had a VGA port, not an HDMI. Amazon to the rescue! 38 dollars and 2 days later, I had a VGA+Audio to HDMI converter box. This little box and an HDMI cable allowed me to connect the netbook to our flat screen. I grabbed a wireless keyboard and was surfing from my sofa in under five minutes.

I knew that connecting the netbook to the TV would give me Amazon access, what I hadn’t really considered was being able to access over 3000 other free “channels”. There are multiple sites that help you figure out what you can watch, and where. Clicker is my favorite. The interface is streamlined and pretty slick. You can look up a show and find out its availability – quite a few networks have free content up on their website. Spreety also acts as a TV guide of sorts, linking show and site.

Streaming TV shows has actually helped us to enjoy television again. The viewing is almost completely commercial free. After the initial burst of watching all sorts of random things, we started looking for quality programming. In addition to the shows, we have access to thousands and thousands of movies though Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Amazon also allows you to purchase very recent TV shows and movies for a small fee – still considerably cheaper than a monthly cable bill where you are paying for the 120 channels that you don’t watch and the six that you do. I also have found that the more that I watch shows streaming, the less that I want to watch live TV – too many commercials!

We have finally decided that for our family, ditching cable is the right thing to do – we will keep the money in our entertainment budget and instead use it for a couple of fun family outings per month. I am only kicking myself that it took so long to make the decision!

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown. She is on Google+, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest.

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  1. Jim Yeaman says:

    Don’t forget AppleTV! Have had it for over a year and just find it a great device. Glad you ditched cable….check out DirecTV. A subscriber here and in Chicago for nearly 20 years…..best entertainment investment I’ve ever made. Call me for info on a $100 bonus for signing up!

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