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Column: Cast a Vote: Should I Go TV-Free?

Oct 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Has the time come to get rid of my television? I’m not referring to just my specific provider here. I mean no cable TV. No satellite TV. No rabbit ears.
Can it be done yet? Can broadband video fill the void? I’m going to let the readers decide.
Yes, I’m offering myself up as a guinea pig for the broadband-powered video lifestyle. I’ll explain my reasoning later, but for now let me say that if I cut the cord and become a high-speed-only house, I’m going to need your support.
VOTE NOW


I need to know whether you want me to conduct this cable-free experiment, because we’ll be in this together. Why, you ask? Because I’m going to be reporting in every week for the next month, letting you know where it hurts, where it feels good, if it works, if it doesn’t.
I’m going to depend on you, my readers and my friends, to get me through. When I’m sitting there on the couch, jonesing to use video-on-demand or my digital video recorder or just to relish the sheer ease of watching the old-fashioned way, that’s when I’m going to need your support.
I’ll need it to get me through those dark and lonely nights when I’m just one push of the button away from calling Comcast and signing back up.
So let’s make it a joint project. I’m declaring my candidacy to cut the cable programming cord for at least one month. If you vote yes on my blog, Trial & Error, I’ll cancel my cable programming (but not broadband service) and lean only on my Apple TV, and my computer. If you vote no, I’ll keep the status quo.
Here are the pros and cons.
Ditching cable programming saves close to $99 a month, and we all need to tighten our belts during tough economic times.
There will be challenges. I am a die-hard “Grey’s Anatomy” fan and I also like to watch “The Office.” But as anyone who hasn’t been sleeping under a rock knows, you can get those shows on ABC.com, NBC.com, Hulu.com or iTunes.
But I also watch “Entourage” and “Californication” every Sunday. Can I go without HBO and Showtime? Neither one of those shows is immediately available on iTunes. But as much as I love “Entourage” I’m willing to wait a few months until the DVD comes out to be with the boys.
Then there are kids networks such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which really prove their worth on Saturday mornings when you can say to the kids, “Go watch cartoons. I’m going back to bed.”
But kids are flexible and they don’t care where they watch, so I can park them in front of a computer to see “iCarly” or “Pokemon.”
How about MSNBC’s “Countdown”? Actually, that show will afford the most seamless transition because it’s available immediately on iTunes—without the commercials. I have an Apple TV so I can even pretend I haven’t canceled my cable when I watch Keith.
So now I put it to you. Shall I pull the plug on cable programming and live like a true Web-video heroine?
Go to TVWeek.com and vote.

63 Comments

  1. How are you getting your broadband, Daisy? Won’t you miss out on bundled discounts?
    Can you get over-the-air reception in your area? A DTV receiver can help soften the blow of cutting off cable.

  2. With all respect and affection, Daisy, however the voting turns out it would be irresponsible to ditch your traditional television connection to prove — what exactly?
    Your columns about new media are written for a publication and readership that is still focused on traditional tv and revenue models. A lot of your fresh insights about the relative merits of the various media include your sharp observations about the attendant advertising and cross-promotion.
    If you pull that plug, you’ll be cut off from a lot of the context that surrounds the programs. In short, a bad idea.
    Arthur

  3. So, you’re not cutting TV completely–just the cable? That sounds like a good idea, especially with all the great programming now available on free over-the-air digital. And much of it is HD. Add your Apple TV, and you’ve got lots more free stuff with all the podcasts and YouTube. Treat yourself occasionally to a pay-per-view movie or TV show on the Apple TV, and you’ll still be $$ ahead. I’m ready to do the same myself, but I haven’t been able to convince the other household members of this. One idea to consider is to add a Tivo HD DVR. It receives free over-the-air HD, and allows you to record stuff that you otherwise might miss. The end result is you’ll plenty of good content to watch when you want to, and you’ll still save about $89 per month.

  4. Good luck with this. IMHO, you’re about ten years too soon, at the earliest.
    It’s doable today, I suppose, depending on what level of quality one is willing to settle for. Personally, I’ve been bitten by the HD bug, and on the net that level of quality is simply not there.

  5. I guess I’m lucky I’ve never had cable. And for the last two years, all my TV access has come from my broadband connection.
    When I watch “real” TV at friends’ homes, I notice some differences. The commercials aren’t the same…fewer ads and ever fewer for household cleaners and pharmaceuticals, fewer ads trying to keep me tuned in for what’s up next (no chance of a TV trance that keeps me watching the next program…even if I have no real interest), and I end up in show marathons.
    I have found that I watch fewer news shows… because I tend to use newsreaders and skim the headlines instead of listening to the talking heads.
    It’ll be interesting to follow your observations. Vote YES to dropping cable.

  6. Hi Arthur:
    I understand your concerns and you make a valid point. But at the same time, this is ONLY an experiment after all for one month to see if it’s possible to do what many experts predict many consumers will do in time. It might prove too cumbersome and challenging. But I think given the expected consumer shift in this direction, we should take a forward thinking role at TVWeek and at least try out some of the consumption habits that consumers are gravitating words.

  7. Hey Daisy,
    OVGuide.com and TVGuide.com will be your best friends!!!

  8. Dumping TV is something I am going to do as soon as I have a job and am living by myself. All through college I had three roommates and dumping TV was never an option. Even though we had a 50in TV the only time I really watched is when I had friends over to watch football.
    I had never thought, but Kevin Rose did give a great example about sports. Going out to a bar or somewhere to watch. Having sports viewing as always being a social thing is always a nice idea. My only problem with switching is that I watch Formula 1 racing a lot, which doesn’t have as big a following as football. Those are available online in “other” ways.
    With Hulu, I can legally watch the few TV shows that I do enjoy every now and then. The only problem I have come into personally is podcasts. I enjoy many of the Revision3 ones and am always looking for new ones. Ones that are HD are a big plus as well. I’ve got a nice HTPC that is running Vista Media Center. TV Tonic is a plug-in for it that does a fairly good job for organizing podcasts in Vista Media Center. Unfortunately when it plays back HD Quicktime Podcasts it skips like crazy and the audio and video are out of sync. Sure, I could just… not be lazy and use a mouse, but… yeah the whole point of a HTPC is to not use a mouse.
    I’ll be saving $60-$70/month so those two little hiccups I can deal with since I’m saving that amount of money. Even around here a good number of local news stations stream their evening news so I can use that as well.

  9. Our family went cable-less during our last move in 2002 and don’t miss much, especially the $100 per month (now spent on live performances). Now we’ve upgraded to DTV, the number of channels has risen 3x and the quality is HD.
    I agree with a number of the above, you can’t cut yourself off completely without losing context for the changing role of TV, but a one-month test is definitely in order. Maybe you should extend that one-month test with a second month using DTV, at the very least you’ll end up $200 ahead in the deal and you may never return to the cable cabal.

  10. I’m excited to see your take on this, Daisy. People always assume I miss out on everything while I’m on the road but I’ve been able to see advances just in the last year and a half that have made keeping up with your favorite shows even easier. Hulu is amazing, the network players are getting better every month and when worse comes to worse there’s always the wonderful world of bit torrent.

  11. Would a fiber optic service be cheating if it were available?

  12. I voted yes because it will help you to focus on everything that isn’t on cable and/or satellite, and make you better at what you do best.

  13. Not that you’d do that, of course, but just conceptually: Are you TV free if you or other family members start watching TV elsewhere, like at a friend’s house?
    I wonder what my family would do differently, and how they would feel.

  14. If you ask the internet if you should give up cable in favor of only internet the answer will always be yes.

  15. You can get almost anything online ala carte for free or inexpensively…you’ve got the network sites, Hulu, Tidal TV all for free and iTunes, Amazon, DVWN, Netflix are all cheap.
    TV is not worth 100 dollars a month not even close. There’s already better stuff on the Net on-demand with great quality and selection. Do it -you’ll spend half the money and enjoy it twice as much!!

  16. start reading books you septic tank numpty

  17. Thank you for a great post

  18. Thank you for a great post

  19. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  20. Okay guys, Lohan has returned to her vintage ways….She admitted to failing a court-ordered drugs test the other day. She tweeted the following: “This was certainly a setback personally though I’m taking responsibility for my activities and I sure am happy to face the consequences.” Which means that, maybe simply putting her in gaol for a couple weeks and treatment for less was not the most effective idea!

  21. I know there is no secret bullet to it, but if you could give only one advice, what would it be? What is the most imoprtant thing you learned over the past?

  22. Ice hockey is an interesting exercise, I like it.

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