In Depth

Column: Giving Up TV Is No Real Sacrifice

I got so used to watching TV via the Internet last week that I got sick of it. Yep, I was up to my eyeballs in television, to the point where I had to cut myself off for a day.

Let me explain.

After the first few days without cable or broadcast programming on the TV set, I got into a groove in my Internet-TV-only lifestyle. For starters, I bought a wire that connects my computer to the TV set so I can watch “The Office” via Hulu on my big screen. Then I checked out the “Saturday Night Live” sketches with Gov. Sarah Palin and Mark Wahlberg on my PC—no need for broadcast TV there. (Say hi to your mother for me.) I even convinced myself that “Grey’s Anatomy” releases new episodes on Fridays (new episodes actually premiere Thursdays on-air), so when I watch the show online on Friday nights, it feels fresh.

After all that, I got fed up with TV. By the middle of last week I’d consumed too much TV online—“The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” YouTube clips, Web-only shows, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” “The Office,” “Grey’s Anatomy”—that I declared a 24-hour TV moratorium.

I bring this up because I believe my TV overdose underscores that the Internet can indeed be a reasonable facsimile for traditional TV. You can watch nearly all the same shows, you can access most of the water-cooler clips and you can stay current on news, events and the hottest prime-time shows via the Web. As long as you set your own internal DVR—Repeat after me: “‘Grey’s’ is on Fridays”—you can still watch much the same programs online as you did on-air. Which means you can still get a bellyache if you overeat. True, I might be suffering from election news overload, but my Internet TV pig-out is evidence that cord-cutting works so well you can gorge yourself on too much TV over the Web.

Even so, a number of issues still bedevil the Internet-only lifestyle. I spoke to Josh Lovison, a gaming consultant at the IPG Emerging Media Lab at the media agency Initiative. He tried to cut the cord and contends the Internet isn’t ready yet. Here’s why.

1. Not enough hi-def. Mr. Lovison likes high-quality hi-def shows. “In terms of quality, Blu-ray is at the top, then it goes down to probably an HD digital purchase, then to TV broadcast, and finally down to online streaming,” he said. “For online streaming, it just isn’t there yet where an ad-supported Hulu in hi-def model would be able to win me over. Though once it is there, that would be incredibly neat.”

2. Not enough shows. Finding all the shows you want in one place is still tough. You have to bounce around from iTunes to Hulu to various network sites to find the shows.

3. Not low-cost enough. With cable bundling, the pricing for the triple play goes way down, making cable relatively affordable, Mr. Lovison said. “I get my Internet and phone from Time Warner, so my cable package is really only about $30 a month when considered in the bundle. That’s about two-thirds a season of a show a la carte,” he said.

Despite those drawbacks, Mr. Lovison said he’s getting closer to kissing his cable subscription goodbye. Are you ready to take the plunge with me? C’mon, jump in. The water’s nice.