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Summary:

“The only thing cable ever gets you is fat,” says Henry Knepp, who cut the cord this week. Knepp is now using a Roku box, Hulu Plus and Netflix to access online content. He’s missing a few shows, but also saving a whole bunch of money.

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What is it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job replacing the cable box? In our new weekend series, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experience. Starting off is Henry Knepp, who cut the cord just a few days ago.

Yesterday, I dropped our HD DVR cable box off at our local Charter Communications office.

My wife and I have decided to try using a Roku XD|S system to stream video and audio content from the Internet to our televisions. Using Netflix and Hulu Plus we can stream much of what we used to watch on cable.

Before canceling our cable we wanted to make sure this was going to work for us so we have been using the Roku XD|S for about a week now.

I think the Roku system itself is very cool.  It is extremely simple to set up and use and the video quality is exceptional.  My existing streaming services like Pandora Radio and Netflix were incredibly easy to activate on the Roku and are so convenient that I find myself using them a lot more now.  Hulu Plus is pretty good as well.  The movie content on Hulu Plus is only mediocre but the television content is pretty good.

About half of the shows that we used to watch on cable are available on Hulu Plus.  The programs that I watched that are not on Hulu Plus seem to be mostly CBS content and programs from the Discovery Networks (shows like Survivor, Amazing Race, Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, American Pickers etc.) My kids will also be missing the Nickelodeon and Disney channels. That said, I figure that between an HD antenna and watching online content on our PC we still be able to watch just about whatever we can’t live without and can’t get on the Roku.

The bottom line for me is this: I may not get everything that I had with cable service but the $100+ per month savings (including my Internet service and the premium services, Netflix and Hulu Plus) more than makes up for what I’m missing.  As a friend of mine said to me the other day, “The only thing cable ever gets you is FAT.”

Now for my concerns.  I think for anyone who can stand to lose some of the programming they are used to watching on cable, Internet streaming is a very good and very cost effective option for now.  My fear is that it may not stay that way. I have three main concerns:

  1. The United States Congress is currently discussing net neutrality.  Depending on how this goes, there could be significant changes in what content we are “allowed” to access on the Internet.
  2. Cable giant Comcast is currently trying to buy NBC Universal. If there is anyone who stands to lose from Internet television content, it is definitely the cable companies.  If this merger goes through, I would expect to see new road blocks and higher prices for streamed online content.
  3. The major Hollywood studios are rethinking the value of Netflix as they make far less from streamed content than they do from shows that are broadcast over the networks and movie channels.  This may mean lower quality content, longer waits and higher prices.

In all, I would say that predicting what the future of this industry holds is a complete shot in the dark.  That said, my guess is that as time passes, more content will become available to be streamed to your television from the Internet but streamed content will also become more expensive.

It would be really nice if one day, every television program from every network was being streamed online and available on devices like the Roku XD|S.  It would be great if I could just pick and choose the networks that I wanted to watch a la carte style, paying for only what I like.

Henry Knepp is a security consultant & self-professed motorcycle fan living in the Pacific Northwest. His account of his first few days as a cord cutter originally appeared on his Posterous Blog.

Check out the most recent episode of our weekly web series Cord Cutters below, leave feedback for Henry in the comments, and send us your own cord cutting story to cordcutters@gigaom.com!

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  1. Henry, you said “It would be great if I could just pick and choose the networks that I wanted to watch a la carte style, paying for only what I like.”

    My question: if an incumbent pay-TV provider offered you a custom-build service, your choice of linear channels + OTT VOD at a reasonable “value-based” price, then would you consider returning as a customer?

    Reason why I ask this question: I believe that pay-TV service providers may eventually react to the apparent segmentation of the U.S. pay-TV market, and thereby offer more granular service options to existing subscribers — primarily as a pro-active customer retention option, which may also appeal to someone like you (as a prior customer).

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    1. My return to a pay-TV type service would depend on a number of factors. I would have to compare the provider’s available options and pricing with what I could get through alternate services. I am not “anti-cable,” but I consider myself a savvy shopper and I am not opposed to forgoing some services (or in this case, programs) to save a considerable amount of money.

      when we were with cable, we were paying about $148.00 per month for an expanded cable/broadband internet package. That price included our internet service, our HD cable box/DVR and 150 or so channels. On top of that we were paying for a $8.99 per month (now $9.99) Netflix account. In total we were paying $157.99 per month for television and internet. Of the 150 or so channels we had, we really only watched 9 or 10 of them on a regular basis and 4 of those we could pick up over the air using an antenna. When we dropped the cable, our basic service for the internet without the cable television dropped to $29.99 per month. We still have the Netflix account and we added Hulu Plus for an additional $7.99 per month. Now our total monthly payment is $47.97. That is a total savings of $1,320.24 per year.

      Now to answer your question, I would happily pay a few dollars per month for some particular networks but I am finished subsidizing the 140 or so other networks that I cared nothing about.

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  2. I would recommend cutting Hulu Plus and saving this money (or using this money to subscribe to your favorite sport via their website). Hulu Plus is mainly only good for watching old espisodes of TV services, and Hulu is owned by a couple of networks, so the others don’t cooperate with them. The latest 3 episodes of almost all TV services are available on the Internet for free (the only exceptions being stupid Warner Brothers e.g. Big Bang Theory). The best way to access TV shows is TVGuide.com at http://video.tvguide.com/episodes.aspx. They have links to all of them, no matter where they are. Also, I do not understand why people buy the limited Internet-access boxes. Any cheap PC has unrestricted access to everything, and mini-desktop PC’s are ideal, including the one designed for PC’s at http://www.catchthewavetv.com.

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