Blog Post

Why I Can’t Break Up With Cable

Cable prices suck, you’re paying more for less — that’s the gist of a New York Times report that said cable prices have gone up 77 percent since 1996, almost double the rate of inflation. Adding insult to injury, we’re only watching 13 percent of the channels offered. I hate dealing with the cable company, but I just can’t seem to break up with it. Maybe NewTeeVee readers can offer a few suggestions to help me cut the cord.

There are three main reasons why I stay in this lopsided relationship: laziness, HD and discovery.

It’s hard to beat the one-stop shop of cable. It’s all right there at literally the touch of a button. It always works (well, almost always), I have a DVR built-in and on-demand movies to rent. All the channels I want are available, and within 10 seconds of sitting on the couch I’m entertained.

I bought the HD TV set, may as well enjoy HD content on it. TV shows on Hulu are great and convenient but are not in HD. I could stream HD content on ABC, but I’d have to watch it on my Mac, and then my only options are between Lost and McDreamy (I’m not a Dancing with the Stars fan like Liz). iTunes doesn’t offer HD versions of its TV shows, and lord knows how much that will cost when it does.

Yes, I know I don’t watch the vast majority of channels that are pumped into my house. At most, I watch a dozen, but if I only got stuff I liked, I wouldn’t stumble on stuff I didn’t know I’d like, or be able to easily try out a new show. Plus, there is a Zen-like satisfaction to flipping through channels and finding a cable oddity that I didn’t know existed (or maybe just enjoy the mindless flipping).

I know it can be done (Om did it). I know I don’t need cable in my life, and I’d probably get more done if I didn’t have it (do I really need to watch the mildly-amusing Bones just because it’s on right before House? No. No, I do not). I could spend that time writing a novel, or, as corporate would prefer, writing another blog post.

Who out there has cut the cord for good? What system do you use now (don’t say satellite), and how has it worked out for you?

18 Responses to “Why I Can’t Break Up With Cable”

  1. Hi Chris. You can get free HD broadcasts on most network shows via over the air digital TV. If you have a HD or flatscreen TV, just hook it up to a decent VHF/UHF antenna and select ATSC input.

    We canceled cable this year and now watch all our favorite shows this way. Since it’s digital (and not as compressed), the signal is actually much clearer and sharper than our old digital cable was.

    We also signed up for a basic Netflix subscription, which we use to watch our favorite HBO and Showtime shows as well as thousands of ‘free’ pay-on-demand via their Instant Watch feature. and Itunes come in handy for timely shows (Daily Show, etc.), so we can pretty much watch all our favorite shows without spending thousands on cable TV.

    We blogged about our experience at: and are posting screenshots and sample videos of our setup and the quality of the broadcasts we are receiving.

    P.S. If you are looking for extra motivation to cancel, checkout this page which tells you how much money you would earn if you canceled cable and invested it instead!

  2. For those sports fans check out It has streaming ESPN with content that spans all of the ESPN properties. Your internet provider pays to subscribe (which of course is passed onto you) so you might as well use it!

    Also the majority of the Beijing olympics will be streamed over the web as well!

  3. William Hughes

    I stopped watching Cable in January of 2007. Over the past 10 years I watched as the quality of TV Shows headed south with each passing year. Two things have contributed to this.

    1. The replacing of Quality Drama and Comedy Shows with Cheaply-Produced “Reality”, Game and News Shows.

    2. The Amount of Commercials that viewers have to contend with when watching a show. 10 years ago a viewer watched about 10-12 minutes of Commercials for each Hour of Programming. Now, a person has to contend with 20 -26 minutes of Commercials each hour! Many of them are for products I have absolutely no interest in buying, and many of them are presented to me in a way I find Obnoxious and/or Offensive. (Some of the Ads for certain Medical Products approach being Pornographic in nature, and are shown at times when Children are watching!) And if that isn’t enough, Ads are now run during the program! (In the form of Banners, Scrolls and “Pop-Ups”. I finally decided it was no longer worth it. If they are making more money by selling more commercials they obviously no longer need my $65.00 Subscription Fee each month. I now use that $65.00 to purchase DVD Box Sets of my Favorate Programs. (And some I never got to watch when they first came out.) By keeping my eyes on the Bargain Bins, I can get 3 to 5 of these sets each month. I have now accumulated over 7,000 hours of Programs and Movies. I actually enjoy my evenings in front of the set. Gone are the days where I have to keep my finger on the remote’s “Mute” switch, ready at a moment’s notice to snuff out an offending Ad. There are no distractions on the screen, and the only inturruptions are if the Phone rings or someone is at the Door. whenever this happens I just pause the program! (For Phone Calls I check the Caller ID, a Toll-Free Number, Out of State Number where I know nobody, Customer Service or “Unknown Caller” prompt gets my “Two-Fingered Salute” (Press Talk and End in rapid succession)) There are no schedules to adhere to, and best of all, after I am done watching the program, I GET TO KEEP IT!

  4. Riley

    I think it boils down to value for your dollar. I was not watching enough television to justify the monthly bill. I use netflix and the internet to satisfy my entertainment needs.
    If you feel like you are getting a good bang for your buck keep paying the bill…

  5. Steve

    I cut the cable and gave away my TV several years ago. It was tough at first. But eventually I found ways to fill the time. I don’t regret it at all. Now, I find the shows rather boring. I’m still captivated by commercials though.

    So, I’d recommend going cold turkey. Forget Hulu, apple TV or whatever else is online. The medium is new, but the message is the same.

    My tips for quitting are to pursue neglected interests. You mentioned novel writing in your post. To get a kick start, I recommend nanowrimo. I also started reading more without cable’s sweet siren song.

    Also, line up other diversions. I took up tango dancing. It had three key elements. It was entertaining (to me at least), soaked up lots of time, and I got to meet women. For a mindless distraction there is always drinking. Sports are also a good for mindless fun, and are more healthy.

  6. If not for sports and love of HD on the bigscreen (mostly for Sports and Movies) I could give it up. For most things that are in at least good quality 480p, (tv shows, movies) I could probably suffer through the lack of HD and download everything via iTunes (or other services) and beam it to the big screen from my media server. But, I’m just too hooked on live sports to completely cut the chord.

    And though it all winds up being pricey, I really like On Demand…a lot. Am about to binge on the entire 3rd season of Showtime’s Weeds via On Demand.

  7. Brian E

    I still pay my cable co (Time Warner, which is crap) for their Internet pipe, but I recently canceled my actual cable TV subscription with them. Most of the stuff I watched on cable is now free on Veoh, Hulu,, etc. I just plug my laptop into my flatscreen, which isn’t ideal, but it sure beats paying $70 a month plus tax. Losing my ESPN channels was painful, but now I just go down to my local sports bar and watch my games there.

  8. I haven’t cut the cord either even though I know I should. It’s expensive and works poorly and yet I still really like VOD and I use it for the workout videos and for the kids shows. I guess that makes the ridiculous price of admission worthwhile. That and the fact that I just don’t think connecting your computer to your TV is ready for prime-time yet.

  9. Chris Albrecht

    Hey Nat,

    I read your post, and you’re an inspiration. I just don’t know if I’ll muster the energy to do all that. Though I think I’ll look into that Elgato device. Thanks!

  10. Eddie G

    I get all my needs covered by, the Wire and Sopranos on DVD, and renting blu-rays at my local video store. I have basic cable (which here in Sweden is like 16 channels) since it’s included in my rent but I never watch it. It works for me since I’m into Asian dramas, a few high quality series, and high quality movies.

  11. I’m actually trying to decide if I should go back to cable or if I should just get an over the air antenna right now. I haven’t had cable in 2 years and sometimes I miss being able to just turn on the TV and be entertained almost instantly. The reason I’m trying to make the decision between Cable and over the air though is because where I live I should be able to get ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS in HD over the air and it should only cost me about $60 for the antenna, but I would love to be able to watch TBS and TV Land so I don’t know what to do either.

    If I were you however, I would probably stick with cable, at least for another year or so. You have an HDTV and currently HD on the internet is a little hard to come by.

  12. For me, DSL sucks, so I have internet through Comcast. Second, satellites just never worked for me, especially when a storm was approaching, you did receive a 20 minute warning of snow/interference.

    I do need to drop HBO, I rarely watch it, especially after the Wire and Sopranos are gone. I rarely navigate over 75, unless I tune into ESPN news, the Encore channel group, HBO and the MTV set from time to time.

    When the Apple TV comes up with a subscription i will likely cut my services down to basic. Until then, I’m stuck watching how stuff is made and the history channel, trying my best to account for my $125 cable bill (including internet).

  13. R Pyle

    Over the past year I went from “Basic” cable to “Family” (26 channels) to “Limited Basic” (9 channels, all locals). That was when I realized that most of what I was watching on the cable channels was reruns. Constant reruns. If I want to see a particular show that’s not available on limited, I’ll watch it online. I still can’t cut the cord completely, I need my cable modem. But it’s better paying $13 a month for the limited basic than $50 a month for a lot of stuff I wasn’t watching anyway. Really, ask yourself — how many channels are you forced to take that you never watch at all?

  14. Although I didn’t ‘cut the cord’ I found myself without cable, survived it and have a manuscript of about 950 pages (the novel) as a result! I had cable service in my flat in Abu Dhabi provided by the local monopolist E-Vision who offered a basic channel line-up which suited my needs. But in late 2005 I had to spend some months up the coat in Dubai, launching a new free-to-air satellite channel. The crappy apartment I was housed in during that project phase had no television at all! The novel started to get written in longhand, in notebooks I filled while enjoying the Chardonnay at the nearest hotel.

    When I got back to Abu Dhabi I discovered that my cable subscription had expired… and I never bothered renewing it. I just kept on writing…