Blog Post

Weekend Question: Is Cable a Bargain or a Big Waste?

My wife and I went through the fun exercise of evaluating our household budget this week. Quicken is a harsh mistress, and made no bones about the fact that one of our bigger ongoing expenses is the cable bill. Given the belt-tightening at casa Albrecht, is it time to cut that pricey cord?


  • It’s expensive. That’s $80 a month that could be spent on something else (or saved).
  • Most of what’s worth watching on TV is online for free, and my Netflix (s NFLX) Watch Instantly queue works like a charm.
  • Who doesn’t want to stick it to the cable company and their bandwidth-capping, access-metering ways?


  • What’s online is on my computer and not on the TV screen.
  • Even if it was hooked up, the free TV programming would not be in HD.
  • Cable is already hooked up and it always works; there no such thing as buffering issues.
  • I watch a lot of TV.

I’m sure there are other reasons, which is where you come in. What’s your advice; is it time to break out the scissors? Have you cut out cable, and if so, do you miss it?

21 Responses to “Weekend Question: Is Cable a Bargain or a Big Waste?”

  1. i don't read your blog

    @DaveZatz You may consider my comments spam, but the nice thing about blogs is reader interaction. We’ve sold hundreds of PC to TV cables and provide an affordable alternative to expensive, proprietary set-top boxes. Unfortunately you and NTV choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that lots of folks are accessing the Internet on their TV via their PC. I believe that this segment of the market will continue to grow and that the PC will prevail as the central hub of home entertainment. You are doing a disservice to your readers by ignoring PC to TV connectivity. That’s why I don’t read your ZatzFunny blog.

  2. I recently cut cable in my room, but we kept cable in the living room because of live sports and shows that don’t stream yet (American Idol among them). I don’t end up watching a lot of shows on cable because I find that streaming the shows is actually a pretty good experience as long as you have some patience because it will blip sometimes and you will have to have a fairly new computer to handle some of the network sites’ players (my five year old computer with absolutely nothing on it can’t handle Hulu without blipping).

    The web commercials are short and manageable, often about the same amount of time as I would take to DVR through commercials, then rewind back. The 480P HD streaming looks great on my 40″ LCD TV and I find that I do less channel surfing, more directed viewing at exactly what I want to see. I’m doing well for now, but I’m wondering if there will come a point when I don’t know what new TV shows are coming on and I’ll be a dinosaur hooked to my old shows.

  3. I use HD OTA antenna for regular broadcasts. I have a $60/month cable modem internet connection, and over that I watch hulu, miro, and use bittorent with Neuros LINK. I don’t have a big need for sports or for HD, and have zero desire to pay any more than I do now for TV (which is, effectively, zero).

  4. @DP81 Receptions depends on location and saturation and the abilities of your tuner. The tiny antenna that came with a usb tuner tunes all the OTA channels on various devices, like TiVo at my place. Wish you’d stop with the comment spam. It’s pathetic and lowbrow, ensuring I won’t visit your site. Unfortunately, for NTV, it also ensures I do not subscribe to their site comments because your crap consistently shows up. I can’t prevent it from landing on the website, but I can prevent it from landing in my inbox.

  5. Also cut my cable 2 years ago. we catch all our shows on Hulu connected to our 50″ plasma and catch sports live at (free if you have at&t adsl or verison wireless).

    Certainly dont miss my cable, I’m willing to give up a bit of quality for the cost. Also now we only watch shows when we have downtime, not when the TV decides to show it.

  6. Chris Albrecht

    @Robert — I too have become an HD snob. I can’t watch programming any other way. It’s why I bookmark the HD section of Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” and constantly check it to see if something new has arrived.

  7. I doubt I’ll ever be able to cut the chord 100% because of love of live sports. I use a lot of on-demand, and the quality of Hulu on my 61″ screen is typically not so great.

    I’m an HD snob lately and the HD-DVR works very well. And there’s quite a bit of HD content available via On Demand but it’s haphazard. Damages and LOST are available on-demand in HD, while Burn Notice and Battlestar Galactica are available on demand, but only in standard definition.

  8. RE: HD antenna. Its all about spending money on a good antenna. You need to pay at least $50+ for consistant quality reception. The cheaper ones are worthless. Unfortunately, cost really does dictate quality for HD antennas. Distance from broadcast tower is also probably a factor.

    Cannot cut cable just yet because to your point…it always works, but I suspect I will be done within a year and a half as Hulu, and others as well as broadband access becomes more reliable.

  9. We’re on special – 12 months of Comcast digital cable, a few CableCARDs, and broadband all for $60/mo. It’s up soon and our bill will pretty much double. Still undecided how we’re going to proceed. We need the broadband, but we might not need the cable. Well, I don’t. But Melissa watches a lot of the cable news networks at all different times – that’s something we can’t really replicate effectively via other means.

  10. We lived without cable for about 7 years, got it for about 1 year and canned it. We seldom watched TV prefering Netflixs.

    It turned out to be a money and time saver. We do more now that we don’t vegetate in front of a TV screen.

  11. I cut the cable almost two years ago and bought an HDTV antenna for high quality over the air network broadcasts (even though I don’t have an HDTV the moment), and use Hulu and other network sites to catch programs I missed.

  12. Miro loaded with HD torrent RSS feeds is HD time shifting TV for free. Cable news is all free and can be seen through the Miro client. The only thing you reaaly don’t get is sports (though of course you can ger very good HD baseball now from MLB.