For years I was a cable apologist. Others cried foul on ever-increasing prices, poor customer service and network dirty tricks, and dropped off. I held fast, ordering more and more channels and services, until one day, half-watching a marathon of House Hunters International through glazed-over eyes, I realized my unhealthy addiction to cable TV.
So I finally cut the cord, and it’s fantastic… I guess. Maybe? The content is there, but the delivery still has some issues.
When I joined Gigaom in 2007, YouTube (s GOOG) was still about cat videos and copyright battles, Hulu hadn’t launched (and we mocked it), and your Netflix (s NFLX) queue was the pile of no-don’t-send-that-back-I’m-totally-going-to-watch-it-someday art-house DVDs piled up on your coffee table.
Now a third of YouTube viewing comes from content 20 minutes or longer and millions of people pay for Hulu. Netflix drives more than 30 percent of all peak downstream internet traffic AND its original programming was nominated for 14 Emmys and 6 Golden Globes this year.
There were three main reasons I hopped on the cord cutting bandwagon:
- I got old.
- I had a kid.
Getting old can’t be explained until it happens to you; at some point you just stop caring about most of the crap you used to obsess about. But that’s a lament for a different blog.
The kid thing was huge. We don’t let our three-year-old watch a lot of TV, but when we do it’s through No. 3 — Netflix. There’s a great selection of kid-friendly content and no commercials yelling at him in between breaks in the action. That may make me sound like a bad parent, but seriously, when you need 20 minutes to cook dinner, slapping on an episode of Wild Kratts buys you the time you need.
Of course, it’s not all about the kid. There’s plenty my wife and I watch on there as well. The Netflix originals have been awesome and a very real reason we’ve kept our subscription (though polarizing, Arrested Development season four is a master class in storytelling structure).
“Price” isn’t on that list. I’ll enjoy saving $100 bucks a month, but in some ways, I was just running on tradition. I had always paid for cable. Cable prices always sucked. Shrug shoulders, c’est la guerre, what’s on the Food Network? A big difference now, though, is that options like Netflix, Amazon (s AMZN) Prime, Hulu, and more are mature and won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
So, gone is the big bulky cable box. In its place are: rabbit-ear antenna, Apple TV and Chromecast along with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu Plus and an iTunes account.
Change ain’t always easy
Despite the promise of cord cutting nirvana, there have been a few bumps.
The uncompressed HD picture through an antenna is quite nice, but there are reception issues and no DVR. No DVR means no pausing for bathroom breaks or rewinding to show the wife something. Plus, the mere presence of the rabbit ears makes me feel geriatric. As my colleague (and expert cord cutter) Janko Roettgers pointed out, I could have spent more on a more stylish antenna, but I guess I’m old school.
I want to like Hulu Plus, but the service still doesn’t make it blatantly obvious what seasons and which full episodes it has and for how long. This is maddening when trying to catch up on something I can no longer DVR. Plus, commercials.
And there have been technical issues. The video quality of Netflix on my Apple TV has become horrendous in recent weeks, even after all manner of factory resetting, software updating and instant messaging with the company’s help line. I’m not the only one experiencing this issue. I switched to my Chromecast, but that up and died after the most recent software update.
Say what you will about the price of cable or the cable companies, I knew whenever I turned on my TV, it worked, and did so without buffering or rebooting.
In the end, I’m not ruling out a return to cable at some point. Despite being in a golden age of TV, we’re in the post-Breaking Bad, pre-Mad Men doldrums. The true test of my cord-cutting mettle will be when Game of Thrones returns (I can only avoid Twitter spoilers so much). But thanks to great alternatives, I don’t think I’ll ever feel addicted to cable again.