How to Cut the Cable Cord Without Regrets
Brandt Malone and his wife, Ashley, recently bought their first house. Like many Americans, the Detroit couple looked for ways to reduce their expenses, but they were uncertain whether they'd be happy without cable TV.
Five of every nine U.S. adults say they would make the switch from cable to Internet-fed shows if it met their viewing requirements and they could figure out how to connect their big-screen TV to the Net, according to a recent Harris poll.
Rather than a swift snip, the 20-something Malones made the transition to Internet TV in small steps over several months before they moved in.
"It's a change in media consumption. You go from having a cable company or television company dictate your viewing habits to actively choosing what you want to watch," Malone told TechNewsDaily.
While that may sound good in theory, it also involves more work.
"It's difficult sometimes, because you actively have to select what you want to watch instead of getting home and tuning into your local television affiliate to watch a random episode of 'Seinfeld,'" he said.
What to do before you cancel cable
You could buy an Internet-connected TV, but an easier, cheaper alternative is available to most people.
"At one point I was poking my head behind our TV and noticed there was a VGA jack, similar to what we have on our computer," Malone said. "I brought the desktop out and hooked it up to the TV, and magically we had turned our 1080p 46-inch flat screen into a huge computer monitor."
After Malone made the connection between the computer and TV, he and his wife began watching YouTube, Hulu, ABC.com, and movies Malone had downloaded to the computer's hard drive. Still, they missed their favorite shows, such as AMC's "Mad Men," which was available only for purchase on iTunes and Amazon ― an additional expense that they feared could easily get out of hand.
Malone called his cable provider and negotiated a DVR package so they could record their favorite shows and watch them when it was convenient. But the couple found themselves watching TV even less. They decided to cut the cord.
Ready, set, cut
"We were going to cut our cable, increase our Internet speed to handle downloading movies, streaming video, all the 'media' things you do on the Internet, plus get a subscription to Netflix for the streaming-only option," he said.
When they moved into their new house, no cable.
"It was weird the first day. I’m used to coming home and immediately turning on either ESPN or AMC to catch SportsCenter or a movie," he said. "But I haven’t missed it, which tells me it wasn’t really that important to begin with."
Online TV sites to try
The Malones have used mostly free services, including TV station websites such as CNN.com, ESPN.com, ESPN3.com, and ABC.com along with Hulu, Boxee and Zinc.TV. They say their favorite site ― "by far the clear No. 1 choice" ― is the Netflix streaming-only option at $8 a month.
Watching sports has been their biggest challenge, but they've learned to be resourceful.
"We've gone to sports bars to watch playoff games, gone to friends' houses, and I've had to listen to radio," he said.
Not for everybody
The couple warned that cutting the cord isn't for everyone.
"My parents want to do it, and they're struggling with finding ‘replacements’ for their cable news broadcasts they watch every night," Malone said. "My advice is that you need to try it gradually to see if you are ready for the jump."
He and his wife are putting their cable savings in a separate account. They've spent some on upgrading their media computer's memory, processing power and hard-drive space to allow for full HD video playing. And they're optimistic about the future of Internet TV.
"Since the technology will continue to improve, we've put that plan in place to ensure that we don't miss out on upgrades when the time comes," he said.