Cutting The Cord

For the first time since the ’80s, I no longer have a cable television bill. I have cut the cord.

To many of my friends in the tech industry, this is hum-drum news. After all, we’ve been talking about “cord cutters” since broadcast subscribers began to decline back in 2010. What took you so long O’Malley?

For most of the people I know, however, this was very surprising news. It sparked a lot of conversation, a ton of questions, and surprisingly, a lot of interest from others who may want to do the same.

The amount of curiosity and enthusiasm in those conversations inspired me to write this series of posts. Over the next few days, I’ll write about what drove me to make the switch, the myriad of alternatives available, the big names competing for your business, and ultimate what I option I selected.

Why now?

For me, the push to leap into the unknown came down to one simple question and one simple number.

The question came from my wife, who leaned over to me last week and said: “Have you ever considered canceling DirecTV?

This was the turning point. One of the major tenants in my approach to technology at home is don’t push too far beyond the family’s comfort zone. I’m fine with jumping through 12 hoops to watch a video, but the rest of the family needs to be able to pick up a remote, click the On button and start watching. If Mrs. O’Malley is open to ditching cable, then we’re clear to dive into the unknown!

The number was $209.97. That was the amount of my January DirecTV bill. Two hundred nine dollars and ninety-seven cents. Now granted, I was subscribed to the NFL Sunday Ticket package that added $48.99 to my monthly bill, but even so, that number was staggering when I actually broke it down:

Expense Cost
Choice XTRA Classic $93.99
HBO $17.99
Regional Sports Fee $7.49
NFL Sunday Ticket $48.99
Programming Subtotal: $168.46
Watch DIRECTV on Multiple TVs $7.00
Advanced Receiver Service – HD $10.00
DIRECTV Protection Plan $8.99
Advanced Receiver Service – DVR $10.00
DIRECTV Whole-Home DVR Service $3.00
Equipment Subtotal: $38.99
Sales Tax $2.52
Total $209.97

$168.46 for a pile of channels I barely watch?

$38.99 to rent the damned boxes need to make it all work? Including nit-picky charges like a fee to have more than one television? To watch in HD? To use the DVR built into the box they gave me? That’s over $450 a year in rental fees just so I could see the content I’m already paying hundreds for. Too damned much!

A Million Questions

Once I opened my mind cutting the cord, I realized that I had a lot of questions:
How do I even do this? I don’t even know what my options are.
Does this mean giving up on our local channels?
How will I watch the NFL? The Yankees? The PGA?
What shows or networks do we really care about?
Does this mean giving up the DVR?
Will this be such a pain in the ass that it’s not really worth it?
That was probably just the first 30 seconds. Over the next few days, I came up with a lot more, and these were echoed by everyone I spoke to.

That’s no surprise. Cable is safe. It’s been part of American culture since the 1970s, and most of us think of it as an essential like water, electric and internet. Giving that up in favor of … something else … something new … something unknown … is scary.

Well fear not. I’ve gone through this process, and over the next few posts I’ll share what I’ve learned. I’ll spell out all of the major cable alternative available right now, discuss the pros and cons of each service, and ultimately tell you what choices I made to address our needs.

So buckle up. We’re going deep into the strange and exiting word without cable.

Continue on to Part 2 – The Alternatives