Over three years ago, I posed the question of whether I could cut cable TV from my life. It's odd to look back on the online media landscape over that time. YouTube was less than two years old. Hulu wasn't announced yet. Finding a Redbox or DVDPlay in your town was a rare joy. Streaming video was so new to Netflix that they didn't have a Instant Queue until a little more than two years ago.
At that time I tried to cut cable television, I'd need three things:
- Polished DVRs with no subscriptions. I can't have the OS crashing on me. I need an interface that everyone can use. Perhaps this is not a problem. I'll need to research this. There is likely going to be a one time cost. Perhaps I can get something pre-built on Ebay.
- Slingbox and good bandwidth. The original Slingbox's picture is okay for most television viewing, but it's tough on sports with small details such as a baseball or football.
- I need to get one of those HDTV antennas. They are cheap and easy to get on the Internet. I'll probably pick one up this weekend.
Looking back at that a few things jump out at me...
- The idea of putting a Slingbox at a friend's house and sharing a cable connection was a total cop-out. I think it was a great idea at the time considering the lack of alternatives, but a lot more can be done today. Some people mentioned it was even against Slingbox's terms of service. To those people, I'd just say that I believe a company has to offer a service to offer a terms of service. If you buy a product that requires no service, you are free to use it as you see fit (as long as it is within the laws of the US).
- The HDTV antenna that I tried was horrible. I think I simply went too cheap on that.
- I was a horrible writer who relied on lists too much... even for short items that don't require lists like this one.
My idea of cutting the cable had been dormant after my failed attempt three years. Recently four factors have resurrected the idea. We had an accidental deletion of an episode of Glee (yes guilty as charged) and I had to resort to Hulu to catch up. I had a conversation with some friends who I haven't seen in some time and they mentioned dropping their cable. They are exclusively using a combination of Netflix, Hulu, and MLB TV - a subscription service streaming live Major League Baseball games over the Internet. CNN Money says that 1 in 8 people will drop cable and satellite in 2010, which led to Lifehacker asking what would you need to ditch cable television? Finally, I learned that a new co-worker is quite adept at building polished media boxes from open source software (with no ongoing subscriptions) and he's willing to help set me up with the software if I buy the hardware. This interface would give us easier access to Hulu and Netflix.
The mitigating factor is not that I won't have enough to watch if I cut the cable. It's not even the quality of what's available online. The combination of Netflix and Hulu would give me more TV than I should be watching anyway. The problem is with live television - particularly sports. Like my friends, baseball wouldn't be much of an issue because of MLB TV. That would cost us $110 a year. However that represents a savings from what we pay our cable company for MLB Extra Innings for out-of-town coverage of our beloved Red Sox. The next problem is getting NFL games. There is no NFL equivalent MLB TV available in the United States. It's not because the NFL can't do it, but it's because DirecTV has paid the NFL handsomely so that they can have much of the exclusive rights to out-of-town football games. Since I don't have DirecTV anyway, I'm still stuck going to the sports bar to bar to watch the Patriots. The only loss here is the ESPN coverage of Monday night games (2 Patriots games this year).
Have you cut cable television? If so, do you have any tricks or secrets that I missed?
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