Buh-Bye, Cable TV

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So the time has come for me to finally make a decision on this whole cable tv vs. streaming thing I’ve been seriously considering. The straw that broke the camel’s back? A bill from the cable company for $170. Yep, for the first time in a while, I’m actually paying more for cable than I am for electricity.

Dumping cable has been on my mind for the last year. Quite honestly, I don’t think I watch enough live TV to justify paying for it, and even when I do, I end up watching crap that I ultimately feel guilty about. Not only that, we’ve been streaming Netflix to our TV via the Wii for the last several months and more recently, Jabari hooked up one of his computers to the main living room TV so now we can watch anything from the Internet. In fact I can’t remember the last time I turned on the cable box.

For a while Apple TV was a strong contender. It’s cute, small, went well with our dark furniture and was only $99. However, after reading this review about Apple TV’s disappointing content options, I considered the alternative mentioned in that same article, Roku.

Roku is a streaming content box ranges from $59 to $99, each with varying features. The biggest plus however are the content options. Roku can stream from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, AND Pandora (among other various music and video streaming services). For about the same price as Apple TV, I could get the Roku and have access to tons more content options from Amazon Video and Hulu Plus (Amazon being the big winner). And I don’t see Apple adopting the Amazon Video network anytime soon considering they’re the closest competitor to iTunes.

Breaking It Down

Ok so being the nerd that I am, I had to calculate this decision logically:

Cost of Cable (Internet and TV) Cost of Roku
Cable TV and High Speed Internet $170 per month (or $2,040 annually) High Speed Internet – Assuming this would be around $70 per month (or $840 annually)Roku Box $99

= Total annual investment starting at $1,288

Notice how in the Roku column, I said the total annual investment STARTED at $1,288. I wrote it this way because there’s the added cost of buying and/or renting movies and TV shows from Amazon Video. And yes, I’m ok with buying TV shows and movies via Amazon. Here’s why:

If you subtract the base annual investment of a Roku from the annual cost of cable ($2,040 – $1,288 = $752)

Even if we were to call it even and I were to spend that leftover $752 on movie rentals or TV shows, that would equal to about:

752 / .99 = ~760 TV episodes

752/ 3.99 = ~188 Movie rentals

I can guarantee you there’s no way I’ve watched 760 episodes of live TV in a year or 188 movies in a year. So ultimately even if I were to spend about half that leftover money on entertainment (which I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach that), that still leaves me with an extra $380 annually. Also, I omitted my Netflix subscription because I’m still paying for that regardless.

And even if the Roku were to break halfway through the year and I’d have to buy a replacement, I’d still save money overall.

(BTW, I’m terrible at math–I’d be surprised if I’m calculating any of this correctly)

The verdict? Clearly it’s Roku, even after reading Danny Sullivan’s post over at Search Engine Land on his first impressions on Roku. The cons he listed were minor to me (lack of a volume control on the remote and no “what’s on” screen). And as long as I can still watch episodes of 30 Rock, The Office, and Bones while still being able to discover new shows that aren’t crap TV, I think I’d still be ok. Now it’s just a matter of me having that awkward breakup call with the cable company.

Is there a flaw in my logic? Am I missing something?

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11 thoughts on “Buh-Bye, Cable TV”

  1. If you don’t watch live sports or have kids that want Disney and Nickelodeon cutting cable for Roku is a no brainer.

  2. Thanks for your comment Johnny. Yeah, that’s a good point. I would definitely fit that profile. I primarily watch sitcoms and dramas (and the occasional reality tv trash–but I’d be ok with missing out on that).

  3. I haven’t had cable in over a year and don’t miss it at all. Most anything I might be interested in watching on cable people in my Twitter timeline end up tweeting about and make me realize I’m not missing anything. That and I’m patient enough to wait and watch it the next day online or months later. I’m perpetually out of the loop or late so it makes not difference to me. lol

  4. lol yeah I think I’m the same way. Plus I almost never watch an episode of a show live–it’s always recorded on my DVR so I end up watching it later anyway. The more I think about this, the more it seems to make sense for me.

  5. Hi I found your blog via a Google search for cable vs streaming content. I have not invested in a set box like the Romu product you mentioned, instead I just connected my old laptop with an S Video cable. I have wifi so I don’t even need LAN. No, it isn’t HD quality, quite, but I am almost 40 and lived quite a long time without HD (I still remember when 3 channels plus PBS were the only options via antenna! I too do not watch much TV at all, preferring to read, spend time with honbies, surf the net, and raising a baby as a single father leaves my personal time balance just about NIL. I decided to cut out cable when I got this iPhone that I’m posting from. I needed to justify the added expense of broadband data (which I like tremendously). Another motivator is just the content and options that cable companies and producers lime Disney dump on us. I am not a prude, a religious nut, or an old fogie, but I am tired of seeing Disney programming where young preteen and early adolescent girls are paraded around in 3 inch stiletto heels and skirts up to their thighs, while supposedly attending school or walking around on a cruise ship. They have stepped beyond the line with pubescent sexual innuendo. PBS.org offers quality streaming programs, YouTube has all sorts of entertainment options, Netflix, Amazon, as well as local broadcasters all offer online content. Unless you are a couch potato, there isn’t much justification In cable. And what insults my intelligence more than anything is knowing that the actual cable companies and tv producers could offer the same streaming content options for much cheaper. In fact, I would bet that the facilities to provide simulcasts of satellite and local programming via cable are probably no more expensive than broadband Internet service, and since the internet is piggybacked on the cable anyway, it seems like cable companies could be providing much cheaper service by eliminating the archaic analog signals. But as long as the consumer is still willing to pay, they won’t brother to change. Oh BTW, for those thinking of turning that old laptop into a cable box, remote control keyboard and mouse combos are cheap cheap cheap and the dongle plugs into USB. If you don’t mind using a keyboard and mouse as a TV remote control you are set! I even think it makes my entertainment center seem high techish and impressive….when truly it’s about as low tech a setup as it comes. I’m usin S Video after all!

  6. Heath,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my blog post. You’ve given me A LOT to think about and, in fact, have made me even more certain about canceling my cable service. I agree with you in that I think it’s absolutely ridiculous how much cable companies are asking their customers to pay for their cable TV service. I certainly won’t be putting up with it for much longer!

  7. Got my Roku LT ($49!) this week. Buh-bye cable television. Roku requires an internet connection of 1.5MBS, so that actually allowed me to LOWER my Comcrap internet cost by reducing my speed.

    I still have Comcrap: 30 channels and 1.5MBS internet connection. Total monthly cost: $39. Roku one-time expense: $49. Monthly Netflix subscription: $7.99.

    I LOVE my Roku!

  8. I just got free local channels from USTVNow (private roku channel). They have an upgrade to a bunch of cable superstations (and HD) for $29 per month (animal planet, tbs, discovery, etc, etc.). Netflix is only $7.99 a month and is well worth it. You can also order disney if you choose…. It’s almost there. I’m fine with the netflix, but I’m not comfortable with the USTVNow (the free local channels are not HD). I also want to see how my Cable internet usage as they do have limits….(yes I’m using the high end internet). So I still have investigation to go, but if it cost the $30 extra to get the channels I want, that will still be $100 ahead of cable.

  9. Thanks for your comment Donald! I’ve never heard of USTVNow but I like the idea of having access to local stations. I will have to look into this.

    Yeah I’ve been without cable for a year now and although I’ve heard of people getting hit with data overage charges, I have yet to experience that on my end. I also have upgraded Internet. Please keep us updated if you come across anything else regarding your experience.

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