This Family of Five Cut Cable

A little over a month ago, we made a rather bold decision.  We decided to cut our DISH Network subscription.  We didn’t replace it with Comcast, DirecTV or any other cable/satellite service.  Instead, we replaced our cable boxes with Roku units.  These rather tiny boxes tie into our wireless internet network and allow us to stream programming from various sources such as Netflix, Hulu, CNN, Amazon, Pandora and a whole lot of other content providers.

Benefits of making the switch:
1.  Fewer (almost zero) Commercials.  We aren’t being exposed to nearly as many commercials.  As a marketing manager, this should probably bother me but it doesn’t.  I’m sure eventually this will lead to increased product placement in television shows which does have some drawbacks.  No matter what ad copy they write into Burn Notice, they will never convince me that the vehicle of choice for spies is a bright blue Hyundai.  And although I do believe that the FBI drives Fords, the writers at White Collar don’t need to try to write every automobile feature into the show.
2.  Money. When you add up all of the services we had through DISH Network such as multiple DVR receivers, the highest programming level (since the channels we actually wanted to watch weren’t available on lower tiers), and service plan, etc. we were paying over $100 per month.  A single month without DISH paid for the cost of our Roku boxes and our go-forward expense is now under $20 per month for our Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions.
3.  True On-Demand Programming. We get to watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it.  The kids are adjusting to the switch better than we anticipated.  They absolutely love the idea of being able to select the show and episode they want to watch.  Of course, it has led to the same episode of The Backyardigans played over and over but that’s ok.  They will never hear the phrase “there’s nothing on TV” because they’re the ones who get to decide.
4.  Less TV Viewing.  A lot of times we would turn on the TV and just have it there for background noise.  Since we have more options now such as Pandora internet radio streaming through the home theater system we don’t have the television on as often.

The drawbacks:
1.  Web only content.  Some shows are web-only which means they aren’t available for streaming to a television.  On occasion we have to plug our laptop into the TV to comfortably display the programming.  The video stream is a high-enough quality that the picture is still high quality.  We have run into the problem where if we are trying to stream three different shows onto different TVs there is some buffering that occurs but overall we’ve been very pleased.  Some sporting events (i.e. bowl games) were only available on ESPN.  Fortunately, they were available through ESPN3.com.
2.  No more DVR. Some shows we watch over-the-air in HD with an antenna.  We happen to live in an area where we get approximately 25 channels including all of the major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC).  With three kids running around we occasionally miss something and can no longer rewind to see what it was.  Fortunately, most of that programming is available the following day either on Hulu or the networks’ websites so we still don’t miss much.
3.  Commercials on Hulu Plus.  I’m fine with some limited commercials on the free version of Hulu.  It’s a business and they need to make money.  I get it.  But if I’m paying a monthly fee, I don’t want to see advertisements during the show.

I used to work for a telecom company and one of issues they faced (okay, really the ONLY issue they faced) was the number of people cutting the phone cord and going wireless only.  Cable companies can learn a lot from the experiences of the telcos.  As content becomes more readily available online, they will see more and more subscribers heading to the exits.  My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

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