Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cutting the Cord: Costs Curtailed

The great adventure began as wife and I were talking 2012 budget, and I once again suggested that we could lose cable television.  We've had this conversation before, but this year she wanted to save some more and I put my favorite sacrifice on the altar for her consideration.  This time, she said yes.

I made arrangements (more on this below) and when the time was right, I disconnected our two converter boxes and drove down to Comcast to surrender the rented equipment and terminate my service.  I must admit I was in love with this idea, because despite my hopes that cable companies would some day allow us more a' la carte options, they clearly have no intention of letting me get the Sci Fi channel without paying for ESPN 1-92 (or whatever numbers are really on the service).  The whole industry has no interest or ability to meet consumers where they are, so I'm happily jumping off the wagon and letting them ride the way of the buggy-whip manufacturers.

My kids - all teenagers - haven't skipped a beat in losing cable.  They'd really abandoned the concept a long time ago, in favor of internet options.  My wife and I, however, still want some TV on our TV.  So, here's how we broke it down:
  1. TiVo.  We got a box from Amazon (much cheaper than buying from TiVo) and an adapter from MicroCenter to allow us to use our wireless internet service instead of Ethernet for getting TiVo information.  We ordered digital antennas for both television sets.  Total hardware costs of about $140, or about 1.5 months of cable costs.  Now we have a DVR, or I should say, my wife has a DVR because I still don't use the thing, really.
  2. Roku/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon VOD.  We already had a Roku box (which has been my primary video entertainment since we got it about two years ago).  We already had a Netflix subscription.  We already had Amazon VOD (some free, some pay-per-view) as Prime members.  We've added Hulu, only to find the paid version of Hulu has fewer choices than the web-only free service.  As a result, we'll probably stop paying for Hulu.  Netflix is really the best deal all around, with more content than I will ever get to in my lifetime, and for cheap.
  3. Decided to clean up one more extra cord, and cut the landline phone service.  I called our new phone company, Century Link (which used to be Qwest, which used to be US West, which used to be Northwestern Bell....) and told them I was moving our home phone number to an extra mobile line ($5/month versus $35 for landline).  They were polite and respectful, asked if we could review the DSL service I was going to keep, and then offered me a deal to slightly reduce my costs and greatly increase my speed.  Ummmm... yes.  Yes, I'll take that.  Bonus points to Century Link.
  4. Total cost changes:  We used to pay about $200/month for these services (internet, cable, phone, Netflix, etc...) and we've brought the total down to about $70 (including the monthly TiVo service - which we may choose to replace with a lifetime service and eliminate the monthly fee).
Do we make some sacrifices?  Sure.  My wife can't see What Not to Wear anymore. We'll have to pay Amazon for a season pass to Mad Men next year.  I'm going to wait on Walking Dead until Netflix gets the new season, so I'm a little behind in that. Now, however, we're only paying for content we want and not someone else's college football needs.   We have a long way to go in this transition, but as more producers allow us to just pay for their content directly, we're going to end up with better stuff at less cost.

I love living in the future.

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