Tuning Out
April 13, 2010 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Should I cancel cable?

I've been having an internal debate about my cable TV subscription over the past few weeks, and I'm looking for advice and opinions. Basically, I'm paying about $100 a month for a bunch of channels that I never watch, and so I've been thinking about pulling the plug.

I've never been a big fan of shows, so I couldn't care less about losing any particular programs. I am, however, into sports and the "non-fiction" channels, although it seems like even some of these channels (History Channel, I'm looking at you) have steadily gone to shit over the last decade. And the ads - the ads. They're LOUD, obnoxious, repetitive and tiresome. It sometimes seems like I'm paying all this money every month just to watch advertisements.

On the other hand, there are a couple of channels that I'd rather not do without: I watch Bloomberg every day and I like it. I also like live sporting events; the NFL, NBA and tennis (particularly the Grand Slam events) are important to me. PBS and Comedy Central are also channels I watch occasionally.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I should do, and this isn't one of those "give-me-justification-for-a-choice-I've-already-made" questions. Is there possibly a cable company out there where I could pay only for the channels I want? What about other solutions? I'm sure there have been people in similar situations. If you have been, could you let me know what action you ultimately ended up taking? If you canceled cable, did you regret the decision, or was it a good thing? I'm curious to know what people think / recommend here.

posted by Despondent_Monkey to Media & Arts (66 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Cancel it.

Read Bloomberg's website, download the few shows you enjoy, watch live sporting events in bars, invest the extra hundred bucks a month. Or spend it on booze and wings, whatever.
posted by box at 1:13 PM on April 13, 2010 [9 favorites]

Or the compromise option: downsize to the most basic cable package available. You'll still get PBS and most of the sports, and maybe some of the other stuff, while saving a significant chunk of change.
posted by box at 1:15 PM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've heard of cable companies offering lowered rates to people calling up to cancel. Maybe you could get a lowered rate?
posted by sallybrown at 1:15 PM on April 13, 2010

Box has it right.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:16 PM on April 13, 2010

Many shows on Comedy Central appear on the website. (Daily Show, Colbert Report) For sports, you may be able to use ESPN3. (formerly ESPN 360)
posted by alligatorman at 1:17 PM on April 13, 2010

I would say cancel it. You have video options, online options, etc. I wish we could cancel ours (agree with you 100%) but "the man" is obsessed with crappy tv.
posted by stormpooper at 1:18 PM on April 13, 2010

I'm cancelling at the end of next month for all the reasons you stated. You can do it!

You can get the local networks with an antenna, so you're covered on most major sporting events. And a lot of PBS shows are available online.
posted by something something at 1:19 PM on April 13, 2010

Here's a relevant Art Technica discussion about your question.
posted by jmd82 at 1:22 PM on April 13, 2010

I canceled mine 2 years ago. Great decision (esp. since I'm a grad student and should be studying instead of "rotting my brain") I still rot my brain but I watch everything online - through, um, various forms and what I can't find online easily - I go to a friend's house.
posted by quodlibet at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2010

PBS is a broadcast channel that you can probably get for free.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

PBS and Comedy Central are also channels I watch occasionally.

You can get PBS over the air (or potentially over cable with a QAM tuner); if you watch Comedy Central for Stewart and Colbert, they show up online the next day. Bloomberg TV is here. Sport? Let's just say that the internet is a big place.

Since cable/sat companies' business models are based on selling you channels you never watch, you might not consider it too much of a moral dilemma going to unauthorised sources -- especially if you're paying your cableco for internet access, often with a surcharge for dumping TV.
posted by holgate at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2010

I canceled cable. I now pay nothing for broadcast tv, and it feels wonderful! You know you can still get the basic broadcast networks and PBS, right? I MacGyvered up a tin foil antenna for my flat screen tv. The only show I watch as it's broadcast is Lost. But I also get PBS and the other channels I still think of as UHF: the CW, Fox's local affiliate, etc.

Every other thing I want to watch is available via Netflix or Hulu. But even my use of those isn't as high as I thought it would be. Once I found myself not sitting in front of the tv for hours, just flipping through, I found other things to do online or outside the house.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2010

I haven't had cable since 1992; I don't miss it a bit.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2010

I've heard of cable companies offering lowered rates to people calling up to cancel. Maybe you could get a lowered rate?

Yes, try this first. Just say you are cancelling because you can't afford it. It worked for us. They still have us by the eyeballs, the bastards!
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:24 PM on April 13, 2010

Should I cancel cable?


Use hulu.com.
Sports online are an expiring broadcast rights contract away. As networks renegotiate broadcast rights with pro leagues (and the NCAA conferences!), online broadcasting of sporting events will eventually be the norm. For now, while I believe it is illegal in the United States, live streaming of HD online is a thriving hobby and readily available.

I've been working through this over the past month as I come to terms with living without cable (or broadcast tv at all, for that matter, thanks to the digital upgrade).

The stuff you want right now will be available to you, though probably not as reliably nor legally as you're getting it now. But you might also find that you won't want it as much when it's not a remote *click* away.

Aside from any issues I have with the cable networks themselves and how they're set up, it's just not practical any longer to pay for cable when I can pick and choose online. The commercials are shorter, the content is the same (if not better!) and it's becoming super-portable as our handheld devices become more connected/powerful.
posted by carsonb at 1:25 PM on April 13, 2010

I wascable-free and TV-free about six years. Watching sports in bars got really old, really quick. If it's a popular event, you have to get there early to make sure you have a good spot, defend your spot, keep ordering food and/or drink, and deal with loud, obnoxious fans that either embarrass you because they're on your side or annoy you because they're cheering for the other team. Many sports bars also charge cover for big games. If it's not a popular event, you'll have to find a sports bar that shows it and that will be willing to put it on. This is less of a problem with the NFL and the NBA, but finding somebody who will show tennis is probably going to be rough. Plus, it's just not as comfortable as lounging about on your couch in your own home.

Have you tried getting a DVR? It seems silly to say, but the DVR has actually made TV watchable for me now that I'm living with a partner who NEEDS HIS TV OMG. I can set it to record the good programs and documentaries that great-turned-lousy channels like the History Channel or A&E still broadcast at funny hours, and I can fast-forward through all those loud, obnoxious commercials.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:25 PM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

DTMFA! (Where A = cable TV.)

Yes, a thousand times, yes! You can get a Netflix subscription for $20-30 a month that will deliver all the TV shows on DVD that you can possibly watch, plus unlimited streaming. And their streaming offerings are getting better every day. (Someone recently tipped me to the fact they've put all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer up for streaming. Whoa!)

And there's a ton of stuff on Hulu. Honestly I've been using Hulu exclusively (i.e. no TV or Netflix) since last September, and I still haven't run out of stuff to watch.

For the $100/month savings, I'm thinking you may also have sporting friends with cable who'd be happy to have you come over and watch, if you foot the bill for the pizza.
posted by ErikaB at 1:28 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try to lowball them on your rates, and then cancel if they don't.

I recently went whole-hog and canceled both TV and Internet, and think it was a great move. I use the internet at hotspot locations, and catch up on shows by watching them online. I read more now, and actually get stuff done instead of cycling through the same 5 websites trawling for updates.

And, actually, when I cancelled my Comcast service they forgot to flip the 'off' switch for my connection, and I still get cable channels. So... thanks, Comcast!
posted by codacorolla at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2010

If you are truly undecided, then collect data to help make your decision.

Keep a notebook near the TV and make a log of everything you watch for a week/month. Go through the list and decide for each item if you could access that elsewhere or if you wouldn't miss it.

If most of your items meet those criteria, then cancel it. If not, then keep it and decide if you can reduce your package. And make sure you call to try for a cheaper rate.
posted by CathyG at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just cancel cable and, if you decide you can't live without XYZ show/event whatever, resubscribe--you may even get a discounted rate if you do. You can't really lose.

But--just between us friends here--once you cancel cable and, say, start watching streaming Netflix documentaries and reading more, you may just realize what a phenomenal waste of time almost all television is, and what you now think you will miss, you won't.

I don't mean this in a snarky way--both my parents are in the entertainment industry, and my dad is, in fact, a TV director. I grew up watching phenomenal amounts of television, but I cut the cord a couple of years ago, and I don't regret it at all. The last serial I watch is Lost, which is ending next month, and I occasionally watch football in the gym. Otherwise, I watch features and documentaries (and even 30 Rock) on Netflix, cook dinner every night with my GF, and read a lot. And I'm saving $60 or so a month (I still have internet obviously).

You won't regret it if you give it a chance!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2010

Sports is about the only reason I still have cable. NFL is over the air, but going to a bar 30 times a season to watch the NBA and another 30 to watch MLB would be more expensive for me than paying for cable, plus I'd be getting home late all the time. As for watching Tennis Grand Slams in a bar, that's going to be tricky for the French and the Aussie open. Even the early rounds of Wimbledon will be tough. I know I could jump through a bunch of hoops to watch these things online, but I love HD.
posted by IanMorr at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2010

I felt exactly as you do -- I resented the fact that I was paying for tons of crap, especially those horrible ads. I downsized to a super-basic cable package, which means I get the traditional "over the air" networks (only I can't get them over the air where I live), and some extra PBS channels, and some local access channels, and a couple of channels in french. It's about $25 a month. Sports on those channels, though, is not that great -- a few baseball games, a few hockey games, a few basketball games. Pretty good for football, though. But it's not ESPN. I'm especially into baseball, myself, and afraid to go to bars alone, so I paid for mlb.tv.

If you have Netflix, they have loads of documentaries that should satisfy your nonfiction urge. Even if you don't want to pop for a roku player for your tv, 17 bucks for 3 dvds out at a time is a good deal and ad-free. The roku player gives you even more options for a one-time payout.

I don't really miss tons of cable channels. If I had to pick one channel I miss it would be Turner Classic Movies, but again, there's so much to see just via Netflix that even that doesn't matter very much. When I'm at someone's house and browse through their channels, I don't see very much to regret.

As for Bloomberg, I know nothing about what's available for business things (it's business, right?).
posted by JanetLand at 1:32 PM on April 13, 2010

Canceled my cable over a year ago and haven't looked back. I have a Mac Mini hooked up to my HDTV, and use a wireless mouse/keyboard to control the screen. Almost everything I watch is available as a full episode online; I just load it up and watch it at fullscreen -- looks great. If you hook your stereo up as well, you can play music through the system and turn the HDTV off.

The Netflix service is fantastic -- and the cheapest version only costs $8.99 / mth for unlimited viewing.

And if you get a VPN, you can watch international television websites as well!
posted by teedee2000 at 1:36 PM on April 13, 2010

My wife loves her pay television, and I hate it and rarely watch it. After years (literally!) of bringing it up and having her shoot it down, money got tight and we finally ditched it in favor of OTA + TiVo with Netflix streaming so the kids would have stuff to watch.

Her point of view, three months after we did it: she doesn't miss it, she is amazed at how much time she was wasting and how much more she gets done now, and when she really wants a show badly enough she can get it on bittorrent and push it to our TiVo (which she rarely does.)

So cancel it, and if you're nervous about it, cancel it with a fixed time period after which you'll decide whether to make it permanent or not.
posted by davejay at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2010

I just canceled cable and rely on Hulu and Netflix, plus sites like TNT, Bravo etc. I unashamedly love tv and didn't think I would be able to do it, but it's been very easy. I have a tiny netbook and while some of the site's players are sticky, hulu runs really well even on my tiny computer. I'm looking into the netflix Roku box to stream movies to my tv.
posted by poissonrouge at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2010

Did I mention that in five months of no satellite service, we saved enough money (even with the monthly NetFlix and TiVo charges) to pay for the purchase of the TiVo?
posted by davejay at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2010

Canceled mine a year ago sort of miss it sometimes during big news stories
But I think Im better off not watching the news
I stream some shows or movies I download to my PS3 works great
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2010

I canceled cable and set up this instead. Pays for itself pretty quickly and there's not much I miss.
posted by olinerd at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2010

Yeah, there are too many good options out there to make cable worth it for people like us (who rarely watch things, and who are really just interested in the nonfiction programming that is becoming so rare or so shitty).

When I realized that I hadn't actually turned my television ON in a month, I called to cancel and they made me an offer. I didn't accept. It just wasn't worth it.

I use Hulu, or I just don't watch. And my life is just fine without it. If there is something I like - Glee comes to mind - I can visit a friend and watch it with them. But that's rare. And even that probably doesn't improve my quality of life drastically. I'm just not that much of a TV watcher.

I love some movies though, so I love Netflix and iTunes (though iTunes less so) for that.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:44 PM on April 13, 2010

Oh god, cancel it.

$100 a month? AND you have to watch ads? AND you can torrent / stream just about anything out there?

Cancel it.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2010

While I sometimes wish for cable (MLB channel, HBO, Showtime, Discovery, etc.), we get by with none. . .we watch last night's Steward and Colbert on the computer after dinner, cuddling, then go about our night in various ways. It's a nice little habit.
posted by Danf at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2010

Cancel it. We did it last August, and I don't miss it a bit. We get our over the air channels with an antenna that my husband made like the one featured in this video. The only thing I really miss is ESPN during college football season, but there's usually an ESPN HD feed up on justin.tv. We follow the Arkansas Razorbacks, and they're usually not featured locally, so we were almost always able to find a different regional feed with the game.

We also have our desktop hooked up to the tv via an HDMI cable and use Boxee to manage our local digital media (thank you, Bittorrent) and access online media. There's an iPhone app to use as a remote with this that's awesome.

Bonus: For some reason, when we called to cancel the cable, they lowered the cost of our cable internet. I still don't understand why they did that.
posted by chiababe at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2010

Was cable-less for the first 2 years of grad school, cable was included in my rent for 3-years, and then I was totally without TV for a few months when I moved in August due to the DTV switch and being too lazy to buy a converter box. Also convinced boyfriend to ditch DirecTV, to the tune of over $1400/year in savings.

Netflix streaming is getting better and better every day, Hulu is also pretty good for a lot of stuff. I have a weird schedule anyways, so I have never been able to keep up with a show's time slot for more than a few weeks at a time, and I'm too cheap to buy a DVR. I do miss (some of) the Food Network, but even some of their content is starting to be available online. Also vegging out in front of House Hunters International, but it isn't like that was my main reason for living.

Without cable I watch a lot more cool documentaries on Netflix, shows I actually like (on Netflix or Hulu), work in the kitchen or around the house while listening to the radio, go for a walk or read a book or a magazine if nothing I want to watch is on TV. It's pretty liberating.

Reasons I can see for not ditching it: If you'd pay almost the same without cable as you would if it is part of a cable TV/internet package (like you'd only be saving $10-20 a month instead of $100), or if you are really, really into sports or some other show. But if you're already thinking you can go without it, you can probably go without it.
posted by sararah at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2010

cancel cancel cancel - use hulu, netflix etc. you will not regret it
posted by mrmarley at 1:48 PM on April 13, 2010

Forgot to mention, Boxee has a decent Netflix interface, so for $7 a month, we can stream tons of content. Mostly we watch the documentaries.
posted by chiababe at 1:49 PM on April 13, 2010

Oh, and I think live streaming sports are sort of up-and-coming on the internet. I was able to borrow a relative's NBC-affiliated-cable account to watch the Olympics streaming over my computer, 350 miles away from her cable connection. Comcast has a deal with ESPN for some sports streaming, so that might be something to look into (and something you may have access to if you get your hi-speed internet through them, for example.)
posted by sararah at 1:53 PM on April 13, 2010

Another vote for cancellation. I've been cable-free for about 5 years now. Every so often I think about how much money I have NOT spent on TV, and it's an instant mood-lifter.

The only broadcasts I sometimes wish I had are big sporting events, like the World Series a few years ago when my local team was in it. I caught a few games at friends', and the others on the radio. Incidentally, the radio broadcasters are so much better than the ones on TV -- much less inane chatter, much more focus on the game at hand -- so I really didn't feel I was missing anything by listening rather than watching.
posted by philokalia at 1:53 PM on April 13, 2010

I think about canceling my cable every month when the bill shows up in my inbox. Hundreds of channels of shitty programming what's the point? But I look at it as am I getting $3 of news and entertainment from it a day? I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I like to see things I really like -- not what the OTA people program for me. I like stuff on IFC, BBC America, TCM, HBO, [adult swim], Stewart/Colbert, etc. I never watch over the air TV except 30 Rock. I like how Tivo finds some stuff I really like I'd never know about had it not fetched it from all of those channels. I don't usually watch TV live so I'll skip through commercials. To me, it is worth the few bucks I pay a day.

Yes, there's countless people here saying it is evil and if you just watch all the stuff online. It really is your choice. And it sounds like you already made up your mind. If you cancel it, you can always sign up for it again.
posted by birdherder at 2:02 PM on April 13, 2010

I think the web-only TV route is viable only if you, and everyone who will watch TV in your house, is a tinkerer.

My wife and I canned DirecTV in the middle of last year and decided to do the Hulu/Netflix route using one of our computers, along with OTA for local channels. Note that the computer wasn't devoted full time to the task (which meant plugging/unplugging frequently) and that we weren't up to plunking down money for a dedicated box.

A lot of the problems we faced were with the interface to the programs. To the best of my knowledge there's no easy way to keep a to do list of programs that one wants to watch across various sites; this is easily alleviated by any DVR worth its salt. Boxee didn't feel comfortable, and Hulu Desktop was buggy. Then there are the intermittent connection issues - you need to be on top of the quality of your network connection.

All that said, Netflix was the only truly good part of the whole equation. If their streaming + DVD selection covers what you want, then go for it.

For me however it wasn't worth the time or frustration, so we're paying Dish Network each month so we don't have to mess with all that. All of this stuff is very close to being good enough, but it's just not there yet.
posted by hijinx at 2:06 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I downgraded to basic. Then I called up to cancel that, and they offered to lower the price to $12 a month. I like having it hooked up so when there's some kind of TV event that I really want to watch, I can call up and temporarily upgrade, then downgrade again right after. Sometimes it's worth paying $10 or whatever to upgrade so I can see something special at the same time as all my friends. But, regardless, you don't need to be paying $100 every month.
posted by HotToddy at 2:10 PM on April 13, 2010

People will tell you that you can replace cable with Netflix, Hulu, other websites, Bittorrent, etc. I disagree.

With Netflix you can only get shows that are on discs. Pretty obvious point, but lots of TV shows take awhile to get to disc. It also takes more effort to put discs on your list and to try to have discs in your house that you are actually in the mood to watch (e.g. being sure you have a comedy when you want one, rather than three discs of documentaries.)

Many television shows are not on Hulu or other websites. They are only on television.

Bittorrent. Not so much fun if you don't like to sit around at your PC trying to find torrents, waiting forever for them to download, dealing with terrible quality rips, trying to get it to play on your TV, and dealing with the poor selection of torrents out there. That's right, poor selection. There is lots on cable TV that is not available on Bittorrent.

I only pay for the "basic" ($15/month) cable because, with the way my cable Internet is priced, I might as well get this cable. So this does not include most of the cable channels. Thus, I agree that it is easy to cancel cable television because obviously I get along without it. But I get along without it because I just don't watch much television. Don't let people tell you that you can cancel the cable and replicate the experience via the Internet. You can't replicate the experience, and the poor quality substitute that you can cobble together will cost you a great deal of time and aggravation.
posted by massysett at 2:13 PM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to live in a house where there was no cable, which was my decision. I went through several roommates while living there, and each one said on their way in, "Can I get cable?" to which I would reply, "Only after you've lived here 30 days. If you still decide you have to have it, you are paying for all of it because I'm not watching it."

Out of the seven or eight people that lived there with me (not all at once, of course) not a single one ever ended up wanting cable after going 30 days without. And this was in 1999, back before you could get all the TV you wanted off of the internets.

You won't miss it. You'll enjoy the extra money.
posted by komara at 2:15 PM on April 13, 2010

I haven't had cable for three years, and I'm torn about how to respond to this. The husband and I have gotten by with an over-the-air antenna (which gives us all the major networks except NBC, and like four PBS stations), netflix (which we stream through our wii these days, which is awesome), hulu, and the library for rentals. Oh, and torrenting. To watch "his" football team, my husband ended up paying for an illegal stream through some dude's website, after he realized that going to bars was a pain in the ass. But it's been okay.

That being said, we're getting cable again as soon as possible, and then probably using all of the above methods on top of cable. I love television, and there's something deliciously easy about just being able to turn it on and watch, unencumbered.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:29 PM on April 13, 2010

Yes, a million times. Books are free at the library, as are movies, and a $15 subscription to Netflix will get you every TV show comitted to DVD. Hulu is free (for now) so you can at least catch up on what the doofuses at work are watching. I've lived without television for going on 6 years and I say that not to be high and mighty but to illustrate just how much more time I have when I'm not being dumb in front of the TV.

posted by Brittanie at 2:36 PM on April 13, 2010

I canceled mine two years ago, then just got it put back on again last week so I could watch baseball (MLB.tv won't let me see my local team play home games, live). I'll probably cancel it again in the fall, as I already had more TV than I wanted to watch through hulu, Roku, Netflix, iTunes, etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:36 PM on April 13, 2010

I canceled cable happily, without looking back. No regrets and it's been about six years. The occasional show that's deemed worth it gets Netflixed or borrowed from ardent friend who sprung for the box set.

However, I'm not much of a TV watcher and I don't have any particularly great interest in being up-to-date. My feeling is that if a show is really great, it won't suffer if I don't get around to watching it for a year or two when the whole thing is readily available on DVD. If you enjoy being able to participate in social conversation about TV shows, this may be less ideal.

My SO and I looove going to the bar to watch the baseball game. They bring you beer! And food, if you want! And there are other people also watching the game! Cable is so expensive where I live (fuck you, Comcast and your monopoly for which Philly bends over gladly) that the increased time we spend at the neighborhood bars during baseball season is still probably less than what we would spend to have cable. But we also live in a neighborhood with a lot of reasonable neighborhood bars with good beer and good food within a short walk. And nights that we don't feel like going out, we listen to the game on the radio.
posted by desuetude at 2:38 PM on April 13, 2010

I go Hulu/Netflix for TV watching. Netflix will get you the cool HBO shows and whatnot, a year after everyone else has seen them. (And a few shows like Party Down or Leverage are shown there around when they aired.) Hulu has a pretty good selection (most major networks except for CBS) and a few cable networks, but you have to wait 8 days before you can watch the cable shows most of the time. Basically, it can work to go cable-free as long as you don't mind a long wait and not being in on the cultural zeitgeist/conversation about cable shows right after they air.

However: I have rabbit ears reception. I live in the heart of downtown in my town. And my reception, now that we're all forced into digital TV, is...iffy. I have weeks where it's fine, I have weeks where the show cuts out every 2 seconds no matter where or how I position the darned rabbit ears. If it's stormy weather, I might as well forget watching TV live, it's that bad. I didn't get NBC coming in for a solid year, and NBC/Fox tend to come in the most iffily (ABC is mostly reliable, CBS is in and out). And since digital TV is evil, when the reception cuts out, you can't see ANYTHING, or what boils down to screen vomit. So keep that in mind if you ever feel like watching live television with the ears: you may not be able to.

It sounds like all the shows you watch on cable regularly, however, are NOT ones you're going to be able to find online legally/easily. So...yeah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:44 PM on April 13, 2010

Cable is a waste of $100 a month. Instead, cancel it and spend that initial $100 savings on a pair of HDMI/VGA/whatever cables to hook your laptop up to your TV. Then, watch shows you enjoy via Hulu or other means.

Sure, you sacrifice a bit of video quality for the free price, but it's worth it.

Lack of sports is the only downside, but you can also find people streaming your favorite sports events online.
posted by Herschel at 2:50 PM on April 13, 2010

I was exactly in your situation last Summer with exactly the same worries. I cancelled it and put together a MythTV+XBMC solution for HD over-the-air (Myth) plus streaming from a network hard drive (XBMC).

Nettop computer ($200) + Mythbuntu (FREE) + XBMC (FREE) + SiliconDust HDHomeRun ($150) + Windows MCE Remote ($20) + = I DO NOT MISS CABLE, NOT EVEN THE SPORTS.

And I have a monthly subscription fee of BIG FAT NOTHING. (tiny lie, the program guide for myth costs $20/year)
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:54 PM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I did in my cable some time ago, for the same reasons. Between Itunes and Hulu, I've been a perfectly happy camper. *goes off to buy last night's episode of House*
posted by thomas j wise at 3:04 PM on April 13, 2010

No cable TV here, just broadband, hulu, netflix, itunes and usenet for the things I can't get elsewhere on a Mac Mini running Plex hooked up to a 24" monitor and 2 studio monitors.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:11 PM on April 13, 2010

All these people are wrong. You should upgrade, is there a bigger and better package from your provid... ah who am I kidding, cant keep a straight face. $100? For shitty TV?

TV died years ago. Dump cable. Fuck it, dump the TV. I did, years ago. I hear Lost is good. Never seen it, was too busy fucking my girlfriend.

Seriously, $100 is mental. I wouldnt spend that if they sent the cast of each show round to my house and they acted it out in front of me. Unless it was True Blood, I hear thats good.

There is nothing on. Thats my motto.
posted by daveyt at 3:45 PM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Agreed, kill it, eat it. I haven't had cable since May 2007. It really prompts you to go out and, you know, do shit instead of melting into a puddle in front of your television. And, if you're addicted to certain shows, a good way of watching them is getting a gym membership instead and scheduling your workouts around the show, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

The only time I found lack of cable a problem was when I got mono last year and tapped out my entire feasible inventory of Hulu, instant Netflix, South Park Studios and Adult Swim episode streams, although upon reflection I doubt that endless reruns of Eat Yourself to Death with Paula Deen or Animal Planet's Fearmongering! would have remedied that.
posted by superquail at 3:56 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cancel, then join a gym with a TV in front of the treadmill/climber/spinner/whatever. Appointment TV viewing is pretty good at getting me to the gym. YMMV.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:25 PM on April 13, 2010

I haven't had TV in my house for three years now. I watch the one or two shows I'm interested in online, and live a slightly fuller life.
posted by jander03 at 4:30 PM on April 13, 2010

Going on 6 or 7 years cable-free here. We use a combination of Netflix and Hulu for the most part. Current events and sports are the big drawback, but we have a digital tv tuner so if it's important enough to be on one of the main three network stations, we can still watch it. The rest of the time we just catch whatever game is on at the local restaurant. (There are plenty of restaurants that have tvs on in the bar area that aren't obnoxious "sports bars." Now's your chance to find a few new favorites!)
posted by platinum at 5:05 PM on April 13, 2010

My wife and I have been cable free for about 6 years. By my calculations, we've saved enough to buy a good used car. You feel like you'll miss it, but really you don't.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:13 PM on April 13, 2010

Oh, and we do the same as those above mentioned to watch the occasstional show: Netflix, hulu, over-the-air.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:14 PM on April 13, 2010

No cable here for 10 years. I cancelled out of financial necessity at the time, but then found I just never bothered to sign up for it even after I could easily have afforded it. The thing is, though, that I didn't stop watching TV shows: Mr. hgg and I watch them on DVD (we get them through Zip, the Canadian version of Netflix), often checking out UK TV shows and HBO/Showtime/FX offerings because they tend to be the best quality. It's so nice narrowing TV-watching down to the few things that are good, and not having to watch or avoid ads. The Zip subscription also costs a hell of a lot less than cable, and we can get pretty much any TV show or movie (domestic or foreign) under the sun. There is some seriously obscure stuff on there--it's great.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:15 PM on April 13, 2010

I haven't had cable in well over five years. With Hulu, Netflix, and (rarely) over-the-air PBS, I have plenty to watch. I'm not sure about online sports programming though.

If I could only get faster, cheaper internet service I'd be all set. Where's my fiber to the home, Google?
posted by paulg at 6:47 PM on April 13, 2010

>I'm paying about $100 a month for a bunch of channels that I never watch,

I think you answered your question...

posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:11 PM on April 13, 2010

We went no-cable out of poverty, and yeah, we miss it sometimes. I got into Mad Men and True Blood and it was frustrating not being able to see them until a year after broadcast.

But when I realized that our lack of cable means my son sees 800x fewer toy commercials than his peers (and thus bugs us 800x less for shit they advertise on kid's cable channels) I wouldn't dream of getting it. If he wants cartoons we put on a Pixar movie, or Wallace and Gromit, or Dangermouse (which he loves).

We go over to Grandma's now and then and OD on kid's TV (and then classic music videos after he goes to bed) but then we're good for another few months.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 PM on April 13, 2010

Every time I'm vaguely tempted to get cable, I ask myself the following: Do I really want to spend upwards of $70/month to watch a computer-generated Discovery Channel show about 2012? Wacky dirt-bike riders face-planting in some kid's driveway? Anything involving people wrestling/hypnotizing/lassoing crocodiles? The answer, thus far, has been no.
posted by lucky25 at 8:10 PM on April 13, 2010

I've been following this thread with interest. I've considered cancelling cable for awhile now too since I pretty much watch everything I want on hulu.

Sorry to hijack, but what do you all do for internet service? For my area and my high-speed internet providers, they're bundled with cable in such a way that the TV only costs an extra $10-$20/month over high-speed internet alone.
posted by watch out for turtles at 4:54 AM on April 14, 2010

Sorry to hijack, but what do you all do for internet service? For my area and my high-speed internet providers, they're bundled with cable in such a way that the TV only costs an extra $10-$20/month over high-speed internet alone.

Myself, I have Verizon DSL and it comes to about $25/month.

In my area, Comcast wants to give you alllll kinds of promotional pricing, but it expires, and then whammo, you're paying full price for your cable again.
posted by desuetude at 8:46 AM on April 14, 2010

kataclysm and I cancelled our cable when we moved to our current house about 3 years ago, because we decided we'd rather spend the time we used to spend watching tv and hanging out online hanging out with each other and our animals instead. Then, when it took three months and the Better Business Bureau to get Comcast to stop auto-debiting our bank account after we gave them the equipment back, we decided we'll never deal with them again. We probably do wind up spending a similar amount of money going to local coffeehouses for internet access (especially in football season, when we also watch games at a local bar), but I'd much rather give those guys that money than Comcast.

For games when we don't feel like going out (especially the myriads of hockey and baseball games in a year), I listen to 'em on the radio. I admit I don't know how well basketball translates to radio (not my favorite sport, and we don't have a local team...). If you'll still have internet access, you may well be able to watch games and matches online.

We have an older, crappy TV, so we never really had over-the-air (despite living half a block from the local NBC affiliate's tower, it was fuzzy, and the PBS station was the only other thing that came in at all); since the digital conversion, the only thing on our TV is DVDs---on the other hand, we spend a lot more time together & with our dog actually doing stuff than we used to (and, not entirely coincidentally, we've each lost about 50 pounds since then).
posted by FlyingMonkey at 11:52 AM on April 14, 2010

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