Cutting the Cable Cord

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Economics, Journalism, Livin' in the USA
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I wasted a hell of a lot of money for a hell of a lot of years by paying for cable and satellite TV.  When I finally cut the cord, I was paying $75.99 a month for DirecTV, and it’s probably gone up a bit since then. I was also  subscribing to the mlb Extra Innings package (major league baseball, for all you furriners readin’ this), which at the time was $169.95; it’s also probably gone up. So, I was paying nearly eleven hundred bucks a year for satellite TV.

Last summer I finally asked myself, “Why? What am I actually getting for my money?” The answer was “not much.” I had the news (Al Jazeera or MSNBC, which is really more PC opinion than news) on  in the background while I worked, and would actually watch it occasionally–and it was often more of an irritant than entertainment. Beyond that, I usually watched “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report,” the occasional show on the Science Channel, the very occasional show on the Discover Channel or the Hitler Channel, baseball games, occasionally a football game, and the local news, and that was it. I was paying over a thousand dollars a year for the privilege, so, I canceled my satellite subscription.

The better part of a year later, I barely miss it. I have high speed Internet (which I had anyway), Netflix ($8 a month), and the mlbtv streaming package ($109.95 last year), which provides the same programming at lower cost than the Extra Innings package. (Free sports programming is available via Stream2Watch. Some of the streams Stream2Watch points at aren’t strictly legal, but if God didn’t want us to watch them, why did He create proxies?) I can watch “The Daily Show” on the Comedy Central channel, sans commercials a day after it airs.  For news, I mostly use the Guardian, Al Jazeera, and BBC sites, and occasionally the CNN-for-grownups site.  (Yes, CNN has a kiddie site aimed at the U.S. audience, and an actual news site aimed at the rest of the world. The difference between the two is sometimes jaw dropping. Kiddie CNN seems to think that Idiocracy is a documentary. As I write this, the headline on that site is “Jurors Get Superbowl Talk.”)

But getting back to cutting the cord . . . For the local news, I just watch it over the air. Any flat screen TV will receive digital over-the-air channels, and the only piece of additional gear you need is an antenna. Commercial ones typically cost about $30, but you can easily build a better one in under an hour for no more than $10. I built one entirely from junk in the back room, and all it cost me was about 45 minutes of time.

At the end of all this, I find that the only thing I miss is Al Jazeera, which for those who haven’t seen it (and that includes most U.S. cable and satellite viewers) is, overall, a very good news channel. But it’s not worth a thousand bucks a year.

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