Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cutting the cord

Our son and his wife recently decided to discontinue their cable television service.

What's that, you say?  How will they survive without "SportsCenter" on ESPN, or all of those "Law and Order" reruns on TNT (something that my son got ME hooked on, but that's a story for another post), or "House Hunters" on HGTV?

Quite well, it seems.

Not only are they saving money, but since they have a toddler and another baby on the way, it's not as though they had lots of time to watch TV anyway.  And, as conscientious parents, they've made a considered choice to limit the amount of television their daughter watches during a given week.

And, from all indications, they don't miss it.

So this started me thinking about life without cable.  And the $$$$$$$ associated with having cable service!  But then I began to think about what we really would miss.....here's a brief list:

1)  Cincinnati Reds baseball games are available ONLY on Fox Sports Net Ohio, which is a cable-only channel.  Now that they broadcast over 140 games per season, all in high definition, it's a little difficult for me, a dyed-in-the-wool Reds fanatic, to NOT make arrangements to get their games.

There is a package one can purchase from MLBTV (major league baseball's centralized broadcasting repository) to see the games, and for the entire season the cost it just a little more than the price of cable in a month.  But then it would be necessary to obtain a streaming content set-top device (Roku, Apple TV or something like that) to grab the signal and translate it into something watchable on my TV.  One time expense, of course, but still an expense.

2)  ESPN.  And, no, I'm not talking about SportsCenter so much, as that "franchise" has pretty much played itself out in my mind, repeating the same news about the same few teams, schools and athletes (Yankees, Red Sox, Patriots, Cowboys, Lakers, Celtics, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Tiger Woods) over and over and over......well, you get the idea, if you're not familiar.  But I would miss their live sports broadcasts, particularly since so many University of Kentucky football and basketball games are broadcast on various ESPN channels (the Southeastern Conference and ESPN signed a massive rights agreement a couple of years ago and now SEC sports, featuring Kentucky basketball, is a big element in ESPN's live sporting event schedule from September through March).  ESPN operates something called ESPN3.com, but, as I understand it, it's not yet possible to stream that site's content to a set-top box such as I mentioned above.  Maybe at some point ESPN will change their mind on that, but, for now, can't see those games unless you have cable, or are willing to watch on a computer via ESPN3.

3)  Cable news.  I like to have all of the news I can get (although in the evenings it's hard to find news, as the cable news channels almost all have shows on that feature a good deal of commentary), so I'd really miss that.

4)  HGTV.  I know, it's surprising, but we watch many hours of their programming per week, and not just because my wife likes it.  I like many of their shows, too, largely due to familiarity, I suppose.

5)  Food Network/Travel Channel/TLC/TNT/TBS/Bravo/FX.  I could go on, but we watch a little bit of everything from these channels and more.

At least I'm not trying to convince anyone that I'm a big PBS viewer, as I'm not.



To be fair, we probably have channels we don't watch that we could delete from our cable menu, but every once in a while, there's something there that we would miss, so we keep those channels.  And keep paying for them.

I don't know if I will ever take the step our son and his family did, but it does make one think.  We did wean ourselves from subscribing to the local daily newspaper in our hometown, largely because my wife didn't have time to read it, and I'm comfortable reading it online.  But dropping cable, that's a much bigger adjustment.  Time will tell, I suppose.

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