No TV service for a year…..

I canceled my cable TV service today. Later this afternoon I am going to drop off the HD DVR and since I have consistently overpaid my bill for the last year they actually owe me money when all is said and done. People that know me real well might think I have lost my mind. Partly because they know how much TV and how many movies I watch and partly because......they know how much TV and how many movies I watch.

I love TV. I have grown up in the TV generation. My generation started watching TV when the bulk of it was still in black and white. We lived through the transition to color. We lived through the transition from an antenna on top of everyone's house to having cable. We lived through the added competition and cheaper pricing that satellite services have brought us. We lived through early adopters putting antennas back on top of the house to get HDTV signals over the air. If I wanted to hold on for another 8 months I would experience the cut off of analog signals when we go digital.

But I decided to cancel my cable service for several reasons --

Cost - I was spending roughly $100 a month on cable TV service. It wasn't anything fancy, a basic package upgraded with all of the HD channels they offered and an HD DVR. No premium movie channels and no sports packages. That's $100 a month for something that up until the 70's was 100% free. Sure, cable introduced a bunch of cool stuff but 30 years down the road, there are really only a small number of channels and shows worth watching on the 100's of channels offered (IMO) and $100 a month just isn't worth it. So that is $1200 a year I get to keep and in these troubling financial times, the more money in my pocket, the better.

Selection - My cable company offered 25 HD channels (not including the premium HBO type HD channels). But they do not offer and have no plans to offer SciFi HD, or Monsters HD which I would love to have. When compared against DirectTV's HD lineup, they just can't match it. And since they are the only cable company in town, it seems to me they have no desire to add additional services to make it worth my money to stay with them. Problem is, I can't get DirectTV because of all the tall tress on my property and I don't want to add a huge mast on the property to mount a dish on just to make it happen.

Time - There just isn't enough of it. I watch a LOT of TV and movies. It is an incredible time suck and I want some of the time back to accomplish other things in my life. I am not getting any younger and neither are my wife and kids. The fence needs mending, the south 40 needs some work, and I have camping to do.

It's still going to be out there - The major networks place most of the shows I would be interested in watching on their web sites within 24-48 hours of the original air date. Failing that, everyone releases DVD compilations just before the new season begins. So I can rent what I REALLY want to watch and play catch up when I need to. Nothing like spending a rainy day in your pajamas watching episode after episode of Battlestar Galactica..... I also believe most movies are worth watching on the big screen in the theater, opening weekend when the crowd gets into it.

I also truly believe that the broadcasters and Hollywood have lost the war against P2P and file sharing sites. They will never be able to prevent content from being distributed digitally over the Internet. It only takes a BitTorrent client and decent Internet connection and 30 minutes to locate, download and start watching a compressed HD version of most TV shows and movies (....or so I've heard....).  They are going to figure this out sooner or later and digital distribution will become the standard means of getting content in the next 5-10 years. I have mentioned in several seminars that I am far less impressed with the 100's of CD's and DVD's people have on display at their houses and far more impressed with people that have Home Theater PC's that allow them to call up what they want to consume within seconds without having to dig a CD or a DVD out of a case, watch all the previews and THEN get to the movie. Long ago I ripped down my entire music and DVD collections and put it all in crates in the basement. There will come a day, and a lot sooner than many think, where we don't own any physical media at all except for a big RAID array where it is all stored. So call me an early, early adopter.

Thus begins my one year long experiment with no TV services (officially starts July 1st). I will consume what I can from the content providers web sites and supplement the rest with DVD rentals, and going to the movies. I know where the bars are that show my favorite sports teams live and I have season tickets for the Seattle Thunderbirds. I haven't watched live news broadcasts regularly in years (does anyone anymore?) and I know enough people with DVR's that I can capture anything else I may want to see through them.

Time to start working on the honey-do list.....



Comments (9)

  1. Bill Rodriguez says:

    Hey Chris I also live without cable..  I have an HD antenna which gives me all the local channels in HD for FREE..  This works great and then we also use Netflix to catch those shows that we can’t see..  If you need any more info let me know..

  2. Chris E. Avis says:

    Thanks for the offer!   I used to do OTA HD when I lived near San Diego. Worked like a champ!  But where I live now, I am on the wrong side of a hill and I am surrounded by 150 foot tall pine trees. So getting OTA HD would be problematic at best. Same applies for satellit services since line of sight to the satellites is obstructed by trees. I don’t wish to sut anythign down and I don’t want to run 50-80′ mast up in my yard. My experiment is to go without cable service, leverage the broadcaster sites and rent/buy DVD’s for things I want to watch beyond that. Should be an interesting year!

  3. Jeremy Smith says:

    Hey Chris,

    I have been looking into moving my DVD’s onto a Home Theater PC/Server for a little bit now. Can you give any recommendations on the server hardware requirements as well as software for riping DVD’s to disk. I’d like to see something with enough quality that I take advantage of my HDTV.


  4. jweston says:

    But where is GH3 on the honey do list?  Put down the guitar. Walk away, do you know it’s Daylight for 15 hours up there this time of year!!   🙂

    John Weston

  5. Chris E. Avis says:

    @jeremy – From a server hard3ware perspective, you don’t need much. Just make sure you have enough storage and a Gigabit network connection. My experience with streaming even lower res movies over wireless has been less that satisfactory. My Home Theater PC is hardwired to the network now as a result.

    On the client side, multi-core/CPU is king. Some HighDef streams require lots of CPU. My new MCE machine is a Quad Core 64 bit box and it hasn’t missed a beat in the past few days of testing.

    DVD ripping is a touchy subject. I would stick to commercial packages for supportability. Check out avsforum for lots of tips on what to rip with and how to encode.

    @john – practice makes perfect (except on Through Fire and Flames….I will never perfect that one!)

  6. I haven’t given up my DirecTV, but I did cancel NFL Sunday Ticket, now that Brett Favre has retired. That was sucking up over $300.

    My wife and I joined NetFlix over 2 years ago and it’s amazing! Now they have the ability to stream a ton of content, for no additional cost or fee, unlimited. It’s great. It also allows you to stream the movies to your laptop when you’re on the road.

    Good luck in your year long quest. I’m sure your Dallas Cowboys won’t make it to the Super Bowl, so you’ll be okay. 🙂

    – Kai

  7. Chris E. Avis says:

    @kai – I will miss the live football in the comfort of my own home on the big screen, but that is what friends and sports bars are for. We cancelled our NetFlix too because the streaming would not work on the big screen (because I don’t have a HDCP connection from PC to TV). It worked fine on my laptop but I am a big screen guy.

    Cowboys… stadium….new Bowl Rings!

  8. Brigette says:

    We did the same thing: killed the cable.

    As far as your trees and stuff, you might be surprised what an old-fashioned, fishbone-style antenna will do for you. (I was skeptical…and tried all the "amplified" antennas…and then returned ALL of them before trying the fishbone wonder.) Now, I get all local HD channels with the old, plain-jane antenna in the attic.

    I installed a six foot version (you can get bigger ones too) in our attic space and spliced it into the existing coax. Just remove the path back out to the cable box from your equation. (I set it up so that I can reconnect the cable line to the path if, at a later date, I change my mind….) And be sure to put terminators on all cable ports in the house that are NOT attached to a TV. Even on the TV that is furthest down the daisy chain, I get crystal clear HD.

    Good luck!!! And have fun camping.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Nothing particularly exciting to post about today. Lots of busy work around the house. The peak of the

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