Thursday, January 8, 2009

Canceling Cable

The special package price on my cable service expired in November. Suddenly I'm faced with a $165 per month cable bill. That includes Internet and phone service, but it's still a big bill for entertainment and communication. Especially when you consider that I'm also paying around $100 for a few cell phones and $15 for NetFlix.

My first order of business
is to cancel the phone service they offer. After the introductory period it now costs $35 per month. I only take a very few inbound calls using that phone. I'm going to go with BroadVoice's In State Unlimited plan, which is ~$15 per month after fees and taxes.

Next up is the television service. This one is interesting. I like TV, and I think it is possible to consume it without becoming a zombie. It's just not worth the $100 per month that I'm paying for basic ($55 or so), digit/HD ($10), and two DVRs ($35). Don't get me wrong, I think I have a great setup and as far as cable goes I think Cablevision does pretty well. It's just that I don't want to pay $1200 a year to watch it, not anymore at least.

As for the Internet service, I will keep it. It's $45 per month if you have their cable service, and it will be $50 per month when I get rid of it. Cablevision's Internet service is very good, and FiOS isn't available in my area so there is no competition for it here. I'll need it for the VOIP service anyway.

In case you've been keeping a tally, $35+$100+$45 != $165. I know. I get a whopping $15 discount for having all three services. Good thing, because $180 per month would be intolerable. Glad I don't have HBO.

Next up, I have to figure out what to do instead. I don't want to miss out on sports and I do enjoy a few sitcoms. My son watches a few cartoons, most of which we record on the DVR so he can watch them according to his schedule. My wife occasionally watches the news and the weather channel. Otherwise, our television viewership consists of random stints, almost entirely by me. I still want to have access to some of that, and I've come up with a bit of a plan.

I can sum it up in three words: Antenna, Netflix, Hulu. There are other aspects to this but those are my main weapons. Other factors include purchased DVDs, video games, and probably turning the TV off.

Antenna - I have to purchase an antenna for my HDTV. I've yet to do this, and it may be the most crucial element here. If the antenna doesn't work well then I will miss out on sports, something I really enjoy watching. Even with the antenna I will be forgoing ESPN, I'd rather not lose everything else. The antenna will also provide access to local news and primetime television.

Of course, I haven't purchased an antenna yet. I don't know how well it will work. I'll have to mess with it and I may have to make multiple purchases before I'm satisfied. That's fine, because I live in a major television market so I'm confident I will be able to find something that works.

Netflix - I already have Netflix, and most of the movies I watch are Netflix rentals. I'm a fan of the service. Right now I have the two out unlimited service. Under my new strategy I will return to at least the three out unlimited plan, but I may increase that. I plan to try to take advantage of their streaming content, a library that seems to grow constantly. It will be a great way to spend a boring night if I don't have a movie at home or I'm not in the mood to watch any that I have. This leads me to the third part of my plan...

Hulu - Have you tried this service yet? They offer DVD quality streaming content and they have a wide variety ranging from obscure crap to some of the most popular shows on TV. Hulu has commercials, but they seem to have less than TV and so far they aren't mixed such that they make you pee your pants when they come on. Obviously this isn't the only service to offer streaming video, but right now they're the best option to directly replace television viewing. Veoh, Netflix, and in some cases the show's website offer similar streaming content. Another option is iTunes, where I may be able to purchase episodes of shows. So far there are no current episodes of any show I like available there, but who knows what the future might bring.

There you have it, my three pronged attack at the rising cable bill. I anticipate that this will save me at least $100 per month. I will save part of that money toward an entertainment budget that I will use to buy electronics and content. I hope to buy or build a media center PC sometime later this year so that I can record off air content and watch digital content on my TV.

Will this be as convenient as cable? Of course not. There is a reason why cable costs money and people pay, because it's easier than doing something like this. I won't get as much content, either. With my current package I get around 300 channels. Many of them broadcast 24 hours a day. Having a DVR attached to this opens the door to countless hours of content, more than I can consume. It's like the Golden Corral of entertainment.

Instead, I will use my entertainment budget to target my viewership. I will focus on things that I am more likely to enjoy, instead of whatever the networks decide to put in my viewing window. It will take more work to find these things, and sometimes I will have to pay for them, but I will be saving far too much to mind. Besides, I'm sure a little less consumption is a good thing.

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