So Long, Satellite TV

October 8, 2010

deathstar.pngI grew up in a fairly rural neighborhood, outside of the city limits. Cable TV never made it out that way, and satellite dishes in those days looked more like the Death Star’s giant laser turret. I reversed this injustice in my adult life, as a continuous subscriber to cable, or more recently, satellite TV service. Until July, that is.

We’ve gone antenna only. It’s like 1979 all over again. Almost.

There are a few reasons why:

  • While I’m only loyal to a few shows, I’ve long been wondering if I allow myself to indulge in too much TV. One of the most common statements I hear in interviews with people who are consistently making new stuff is: “I don’t watch a lot of TV.” Point taken. And I only needed to hear it 54-ish times to acknowledge it.
  • We had Dish Network. It was the cheapest option available for an HD and DVR viewing family, but we still paid over $50/month. As we were thinking of ways to save money, it’s hard to overlook an expense like that.
  • The final straw came when the Disney Channel was pulled from our HD only package. When I called to ask about options, the only option was to pay more to add standard definition channels to our package. I chose a different option — the option to cancel — and I have no regrets.

The reality is, most of what we watched was a few shows available from broadcast TV, an occasional football game on ESPN or NFL Network, and about four channels not available over the air — Disney, Food Network, HGTV, and Comedy Central for the Daily Show. So, $50 a month for four (and then three) channels.

I’m happy to report that things have worked out fine, thanks to:

  1. A $30 antenna. HD comes in very well with a fairly cheap indoor antenna, and they don’t have rabbit ears like they used to. Wired ran an article last spring that said over the air was the best signal, because cable and satellite both use some compression.
  2. Tivo. I bought a refurbished, discontinued Tivo and pre-paid for a year of service. I bristle a bit at paying monthly for a service that doesn’t really provide any content, but it makes up for it in convenience, and I think we would have spent about that much on iTunes download or a Hulu subscription. The money we’ve saved on satellite has pretty much paid for this already.
  3. Netflix. (You might be familiar with Netflix — they drop ads under browser windows like cockroaches drop crap under the kitchen sink.) This is another monthly expense, but one we already had. Netflix streams to our Tivo, and there are a lot of kids shows that we are comfortable showing our kids. How can you not like old episodes of Blue’s Clues?
  4. – I don’t watch it as much anymore, but the streaming version of the show on their website is great quality.
  5. Mad Men. My wife and I started watching via DVDs from Netflix right about the time we canceled satellite, and we are almost caught up. (We’ve watched this season via Amazon Video on Demand on the Tivo.) It’ll be good to be caught up so we can go cold turkey on this addiction.

I already have plans to be at a cable subscribing friend’s apartment when the Broncos play on Monday Night Football. If anything, I’ve missed Food Network, and they’ve just started adding a few shows on iTunes and Hulu. Beyond that, it’s working out very well. Perhaps too well, because I don’t think I’m watching less TV — at least not until we watch these last four episodes of Mad Men.

I’m guessing that things are about tip drastically out of favor for cable and satellite in terms of content subscribers, because I know I’ve chatted with many others who have said so long to these services. Have you? And what have you replaced them with?

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