Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cord-Cutting

I haven't had cable TV for years. Outside of live sports, I found that there was almost nothing on that I actually cared about. At $60 a month for just basic channels, cable TV just wasn't worth it to me, and satellite costs are at least as high. So I cut the cord, and for the most part I haven't missed it. Here's what I've done:

  • I picked up a Leaf antenna for broadcast TV. Ever since broadcast channels switched over to digital, the quality of over-the-air broadcast has been just as good as anything you'd get from cable or satellite.
  • On the sports front, I was able to get the MLB radio broadcasts over the Internet easily enough via their At-Bat subscription. (As well as watch the occasional daily free game via MLB.TV.) Same for NHL hockey, but even better...for the most part, teams have free radio streaming on their web sites. NFL games are available on over-the-air network channels, except for Monday night. College football is as well, although there's so many of those that a good number do end up on cable. Even college and NBA basketball games are often on broadcast TV, though I don't watch them much. 
  • The few non-sports shows that I do care about seeing are mostly available via Internet streaming either shortly after airing, or a few months later after the season ends. Most things can be found on either Netflix or Hulu (and Amazon streaming, though I've not used that one). I tend to subscribe to Netflix, watch a bunch of stuff over a few months, then stop it for a year or so while I wait for new stuff that I'm interested in to be added. I never have subscribed to Hulu, mostly because they don't entirely get rid of ads (though that's gotten better recently), but also because of the way they only have a few of the most recent episodes for most shows.
  • In the last year or so, I've been trying out Sling TV, which provides access to several previously cable-only channels for $20 a month. I'm mostly interested in ESPN and TBS/TNT for their sports programming. I've enjoyed having access to baseball game broadcasts this summer, and college/NFL games in the past couple of months. When Sling is working, anyway. I've run into quite a few instances where the service just stopped working, sometimes right in the middle of a broadcast. It's gotten better in the past couple of months, so I'm hoping they've worked out their technical issues and reliability will be better moving forward.
  • I've also subscribed to Crunchyroll for access to anime. Most of what they have isn't available on cable anyway (at least, not basic cable) so it's not really part of cord-cutting, but it fits in the general theme of online media. Ten years ago, getting anime wasn't easy; for the most part, you had to buy expensive DVD sets. I rarely did it, because you never knew if you'd get something good, or a real waste of time. It's much better with Crunchyroll (and to a lesser extent, Netflix and Hulu) providing a wide range of options.

I realize that all of that sounds a lot more complicated than just getting a cable or satellite subscription. I kind of like messing around with way technical things work, so that's no hardship for me. The cost is a lot lower in my case, because I pick and choose which services I want. I don't mind spending the extra time and effort to set it up.

The old traditional cable/satellite subscription model is still alive, but it's on the way out. There's just too many options that don't lock you into paying for a bunch of channels that you don't want. Right now, those subscription models are still alive mostly because they're still the easiest and most reliable solution. If they don't make some major changes in the next decade or so, I expect that will no longer be true, and there will be a lot more folks taking the same path that I have.

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