Our friend the television: Is cable an outdated dinosaur?

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TV HEADLast week I read this article on Mashable about cutting the cable cord. In it, they cover the results of a study in which five families replaced their cable with a “connected device” (vocab word, yo!) for a week. We’re talking Boxee, Roku, Apple TV and Google TV, and an Xbox 360.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a man pretty high up in the pecking order of a midwestern cable company. He was very interested in learning about how us kids watch TV. I explained that we’d only recently gotten cable again — because there was a deal when we moved.

“And how did you watch TV before that?” he asked.

We watched a lot of Hulu and Netflix.

“When the deal’s over, will you continue cable?”

I dunno. Probably not.

“What would make your cable subscription more useful to you?”

If I could just effing watch it on my computer. Seriously. Not even our local news stations stream their shows online. AND, my cable plan includes On Demand Streaming, but I can access content days faster online.

I’m sure a number of you don’t watch TV at all — but that will never be me. I love my teevee. When we don’t have cable, we watch Netflix and Hulu, and I even have a set-up that allows me to stream Japanese daytime television (Amazing. Their version of Fred Willard is a trio of very young women.) So, I’m kind of curious — does cable feel like a dying dinosaur to you? Do you already own — or are you researching — a connective device? Do you even need one? Is Netflix enough for your household? Let’s prognosticate a bit on the future of mass media.

Comments on Our friend the television: Is cable an outdated dinosaur?

  1. Cable has been dying a slow death in our household, and we just pulled the plug for good. We bought an internet-abled tv with a digital tuner. We’re getting 15 channels of the clearest HD ever over the air. We stream Netflix through the WII as well as get dvds, and hook up the laptop to watch Hulu (and various Russian sites when necessary – ahem, True Blood and Walking Dead).

    Overall, we watch a lot less tv. And the stuff we’re watching is much better quality. I have no tolerance anymore for ads.

    The only thing we miss is Sports. There’s nothing sadder than following a Celtics game online by refreshing the score on ESPN.com. Down with content monopolies!

  2. um… we use torrents. The tv shows we want to watch are not on at convenient times (ie when we are trying to get the kids to bed etc) so we download the episode, watch it later once we’re comfy snuggled in bed, and then delete it. Easy and free.

  3. We live in Canada and still have rabbit ears. Six, count them six, channels for free! Of course this will come to an end at some not-so-distant point in the future, but I can easily watch the shows I want to see on the websites of the networks that show them. My greatest dream is to get rid of the tv entirely. We live in a somewhat small and awkward space, and having to work around the tv wastes alot of space.

  4. The Hubbs and I have Netflix and a 360. We also Hulu a lot. Maybe at some point we’ll get cable, we’ve discussed it, but my shows are House, Bones, Hell’s Kitchen, NCIS and Fringe, so really, the internet has us covered. Also, Hulu carries The Daily Show, and any other news I need I can get fresher from the internet.

    Also, Cable is FREAKING EXPENSIVE. I’d rather have one nice date per month and only watch what I can watch for free online.

  5. I haven’t had cable for years. I didn’t have a TV at all until I married my husband. He is a big screen TV kind of guy, but he cancelled cable when we moved in together. We watch streaming netflix almost exclusively from either our Xbox or from the DVD player that has the netflix built in. The only thing I sometimes wish we could watch are the HBO shows, but I would never get cable just for that. TV and movies both need to get with the times and make everything streaming on demand.

  6. We’d save so much money by ditching cable and you’ve got me really thinking about it. We have both an xBox and a blu ray player that stream Netflix but that just wouldn’t be enough for me.

    First, netflix only receives shows from networks it contracts with and since studios are losing money on DVD sales to Netflix, they’re trying to limit content access in those deals. I would hate to miss out on certain shows because Netflix doesn’t carry it.

    Second, I’d miss out on the shows I discover but would never seek out. The nature shows, educational shows, the NatGeo channel, BBC shows. Flipping channels offers a level of variety that expands my repertoire of programs. Our streaming Netflix interface isn’t good enough for that yet (although I’ve seen some that are).

    Also, Netflix and Hulu just aren’t bug-free enough for me yet. I can’t abide the “buffering” in the middle of a Glee episode on Hulu or the random streaming reloads we get on Netflix.

    Finally, I can’t watch anything on my computer. To me, relaxation is chilling on the couch with my dog and my husband, not sitting alone in a computer chair, staring a tiny screen. I couldn’t give up the theater experience of a television and a living room. Now, if you want to help me set up my computer TO my TV, which is actually something we’ve been wanting to do, I’m so there. 🙂

    So yes, I think cable is on the way out. But it’s not going to go the way of the dinosaur until our choices expand, the quality improves and we can plug it right into our TV.

  7. We have basic cable for 2 reasons: (1) We already get Internet with them anyway, so adding basic (no cable box) was cheap. (2) Local channels. We are in basically an antenna dead zone, so I want to have access to local news. And Jeopardy! (OK, mostly Jeopardy!)

    • yes! jeopardy!

      it’s one of the reasons i have cable! i think if it wasn’t for jeopardy and food network we could get rid of cable. what really stinks for us is the hubs likes to watch the tour de france every year and the only station that shows it is in the priciest cable package, blech!

  8. Love me some Netflix (however not everything has closed caption) and HuLu….before you had to buy that too. We have not had tv for about 4 years now, and its not missed.

  9. I would LOVE to get rid of cable, although I’d miss BBC America, Food Network, and Discovery Channel, and Adult Swim. My sports nut fiance isn’t comfortable with cutting the cord yet.

    We watch mostly Netflix on the PS3 or Wii, and torrents for new stuff. Something that’s awesome is our TV has USB ports, so we can pop jump drives in and out that have several movies on them. We’re probably going to get a big external hard drive to keep our collection on, but the memory sticks are so convenient right now.

  10. We’ve been a Hulu/Netflix laptop-watching family for years, and now that my Amazon Prime subscription includes free streaming movies, I miss tv even less. 🙂 That said, we do go to the neighbor’s to watch Glee each week — but that’s mostly a social thing.

  11. I gave up my cable and local access about 4 years ago and couldn’t be happier. when Bix moved in he struggled a bit with the loss of access to sports but now could care less. We have a Netflix subscription but get movies only – we don’t stream.

    Now we actually spend our times talking to each other, playing board games, etc. Even when we travel or visit where there is tv, we rarely turn it on. I never realized how much of my time was being absorbed by cable and now I feel like I have my life back.

  12. I totally know what you mean. I have a TV in my house (not personally mine) and a cable bill but frankly, my roommates hog it and are not very nice about sharing. So I tend to watch all my shows online, where I can throw them on during the day while I’m doing some mindless payments, etc. (I work at home) and get a laugh out of it. I’ve never owned a TV and I personally just don’t think they’re necessary any more – as long as I have computer and Internet, I’ll never miss it.

  13. We only have Netflix through our Xbox. Everything winds up there eventually. And if we like it enough, we just buy it on DVD or blu-ray.

  14. I moved in with my boyfriend in 07′ and he never had cable. Now that we have a house we have basic cable because it was cheaper getting basic cable with internet, then internet only. We only use the Teley to play video games though. If I watch tv, I watch it on Netflix or hulu.

    Granted we dont watch TV too much,mostly just to fall asleep. I think not having tv brings us closer together. I remember growing up with my parents and watching tv while we ate and not really doing anything together. My BF and I play video games and board games together and just hang out, instead of being drones and glued to the teley.

  15. When I lived with my parents we had cable. Out of the hundreds of channels we had, I watched the food network and the home channel. Oh, some Disney for my sister when there were re-runs. Since moving out we are strictly netflix.
    We do have cable, but only because it came in a bundle with extra-super-fast internet that they wouldn’t offer unbundled.

  16. Love Cable. Could NOT live without it. Yes, there are many ways to watch tv, but not with SO many channels and DVR!!! I love food network in the background while I am crafting or cooking or whatever. And I am obsessed with all things HGTV. It’s always on. I like being able to constantly just flip through so many channels! Yes, we have netflix and Hulu is always available, but there is just something about the ease of it. LOVE IT!

  17. For the first 2 years in my condo, I didn’t have cable or internet. I relied on the library for my entertainment (internet access, movies, books, music). My fiance moved in and first thing he ordered cable, internet, and NetFlix. I feel like it takes up too much time because I get sucked in to “my shows”.

  18. There are some reasons to get rid of cable. First being it is very costly, and it is not worth the money! Second, with other providers out there I don’t really see a reason as to why people would pay so much for so little. Third, I would go with satellite. I have been a long time employee of DISH, and a long time user of the Sling Adapter. What it does is allows me to watch any of my satellite subscription, anywhere and at any time I want! It is very much so worth the investment.

  19. I so agree with cable being almost obsolete! My husband and I have been together for seven years and never had cable, we’ve enjoyed Netflix tremendously but it does have it’s drawbacks. Our recently discovered solution: the ROKU. LOVE IT! It’s tiny, it streams all of the media we want to see like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD, Pandora to our tv wirelessly. (You can still use the internet on your computer while watching stuff on the tv, it just slows your connection down a fair amount.) And it only cost $70, one time, no monthly fee other than the netflix which we were already paying for! We aren’t huge sports fans, but you can also get sports channels some free and some for a fee, like NHL Center Ice. And from what I’ve seen, they are adding more content all the time, I’ve recently seen something called PlayOn which had a lot of channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, etc. But I have yet to check it out. (Anyone know if it’s worth it?) All in all, I’d have to say big thumbs up for ROKU. (I am not affiliated with the company, I just happen to really like mine!) 🙂

  20. My husband and I didn’t have a TV for the first 4 months of the place we are living in now. We now have a TV and the only reason why we have basic cable is because it came into a really great bundle deal with phone and internet. We are in Canada and my family is in the states so the phone is great to call my folks for free. We rarely use the cable. I have it on in the background some times when I am working on its on MSNBC (my sister works for them). What we normally do is hook up our laptop via mini-DVI port and watch Netflix or DVDs.
    We do some times (gasp!) watch illegal TV, however, we are already paying for it through the cable company, its just now in better quality (we don’t have HD channels through the package) and without the commercials. You don’t actually affect the ratings if you don’t have a nielsen box for the neislen ratings system. It works for us, but some times we do miss HGTV, discovery, and the history channel. Netflix in Canada doesn’t have as much content as US Netflix (I must say it is getting better). Some day when we have more cash coming in we will upgrade our cable package, but who knows. We might be so busy working we won’t have time.

  21. I love Netflix! I discovered it a few months ago and have been hooked. Unfortunately because I’m in Canada i don’t have access to Hulu, however I have found some other sites that basically do the same thing. One snag is that I have to agree with the sports comments. My guy and I are HUGE Montreal Canadians fans, so for now we are stuck with cable (cheaper than going to the pub to watch the game!) Although I am considering cancelling the cable off season. I guess the only channel I would really miss would be the food network, although the many wonderful food blogs I have been reading as of late are fast becoming a good replacement 😉

  22. I grew up with only bunny ears, ABC, CBS, NBC, and if we were lucky, PBS (depended on the weather!). One of my grandmother’s had cable TV, and so we would watch it there sometimes, it was a special treat (Nickelodeon? Heck Yea!) When I was in college, the dorms had automatic cable, which I occasionally had on in the background, and once I had a room mate who insisted on having cable. But other then that… it hasn’t been a thing. When I have it, it’s on, when I don’t have it, I’ll put on netflix streaming or hulu.

    I think that regular television is definitely going the way of the 8 track, but I think it’s going to be a very long process. People who are accustomed to having TV as part of their daily routine, older generations and what not, will probably never fully switch, so if cable were to die out completely, it would probably not be for 20 or 30 years at least.

    The one thing that I DO miss out on, by not having cable, are some of the stations that guard their shows carefully. BBC, HBO etc. There are lots of shows that I’m just waiting for netflix to get that I wish I could have seen already.

    One of the other reasons that TV has never caught me is I’m so busy and my schedule is so varied, that since high school, I’ve never been home consistently to watch a show while it was on. With DVR, this is easier, but if I look back to see what I’d need to make TV worth it for me, expanded cable to include HBO and BBC, DVR etc. Well then FINANCIALLY, it’s just not worth it to me.

  23. Letting the tv tell me when to watch my shows is so 1900s.

    We have netflix streaming, and do just fine. But then, I like to watch a lot of re-runs, so just being able to watch Fruits Basket, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Keeping Up Appearances, and Dr Who keep me pretty busy. I have the TV on while I draw, so we have it on a lot, but I just don’t care about having shows available the very moment they come out. I can wait till Netflix gets them. I do wish Netflix would get a deal with HGTV tho.

  24. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get rid of cable. Why?

    SPORTS. I am a hocket fanatic, and I rarely miss seeing my team play. (also, Amazing Race).

    My fiance and I actually went for about 8 months without cable, and we did alright. But being in Canada, Netflix wasn’t up to par, and we quickly ran out of movies, TV series and video games. Plus it was hockey season, and we were spending more money in one month going to bars to watch hockey.

    If I went to 5 games in one month at the bar that’s $200 for 2 people! Our cable bill is $60/month. Needless to say, we’re actually saving money with cable based on our needs.

    Now, if sports could be streamed like Netflix for a loooow rate, then we’d drop cable.

  25. I guess you could say we have basic TV for our area in the UK. Our anolog signal is getting cut off in August so its freeview or die.

    At the same time we use seesaw.com constantly either downloading them to watch later or streaming BBC iPlayer on the Wii. If we want to watch a season of something we get the box set from the library, £1 for a month!

    In comaprison it would cost about £40 ($70ish) a month for a basic sky package in my area. Way too expensive!

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