LB Ponders Cutting the Cable-Satellite Cord…

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For the past year and a half, TVWriter™ has been carrying articles about people cutting the cord, as in canceling their cable/satellite service subscriptions and doing everything for free – make that close to free – on their desktops/phones/tablets. Last month I finally decided to give it a try and see if getting all our entertainment via our web connection would work for the Brodys.

This was no idle experiment prompted by a desire to actually learn something, nosirree. It was born out of anger and frustration caused by the wonderful folks at my Unmentionable Satellite Network and their pricing policies, which led to a several months long adventure during which I pared services and programming and managed – oh miracle of miracles! – to get my monthly bill down from an irritating $107 to $41.

Which would have been truly awe-inspiring, except that the next month, without me making any further changes, the price went up to $51. The month after that it was $71. Then $101. Then $91–

Enough was enough. I’d had it. So I started doing some research. The first thing I learned is that there’s no such thing as broadcast reception where we live. And here’s the gist of everything else: (Because the details are so damned boring I wouldn’t wish them on anyone except maybe the Unmentionable Network.)

Discovery #1:

I can axe Unmentionable from my life and use a combination of methods to download and/or stream every show Gwen and I watch without paying any more than our current $45/month ISP bill (and current Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime costs as well) and thereby save somewhere around $100/month and beat the current cable/satellite system. But–

Doing that would mean having to spend way more time than I have sorting/organizing/tracking/remembering the Brody family’s shows and making sure they’re ready to be watched and then, you know, watching them before they go away. Even with the various interweb TV tracking sites that are currently available (I like Episode Calendar best), we’re talking hours of record keeping and searching for the best downloads/streams and potentially long viewing delays. Oh, and there may or may not be legality issues in some instances that I really don’t want to have to deal with…

Discovery #2:

We can stick with Unmentionable and have none of the stress associated with the TV viewing uncertainty above, and continuing to pay what turns out to be $4+/hour for everything Gwen and I watch – because it turns out we only watch a total of 25 hours a week. Which, now that I have that number, makes me feel even more taken advantage of…

Discovery #3

We can switch from Unmentionable Satellite to the cable service run by Wave Broadband, our current ISP, with reasonable pricing and great speed) and get both internet and “Enhanced Basic” TV – oh, and a telephone land line too – for $90 a month, which is $55/month less than our current web/TV total. If we did that we’d never have to be stressed out about finding/missing anything. Except HBO and Showtime, which is no biggie because currently we – as in Gwen – currently watch only 1 show, the ever-delightful GAME OF THRONES, on both channels–

Discovery #4

Oh wait. I just read the fine print. Turns out that Wave’s Enhanced Basic package doesn’t include a DVR. That’s $17 a month more. Which makes the hourly cost of our modest TV viewing roughly $2.50/hour, which although lower than our current satellite cost still seems a bit high for our meager viewing and brings the total monthly cost to–

$107?

The same number I started out with? That can’t be right–

And it isn’t. Whew. The new $107 is the total cost for TV and internet and a land line that we’ll never use. Our total monthly cost right now is actually $152 including TV and internet – Unmentionable’s $107 plus $45 for Wave.

Bargain City, right? Right?

Wrong?

Aarghh!

All I know for sure right now is that I don’t want to think about this any more. It’s time to shift that responsibility.

So all of you reading this, out with it: What do you think? The Brodys’ viewing pleasure is in your hands. Lemme know!

About LB

Larry Brody has been profiled in such national magazines and websites as Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Starlog, People, Electronic Media, IndieSlate, TechTV, io9, and of course TV Guide.

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world, with a career going back to the late ’60s, Brody has written and produced literally thousands of hours of network and syndicated television.

Brody has also been active in the TV animation world, writing, creating, consulting, and/or supervising the cult favorite STAR TREK animated TV series, the SILVER SURFER, SPAWN, SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN, and SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED animated series, and was showrunner of the French animated series, DIABOLIK, as well as part of the team that developed and wrote the live-action/cgi animation sci-fi series Ace Lightning for the BBC.

Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including – yes, it’s true – Emmys.

11 thoughts on “LB Ponders Cutting the Cable-Satellite Cord…

  1. ChilltownTV says:

    Tell Unmentionable you’re leaving, be prepared to do so (and just do option #1) and Unmentionable might give you an offer to keep you.

    That’s what happened to me. My cable/internet/phone bill went up to $160 a month (!!!). I ditched my phone, actually signed up with a competitor, cancelled my service. Company #1 called me and made me an offer I can’t refuse. You guessed it: $107. Which is considered a bargain around here. I do get a lot for that, though. It’s way more than just basic cable. And I don’t miss my land line at all (I get unlimited talk on my cell).

  2. kingoftheting says:

    Here in the UK, I currently pay £25 p/m for my net access, £14.99 p/m for my land line, £6 a month for (basic) digital channels (I guess “basic cable.”) I then pay £6 a month for Netflix and my internet connection is excellent so I can *cough*acquire*cough* any other shows that aren’t on Netflix/Amazon and that I don’t have the TV channels for.

    I really feel like the US gets a bum deal with it’s cable operators. Don’t you guys have the issue of a virtual monopoly now over there with Comcast/Time Warner? And don’t they usually provide your fibre as well? It’s out of order.

  3. joyismyname says:

    “Cutting the cord” was a great dream but it just doesn’t work. I learned the hard way.

    You get your cable bill of $100/mo. (we’ll use the word “cable” for both cable and satellite for this discussion, they’re very similar) that somehow creeps up to around $180 every 6 months or so with a bundle of TV, phone and Internet.

    You call and fight with the cable company and get your bill back down to $100, giving up many of the things you liked about your previous package such as HBO or DVR. And then the whole process starts all over again. You pay more and more and get less and less.

    And you’re paying for a lot you don’t want. $5/mo. of your cable bill is for ESPN. If you’re not a sports fan, that’s $5 you’d rather not have to pay. The same with old movies or music or “television for women” channels. If one or more of those categories doesn’t appeal to you, that’s a lot of money every month for something you never use.

    So you decide to cut to cord and get Netflix for $8/mo. and Hulu Free, and you notice that the high-speed Internet portion of your cable bill is only $20/mo. for 18mbps or faster (i.e., plenty fast), so this is great, except when you cancel your cable service, now your “unbundled” high-speed Internet is $80/mo. by itself. With fees and taxes you’re almost back where you were price-wise but with much less service (though at least you have the commercial-free Netflix).

    But there are other problems now and on the horizon. First, Netflix doesn’t have any current programming, only last season’s, if that. And not for all shows. Type in one of your favorites and chances are it will pop up with a message saying that’s not offered on Netflix, but you can sign up for DVD service for another $8/mo and get that show. Hulu has a number of current shows, all with endless and annoying commercials (and the same commercials, over and over and over again). You have to be a wizard with multi-tasking and the mute button to look at a few other web sites during the commercials just to preserve your sanity.

    You can’t get local channels, or broadcast networks for that matter, unless you have regular cable service. ABC (Disney, ABC Family, etc.) won’t let you have anything without that. AMC also won’t let you have any of their shows unless you have cable service, and even then it has to be through a cable provider they approve, otherwise you can’t get it at all. If you have Comcast you can watch AMC online but if you have Charter you can’t, even though AMC is one of the channels Charter carries. (If you want truly local service, i.e., the local news, etc., you’ll have to get one of those digital roof antennas for $200 plus installation).

    And nowhere can you get HBO without regular cable service. Oops, they just changed that. Amazon announced last week they’d be carrying some HBO shows (but not “Game of Thrones”) for Amazon Prime customers at $99 a year. And many of the ones they do offer will not be current seasons. “Sopranos” yes, “Veep” no.

    And the other so-called “over-the-top” services have recently been dividing up what they offer. You can see some broadcast and cable networks on Netflix, some on Hulu Plus, some on Amazon Prime. So you have to get all 3 to get closer to having everything you want. And in coming months and years as over-the-top becomes the mainstream, the $8 to Netflix is going to go up to $50 or $60 or more, and the same with the others. So now we’re back to paying $200 a month but still not getting everything we want to see.

    The dream is gone, but really it was never there. Your best bet for right now is get everything your cable company offers and expect to pay around $200 a month.

  4. TVWriter™ says:

    Well, there is one way to cut the cord and save real money, but it comes with a certain financial risk and accompanying ethical and legal problems.

    joyismyname’s $200/month figure makes me feel like I’m getting a bargain. OTOH, kingoftheting’s figures get me all riled up again. Hey, king, isn’t there one charge you didn’t mention? The UK TV tax? How much is that?

    LYMI
    LB

    • kingoftheting says:

      Hi, it’s not a tax exactly. It’s a TV Licence and it funds the BBC which is a public broadcast

      • kingoftheting says:

        …public broadcaster. Works out abou £200 a year.

        • TVWriter™ says:

          I’d call that part of the UK TV Watching price, which brings your cost up by, what, roughly the equivalent of $28 a month? And the total to about $85/mo?

          Not bad. But not as good as an internet only price would be. If only….

          Thanks for the info!

          LYMI,
          LB

  5. dbwritergirl says:

    The costs would be more palatable if we could choose our beyond-basic services. I’d rather have classic TV programming and films, Bravo, HBO, HGTV and kid channels than ESPN packages, MLB channels and Hollywood gossip networks. Cafeteria Cable, an idea whose time is overdue!

  6. phil says:

    1. Consumer Reports, May 2014, cover story

    “Break Free from Cable”

    2. Holly’s dealt with inside the doors at Costco with someone trying to sell a dish. She wants to take me along, because she knows what I’m going to do: in essence, skip the inane list of “typical packages” which have no interest to me simply because none of them represent what we have (and pay for) right now. I want to give him a list of our current cable provider’s features we have and ask him to do a few things: [1] give me an offer listing the cost of the same items (apples :: apples); [2] a bill with the same information for 13 months from now (ca. when the initial commitments expire); [3] if their data feed isn’t as fast as he’s bragged to Holly, they’ll have 24-48 hours notice to switch us back (including any reconnect charges to cable – and if the dish is still there after that time frame, it’s mine to play with.

    If providers of dish, fiber, cable were to spend the time with their business department and create a nice little spreadsheet, they could have something like this and send them out into the wild. All they’d have to do is ask for a provider (to grab the list of various programs) to make it easier for all parties + specific channels/packages. People could actually see what they’ll have to pay. It’s not that tough an assignment for them and they’d only have to face the truth.

    • TVWriter™ says:

      I want to be there when you have this discussion with – anybody, actually. Have you ever gotten any takers re point 3?

      Thanks for this, dood.

      LYMI
      LB

  7. phil says:

    Speed? Never. Everyone talks a good story, whether it’s AT&T’s u-verse: “oh, we have a dedicated line for each household. “We don’t have a land-line and aren’t going to get one”) “Yeah, but how fast is it by comparison to what I have?” Remember when Johnny Carson would be a bit stimied with his monologue and would kick in with a little soft-shoe? “Uh, how fast is your connection? We can look into it…could we get your phone number?” I usually play stupid (which is easy for me) and see what they say.

    I usually spend some time listening to the sales folks at the state fair and what they can do for me. “Uh, the person who knows that was supposed to be here this afternoon. Can I get your phone number?”

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