Eliminating tiers of cable TV service can be painful. My tactics:
First, print out a complete list of all the available channels and tiers of service from the cable company’s website. Start crossing off what you don’t need:
Consider premium channels, such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and STARZ. How often does your family watch them? Did you get the channel for a particular show, but now tend to overlook it?
Certainly the pay channels have created some great content. I would go so far as to say that we are in another Golden Age of TV, thanks to the many incredible series greenlighted by them. But Netflix and Amazon have most of this available to watch (or binge on) at your leisure, albeit not all the current episodes.
We loved “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”, but never watched them on AMC when they were current because it just didn’t fit our viewing habits. We could have DVRed them in the den, but we prefer to watch full-attention shows in our theater room. We also don’t like to make too many appointments with our TV. But if you do not need to be on the front line of office coffee machine conversations, you can catch the shows at your own pace on Netflix or Amazon.
Does your family watch more Sports than those offered on broadcast TV or basic cable? Does your need for News go beyond CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX on broadcast, or CNN, CNBC, Fox News, msnbc on basic cable? If you answered ‘No’ to either or both, you may be able to lose a tier or two.
If you have Netflix, do you need a Movie tier (besides the Premium channels)?
Second, highlight the remaining channels you and your family watch. Write down next to each the shows that make it of value. Are they available on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu Plus? Do you like them enough to acquire DVD copies, or can you add them to your home media library? (another future post)
Talk with family members to find out whether it is acceptable to lose a tier that has only a few channels of interest. Maybe you don’t need the Cooking Channel if you have the Food Network. (There are also food/home-oriented channels on local broadcast TV)
When we completed this process, we wound up with the equivalent of the old basic and extended cable channels (aka TV Essential), plus HD and DVR (aka Advanced TV).
Also: do you have multiple cable boxes? Our bedroom box has now been replaced with a digital TV converter box (since our TV is older) and a flat, square indoor antenna. This $30+ box also has a DVR function that works with a USB or external hard drive. I auditioned it as a DVR replacement in the den, but it really wasn’t polished enough to inflict on my spouse. But it works very well providing broadcast TV to our bedroom set. We also have a Roku box in the bedroom.
Our theater room cable box was expendable as well. We watch only network broadcast shows in there (along with Netflix, etc.) I added another indoor antenna to our relatively up-to-date TV with a built-in tuner. I was lucky: there were sweet spots for both antennas that gave us good reception for all the channels we cared about (including RSUTV in Claremore). You may or may not be as lucky, depending on where you live, where your TV room is within the house, your house’s construction and wiring. Experimentation is the only way to go, even if you need to put an antenna in the attic, or mount it outside your house.
Despite losing the two cable boxes, we still have cable TV available in those rooms. Turns out that if you hook a cable directly from the wall to your TV, you return to 1990s cable TV: channels 2-63 in glorious analog. This is an unadvertised feature, and works for those with at least the Essential level of service. But there is no guarantee how long this will be available. The cable company will no doubt delete this anachronism without warning at some point, could be a year, could be 5 years. But since we all must consider becoming TV gypsies (switching between cable and satellite to get the deals for new customers), it’s good enough that it works right now.
An additional benefit of this whole process is that you can more effectively bargain for lower rates if you demonstrate that you have done your homework, and are willing to take action. It has worked for me twice, though the third time may not be the charm.
Maybe YOU can go with broadcast-only TV supplemented by Netflix, YouTube, etc. We’re not quite there yet.
But there is more to come.