Cutting the Cord: Yes or No?

Bill Hendrickson is contemplating taking his Viagra through my Apple TV. I'm trying out Apple TV's mirror capability, so we can watch Amazon Prime video on our TV complete with audio! As cool as this is, are we ready to cut the cable? Photo: Patricia Vollmer
Bill Hendrickson (Bill Paxton) is contemplating taking his Viagra through my Apple TV. I’m trying out Apple TV’s computer mirror capability with an episode of HBO’s Big Love; so even though it’s not programmed into Apple TV, we can still watch Amazon Prime video on our TV, complete with audio! As cool as this is, are we ready to cut the cable? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

There are some big changes going on in this GeekMom’s life. For starters, I’m starting full-time work later this summer. I don’t know how long the work will last, and I’m grateful for the flexibility in our kids’ child care that I can work for as much or as little as the Air Force needs me.

The other thing changing is my family’s television viewing habits. I’m watching our sons tap into our cable system’s “On Demand” options more often, and they are now well-versed in navigating Netflix and Amazon Prime video on our house’s Blu-ray players. More of our friends and family are foregoing cable and satellite and opting for the options that promote “binge viewing.” Guess what? Our family is now heading in that direction. Right now, we’re enjoying Netflix’s awesome programming, such as Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. In addtion, we are using Netflix and Hulu to play catch-up on television series we never got around to watching the first time. On my wish list is the UK version of The Office as well as 30 Rock.

We haven’t officially cut the cable yet. When we moved into our new house in Colorado last June, we took advantage of a promotion: $99 per month for 12 months. That was in late June. So we have a month left in this promotion before we actually make the cut without a penalty. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a bit of shopping:

1. HD Over-the-Air Antennas. For the first time, we have a clear line-of-sight view of our local television HD transmitters sitting on top of Cheyenne Mountain. I bought a couple of inexpensive over-the-air antennas from Amazon that simply plug into our televisions’ coax cable ports—and voilá! I have all of the major networks, including The CW and several Latino networks. $32 per television set; we have two televisions.

2. Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions. During our move between Florida and Colorado in 2013, we had turned off our Netflix streaming subscription. I ended up canceling it for nearly a year and just resuscitated it in March. That runs us about $8 per month. In addition, I recently started Hulu Plus, which is also $8 per month. We’ll see if we need to keep both services concurrently. We use Amazon Prime quite a bit, so the Prime Instant Videos are also available to us, but we admittedly don’t watch many of them. $16 per month.

3. Apple TV. I crowdsourced this one on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I asked, “Which streaming video player should we get?” While I had many simple declarations of “Roku!,” “Amazon Fire TV!,” and “Chromecast!,” I had to do a little digging to find out the features of each of devices. Guess what? They’re basically the same.  Apple TV was the winner, mostly because we have a house full of Apple products that can easily stream to an Apple TV device. I ordered an Apple TV device and it just arrived today. I’m looking forward to exploring its full capabilities. $92 one-time cost.

So after an upfront cost that’s still less than one month of cable, I’m thinking we can get our television recurring costs down below $20 per month.

What do you think? I know many families now go without cable; how has that been going for you? I’ve prepared a list of pros and cons here, although we’re pretty certain we’re going forward with the change, at least for now.

Pros of Cutting the Cord

  • Cost. We will be freeing up nearly $100 per month, which goes back into our family’s budget. I like that idea.
  • More deliberate viewing experience. My husband is a chronic channel-surfer. Until recently, he would flip through channels and simply rest on something that catches his attention. Recent changes to our Comcast program guide has made the channel surfing even less like the good old days. So now, we only have the TV on when we have something in particular to watch.
  • Less exposure to channels you don’t want your kids to see. This has always rubbed me the wrong way: paying for a large programming package when in reality, we don’t watch over half the channels we’re paying for. In addition, we end up with numerous channels we don’t necessarily want our children to be watching.

Cons of Cutting the Cord

  • Sports. This one will be very difficult for our family. Some GeekMoms testified that because of live sports, they need to keep their cable. We enjoy NFL, MLB, and NHL events, as well as NCAA football. Most online programming options for sports require an account with an existing cable and satellite provider. I’m not sure how well we’re going to do with this.
  • News and weather. Our Apple TV comes with SkyNews. However, even to watch CNN and FoxNews live broadcasts through my iPad, I needed a login and password for my existing Comcast account. As for weather, I’ve figured out how to broadcast WeatherNation through my iPad, which was nice.
  • Cable and premium programming. Similar to the sports and news issues, watching networks such as FX, AMC, and Showtime is requiring my Comcast account as well.
  • “Real-time” viewing experience. I have enjoyed watching favorite shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead as soon as it airs, but it’s okay if I don’t watch the shows right away. If I get the itch to watch it real-time, I can always invest in a series season pass through iTunes, right?
  • Is this going to blast through our unofficial home bandwidth limits? As far as I know, I don’t have a limit (we have Comcast Internet), but I wonder if we will see impacts—such as slower upload/download speeds—if we overdo things.

You’d think I was discussing swimming with sharks with how scary this is seeming to my family! Do you think our family is making a smart move?

Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 15. She is a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which is currently in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.