Because I’m approaching my retirement years, and contemplating living the last third of my life on a fixed income, I’m spending a lot of time examining how I spend my money. One of my biggest monthly bills I pay is from Comcast. I get cable TV, Internet and local/long distant phone service from them, so naturally the bill is going to be big. Even after I retire, I know I’ll want high speed Internet, so I positively have to budget $50 a month for that. For now, I’m not ready to be one of those people who live a cell phone only lifestyle. So that leaves the $120 a month for cable to consider.
I’ve already cut $23.90 from my bill by returning the bedroom cable box/DVR, so I’m down to $96. My plan is to quit cable entirely as soon as True Blood season 2 wraps up, but I want to explore just what I desire from cable TV and how much is it worth, and what I will miss when it’s shut off.
Pros of Cable TV
- Watch shows in DVR time
- Excellent selection
- Elegant integration of DVR and guide
- Channel guide
Cons of Cable TV
- Hate paying for channels I don’t use
- Overwhelmed by the choice of too many channels
- I watch too much TV
Pros of Over the Air TV
- Non-compressed high-definition
- PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC actually cover most of what I watch
- Simple – less to worry about
- Will watch less TV
Cons of Over the Air TV
- Must watch in real time
- No channel guide
- No DVR unless I build one
- Missing 9 favorite cable channels
The worst downside of free TV is watching in real time. I could build a Home Theater PC, but I’ve explored that idea and there’s a great deal of aggravation involved. [Note to television makers: Invent an elegant but simple to use over-the-air DVR turner that works with an online guide via the Internet – but doesn’t require the show stopping $13 a month subscription like Tivo. A 1gb model for $199 would be a killer product.]
I’ve also explored the idea of just getting basic cable, but at $50 a month I still get far more channels than I want, and most of my favorite HD ones would be lost. [Note to Comcast: Offer over-the-air local HD channels and my favorite HD cable channels listed below, with a simple DVR for $30 a month and I’d stay with cable. And I think a lot of people I know who don’t get cable would consider it too. Or this setup with high-speed Internet and voice for $99.95.]
Most folks I talk to, hate cable because they feel cheated by the huge bill and being forced to buy far more than they want. Cable needs to reinvent itself. Since everyone is moving to digital reception and digital TVs, offer a basic HD package for $25 a month, and provide a la carte selection of cable channels at $1 for those with commercials, $2 for those like TCM, without commercials, and whatever the premium channels think they are worth, and then see what people really want. Also offer bundle packages for those folks who like to buy in quantity.
Which Channels Would We Miss the Most?
My favorites are:
- The Science Channel (wished it was HD)
- Discovery Channel HD
- National Geographic HD
- History Channel HD
- Turner Classic Movies (wished it was HD)
My wife wants to add:
- Home and Garden HD
- TLC HD
- Food Network HD
- DIY Network (wished it was HD)
If we had those 9 channels with PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC – and a DVR with channel guide just for those channels we’d be in TV heaven. Everything else, Susan and I could get on Netflix. And if the documentaries I love from those first four cable channels were easily available on Netflix, I could live without them too. Netflix and streaming Netflix could be everything for me with just PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC for random watching. Those are our lucky 13 channels. Currently we’re overwhelmed with two digital tiers, a bunch of premium channels and scads of music channels we never even flip through.
Comcast and other cable companies need to study what people really want. Ever since I wrote “Saving Money on Cable TV and Internet” a bunch of my friends have come up to me and told me they were thinking about the exact same thing. Everyone I know hates paying a big cable bill for so many channels they don’t want.
Living the Simple Life
Our culture forces everyone into living with information overload. I’m predicting a movement towards simplifying life. Even the young will burn out from Twitter and Facebook overload. Kids feel bad if they don’t have 800 friends in their social networks, but the reality is you can’t have that many friends. And you can’t watch 200 TV channels, and the Internet is just as overwhelming. There’s got to be some consolidation.
Because I won’t get the a la cart cable service I want, I’m going back to four TV channels: PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC. Maybe this makes me a TV Luddite, maybe this is bad for the economy, and maybe it will even reduce what I get to learn about the world, but it might also be innovative for my lifestyle. There’s that old saying about your life flashing in front of your eyes when you die, well, too much of the life I will see flashing in front of my eyes will be sedentary in front of a TV. I regret that.
JWH – 8/29/9