Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Cutting the (Cable) Cord

We haven't had cable since moving back to the East Coast (almost 4 years!).  The only reason we had it while living in Alaska was because Kevin's initial roommate worked for the cable company and got it for free.  He left it connected as a favor when he moved out/I moved in.  I can't say either of us have missed it and we have gotten by with a combination of Netflix, Hulu, and the Internet.

For awhile we were rotating Netflix and Hulu and that worked really well.  I'd put Netflix on hold for awhile and we'd watch the shows available on Hulu Plus.  Suddenly Hulu Plus didn't have the same selection/only had what was available online for free.  For example, I had Hulu on hold over the summer and reactivated it in October, thinking we would be able to catch up on the current Scandal at that point but several of the episodes were not available (and the ones that were we could go watch on ABC.com).  That was really annoying to me so I cancelled Hulu altogether - we'll just wait and watch Season 2 of Scandal when it comes out on Netflix next year. 

We pay $20 per month for Netflix ($8 for the streaming and $12 for the 2 DVD at a time plans).  We also pay an extra $20 for the "turbo charged" internet service that gives us unlimited streaming (although sometimes I call Time Warner and can get on a promotion that lowers that price).  Forty dollars is a fraction of what we'd pay for a cable service and I consider it money well saved.

Pros of the Netflix-only approach:  The money saved, no commercials, accessibility, the ability to marathon a whole series and not have to wait weeks/months/years to find out what happened.

Cons: You have to wait until the season comes out on DVD.  I take the attitude that is my choice and if I inadvertently come upon a spoiler that is my own fault for not watching it in real time. I do often employ the hands over my ears, "I don't want to hear this, nah nah nah" approach if someone is about to say something about a show I watch (mature, I know).  I also stopped reading Slate because they had so many real time reviews of the shows I watch (among other reasons).  Another con is you don't get sports, so if you are the type of person who wants to watch golf on a Sunday afternoon or some other ESPN event, you won't get to. We don't watch sports so this doesn't bother us.
Overall the pros outweigh the cons for us and we are happy with our approach.

Here are some of the shows we've streamed over the years:
  • Battlestar Gallactica - the whole series is available and even if you don't normally like sci-fi, you should try this.  The series actually winds down, rather than being cancelled mid-plot, which I really like.
  • Numb3rs -  the whole series is available and a good crime show.  Same as BSG, the series winds down and has a conclusion.
  • How I Met Your Mother - seasons 1-7 are awesome.  I personally think seasons 8 and 9 were pretty bad but I still watched them.  I haven't seen any of season 10 (on now) but I'll watch it when it comes out next fall just to have the resolution.
  • The West Wing - if you haven't watched this yet you have many many hours of good t.v. ahead of you.
  • Sherlock - season 1-3 of the current BBC version is available and it is good.  The episodes are 90 minutes each so they are more of a series of movies than a tv show.
  • House of Cards and Orange is the New Black - we watched both of these of the summer and liked them.
  • Weeds - we watched up through season 7 and then stopped.  I love Mary Louise Parker but the show got pretty repetitive and we never bothered with the final season.  We really liked it for a long time though.
  • 24 - same thing happened here, I think we watched through season 6 or so and then never watched the final two seasons.
  • Lie to Me - the first couple of seasons are good, we lost interest while watching the third (after which it was cancelled so I guess a lot of other people did too).
  • Friday Night Lights - Kevin never got into this but I watched it and loved the whole series.  I think it has one of the best portrayals of marriage there has ever been on TV (between the Taylors).
  • Coupling - A British series I watched several years back, it was like the British version of Friends and I liked it.
  • Better Off Ted - a quirky sitcom that is pretty funny.  We were sad that it got cancelled (whenever it did get cancelled) because we liked it.
There are also shows we watch that are not available to stream (Big Bang Theory, Homeland, etc).  That is where the DVDs come in.  I try to keep the DVDs in constant rotation and if I've ordered a movie or show and we haven't watched it in a week or so, I figure we are not going to and send it back.

Also a plus, Netflix has really good customer service and is always willing to immediately replace a broken DVD or fix any problems (ask me about the epic Netflix prank I pulled on my dad some day).  One time they shipped me an extra DVD just because the one I wanted (I can't remember what it was now) wasn't available in my area so it would take a couple of extra days to get to me.  I am much happier calling Netflix than I am calling Time Warner that is for sure (I have an acceptance/hate relationship with Time Warner).  For that reason alone we'll be cordless for a good long while.

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