Is It Time to Ditch Your Cable?

If you've read any of my previous articles, you know I'm not a big fan of cable. So my short, biased answer to the question at the top of this article is yes. The more convoluted answer is “Probably, if you're willing to test out some hardware.”

Luckily, even though there still isn't a “plug and play” system that fits 100 percent of our needs, the cable-free landscape is improving almost daily. (See: Who Needs Smart TV?.)

These changes in the landscape are due in part to the increased interest in mobile technology. Total OEM revenue from mobile devices is set to top $565 billion by 2015, with consumers flocking to smartphones, notebooks, and tablet PCs. The main factor in this growth is broadband access. {complink 4960|Silicon Image Inc.} expects its mobile HD technology (MHL) to be incorporated into 200 million mobile devices by the end of 2012. That's a lot of high-definition streaming, from mobile devices to TVs.

In addition to increased access to streaming via mobile devices, content is now readily available online, though I've found a subscription to a DVD rental or streaming service becomes useful. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all charge about $8 a month for unlimited streaming. They have limited libraries, but you can supplement their content by going directly to the networks' Websites, where recent episodes are available for free and usually within 24 hours of airing.

Not having had TV since 2007, I've gone through each new content distribution trend, and I am excited to see the technology getting closer to my ideal scenario month after month. More and more people are abandoning cable, and eight of the nine largest cable providers lost subscribers last quarter.

This trend is making the content providers nervous. Hulu, for example, was having a great run — new shows were posted sometimes within hours of being shown on TV. Then the networks got scared. Even though Hulu generates advertising revenue from commercials, some content providers abandoned the platform. Even Starz is pulling out of Netflix, and there is talk of waiting 60 days before releasing new DVDs for rentals.

At first glance, this seems like a step backwards, but we can't forget that “pull” is more important than “push” in winning these technology battles. When consumers pull a technology (like mobile streaming) into the market, it has stronger staying power than when companies try to push a technology (like 3D TV).

In addition to the increased mobile access and the nearly limitless content, let's not forget the cost savings. If you want all 200 channels, Comcast will charge you $85 a month. Then there is the DVR, which can cost up to $500 for the box in addition to a $20 monthly service fee. The total cost of a cable subscription for one year is potentially $1,760, and over the course of five years, you're looking at saving roughly $7,000. The average person spends $720 a year on Internet service, which means you can basically get cable for half the price you're paying now.

Joanne Itow of {complink 7526|Semico Research Corp.} recently hooked up an old laptop to her TV. That simple first step is saving her $80 a month. Four months later, the only thing she misses is the remote control — something she'll soon rectify when she finds the perfect Smart DTV.

So join the party, and ditch your cable.

36 comments on “Is It Time to Ditch Your Cable?

  1. Hawk
    November 28, 2011

    Michelle, We ditched cable about four years ago but for a bunch of reasons. First, we were feeling like they just wanted to squeeze and squeeze. The channels were separated into basic and premium first and then some of the basic channels were added to the premium plan. Second, the cable company came up with another class of super premium channels that cost 20 to 30 dollars per month. Who could afford that and still enjoy it. Lastly, there were alternatives emerging. So, we ditched cable but we didn't eventually replace them. We just stayed with video.

  2. Eldredge
    November 28, 2011

    Sounds great, and I'd love to do it. But in my area, the cable and broadband internet are provided by the same supplier, so all they have to do is restructure their fee schedule.

  3. Anna Young
    November 28, 2011

    Wow! this appear to be cost effective and a great idea. I suppose it's worth giving a try?

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    November 28, 2011

    Anything that gives consumers more choice gets a thumbs-up from me. Cable has become a racket where new charges pop up on a regular basis and providers keeps changing the rules.

  5. Susan Fourtané
    November 28, 2011

    I got rid of the TV a very long time ago and I am convinced it has been one of the best things I have ever done. Most of the people I know have done the same. Sooner or later cable companies are going to die. 


  6. Nemos
    November 28, 2011

    Suzan there are plenty of Countries than they are not using cable connection for the transmission of TV signal. Maybe the cable tv is dying but the free TV and in digital wireless version is here and will stay. Furthermore, I want to say don't condemn TV because has bad quality. The people were served what wanted to “eat.”

  7. Susan Fourtané
    November 28, 2011

    “The people were served what wanted to “eat.””


    I can't agree more with that. But you see, I don't have to “eat” what the majority of the people want to be served. I like choosing my own food according to my own preferences when I feel like “eating” my choices. 😀 Good films and series are always on my menu and that's all what I need. 

    There is an increasing tendency of many other people who have started to do just the same. As for free television, well, may be for some people work well. I don't care about television in any form or shape. 

    Online services are replacing cable and television. 


  8. Nemos
    November 28, 2011

    At the beginning while I was reading your article, I thought that you don't like cables generally, and I was very curious to read the “why” part of your article and then I realize than your article is about cable TV connection, and I want to ask you if cable TV was free would you have the same opinion about it?

  9. Michell Prunty
    November 28, 2011


    Yes, I would.  In addition to the outrageous pricing cable has, the service also dictates what we can watch and when we can watch it.  Which is why HDMI / MHL connectors and mobile device trends are important to watch for in this debate – they allow us to watch / listen on our own time in our own way. 

    I’m willing to pay for content – its why I have a netflix subscription and am fine with ads, but I’m not willing to pay for thousands of shows I’m not interested in while having to arrange my schedule around the TV Guide (luckily a trend on a steep decline).

  10. Ms. Daisy
    November 28, 2011

    @Eldredge, I have just the exact same dilema. What is even worse is the cable companies in my area have subdivided the entire county into service regions that each company serves, meaning I am stuck with the nonsense they provide. I am definitely going to look into the alternatives mentioned in response to this post. Thank you all.

  11. electronics862
    November 28, 2011

    Thanks for the informative post. It is really panic to have option less. We need to stuck to one provider by paying more money and still not having full satisfactory results. Its good time for new provider to enter the market with a quality idea at reduced the price. 

  12. AnalyzeThis
    November 28, 2011

    I've been cable/DirecTV-less for portions of my adult life and I agree that Hulu/Netflix/etc. can be a viable alternative for most entertainment. But I can think of one big reason why it's difficult to ditch cable/satellite at this point:


    If you like watching sports, it is very difficult to ditch cable. There are very few alternatives… short of going to a sports bar every time you want to watch a game, I suppose.

    If I wasn't a football fan, I'd probably be able to leave cable (well, DirecTV, more accurately). But I am, and I can't.

  13. SunitaT
    November 29, 2011

    More and more people are abandoning cable, and eight of the nine largest cable providers lost subscribers last quarter.

    @Michell, thanks for the post. Not sure why people are adbandoning cables, but I think I will stick to cable TV because I get to watch shows on my 32″ widescreen with Dolby Digital surround sound. Moreover I would have to spend a lot of money to have a PC system that comes close to the performance of my home theater.

  14. Michell Prunty
    November 29, 2011


    Thats a good point – some sports, especially football, are hard to find online.  Though it is getting better.  Just last year the World Cup was available to watch online, though it was posted a day late I believe.

    There are a couple resources for getting sports, though most likely you'd have to purchase an On Demand package – The NHL offers access for $170 a year, so maybe not a bad deal, depending on what you want.



    Try hooking up your laptop / tablet to your TV via HDMI cables (iPad offers connectors for about $40) – you probably won't notice the difference between streaming internet video (some of which are in HD) directly to your TV vs cable.  Or, if your TV & phone are MHL enabled, hook up your mobile phone to your TV.  Just because we are abandoning Cable, doesn't mean we have to abandon our DTVs.  I stream Netflix to my HDTV via my iPad regularly.

  15. SunitaT
    November 29, 2011

    “I’m willing to pay for content – its why I have a netflix subscription and am fine with ads, but I’m not willing to pay for thousands of shows I’m not interested in”

    @Michell, One aspect which I love about television is it throws up surprise program everytime I scan through channels, and I feel this spontaneity is missing in netflix subscrition.

  16. SunitaT
    November 29, 2011

    Just because we are abandoning Cable, doesn't mean we have to abandon our DTVs.  I stream Netflix to my HDTV via my iPad regularly.

    @Michell, that is really intersting idea, I never tried that before. I will definitely buy HDMI cables to test this out.

  17. Anne
    November 29, 2011

    It depends on the resouces you have, Internet technology is taking over from cable.  I watched the last Women World Cup live on internet, I watch English Premiership League live on internet.  The issue of if you don't pay your subscription cable provider will cut you off is not there, I watch most sports online.

  18. JADEN
    November 29, 2011

    With the way technology is moving, cable will soon be out of date.  Some electronics like smart TVs, Youtube now has several categories of Channels available, and some electronics now for instance Smart TV, Blue-ray Disc DVD Players comes with internet connectivity both wireless access and ethernet port features, you can have direct access to the TV Channels.

  19. JADEN
    November 29, 2011


    I understand your point, but what Dolby Digital surround sound does is to optimize sound output.  You can easily connect your laptop with your tv if your tv support HDMI or VGA port and your laptop does too, still your home theater will give you better sound, the sound is not from the cable.

    November 29, 2011

    I share your dislike of cable and satellite pay services which is why I ditched subscription satellite and got freesat instead a few months back.  It has the same HD picture capability and Dolby Sound as the pay service but no monthly fees.  Content is limited but with the record function I simply scan for decent stuff and record onto HDD and watch at my leisure.  I imagine the internet (via wireless) will eventually catch up on the picture quality of satellite/cable for TV and when that happens I will prob go fully internet.

  21. Eldredge
    November 29, 2011

    @ Ms. Daisy, I am going to look into alternatives also. One thing I didn't see mentioned so far is attaching an antenna to catch local over-the-air braodcasts, which are now broadcast in HD. I live near the top of a hill, so I am hopeful that I can pull in a handful of stations.

  22. Jay_Bond
    November 29, 2011


    Sports are the biggest reason I can't ditch cable at the moment. Sure, you can catch some games on the internet but not a majority of them. You also miss out on regional sports networks.  For regular shows, we just set our DVR for the handful of shows we like and watch them at our leisure, but sports are a different story. If my wife would let me, sports would be on whenever the TV is on. And going to a sports bar everyday for hours at a time would just be ridiculous.


  23. tioluwa
    November 29, 2011

    Very interesting discussion I must say, and i find the point that 

     we can't forget that “pull” is more important than “push” in winning these technology battles

    very true.

    If cable cannot fight the web/mobile content wave, then i think they will have to take advantage of it strategically, taking advantage of it rather than fighting it. If it saves the masses more, they would definately prefer it.

    I agree with Jay_Bond's point about sports. People even switch cable service subscriptions just to get more sports action but i think even this can be taken full advantage of by mobile/web contents if the cable TV provides maximize the platform.

    But will they make more money from this or less money?

  24. Barbara Jorgensen
    November 29, 2011

    I saw in the discussion that many people have the same carrier for their Internet and cable TV. I have the same situation. I did a little research last night and found programming to be pretty much the same on the Internet as it is on On-Demand. This doesn't bother me as long as I use the Internet for other things (such as work). Hooking my laptop up to the TV is inconvenient, but does proivde more programming options.

  25. Wale Bakare
    November 29, 2011

    Choosen alternative service providers boils down to quality of services getting across to consumers. One deciding factor i think someone should consider before switching to alternative provider efficiency and reliabilty.



  26. bolaji ojo
    November 29, 2011

    Tioluwa, Cable can compete against the web in content transmission, it's modus operandi just has to change. No longer can a company insist on the kind of pricing that cable companies want to continue charging especially when their market is being carved up by hungry competitors.

  27. Taimoor Zubar
    November 29, 2011

    Given the low rates that Internet TV has, the variety of content available and the flexibility it offers, I don't think cable TV can survive for long. It's only a matter of time before cable dies its natural death.

  28. Himanshugupta
    November 29, 2011

    i recently did some experiment on the content and quality of programs between cable tv and internet. As most of the content that we see on cable is also available on internet (via streaming or paid) so i found that i could enjoy more on internet (without ads; thank heaven God) the content. I have more than 100 cable channels but in the end i keep on flipping between channels to find the program that i like. So, if i have unlimited internet bandwidth and at a reasonable cost then i do not need cable.

  29. itguyphil
    November 29, 2011

    I agree. Especially when the providers here in the US pretty much have a monopoly in certain areas & increase prices alomst 20% in some areas year over year.

  30. Taimoor Zubar
    November 29, 2011

    @Himanshu: The “no ads” feature is certainly a very important plus point for internet TV compared to the plethora of ads on normal cable. However, I don't think they'll be able to survive with this model for long. Ads is the ultimate source of revenue for content providers.

  31. Damilare
    November 30, 2011

    You're right michell. Online streaming look no different from TVs this days and will continue to do better. I personally watch everything online. its cheap and you have a huge range of programs and channels to choose from.

  32. stochastic excursion
    November 30, 2011

    Cable is losing ground to on-line content, but it's going to be a while before it's replaced completely.  The way content deals are made is a major issue–for example Viacom has sued Time Warner because it claims it doesn't have the right to allow Viacom content to be streamed on an iPad.

    FWIW cable has a regulatory framework that mandates basic service for under $40/month.  Another thing to consider is some cable companies offer packages that include bundled cell phone service, so they could be the pipe where you get your on-line content.

  33. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 1, 2011

    Some of the on-demand programs I watch have more commericals than if I were watching a program live, (that's you TNT) and they disable the fast-forward feature. No fair

  34. Eldredge
    December 2, 2011

    In an earlier post, I suggested that, since my cable TV and internet services are provided by the same company, all they have to do is revise their billing schedules to make up for the internet access to programming.

    On the way to work this morning, I heard a statement that service providers are looking at billing baes on useage, like the electric companies do. That accomplishes the goal (for the service providers).

  35. cedargln
    December 4, 2011

    Give up Cable?  Haha!  Beat you to it.  I have not owned a functional television set for more than 15 years; no plans  to buy one.  WIth some years experience behind me, I can fairly report:  Living without TV is a joy.  Living without TV is not difficult.  Living without TV allows me even more freedom to do the necessary and on MY schedule.  To Hell with TV and cable and all that goes with it!

    Do I miss much?  Not really.  News and current events come via the internet or even the old-fashioned, printed word.  Do I miss the pictures and videos?  NO.  Pix and vids, when necessary, are available via the net and usually full-screen, without those disgusting banners that eat up so much space on a TV screen.  Some will say that the entertainment portion of TV is an American Treasure.  Fine, for them.  I see it as mostly junk. In the case of some exceptional program, it can usually be had via the net, if perhaps at a later date.  In fifteen years without TV, I've sought a specific program exactly once.  Got it?

    Cable is a miserable rip-off, fostered on folks who too often follow the crowd. The programming is cheap, superficial and designed to dumb-down the watcher.  It is also laden with advertising that is not necessary.  Cable is worthless.  I might consider it when they start paying me to at least have it available.  Short of that, hell no!  there are several reasons. For informational programming – news and good documentaries, etc., the factual content is minimal and often poorly delivered.  The spoken word is a waste of time:  I can read 4x – 5x as fast as the typical video journalist speaks.  If they's just publish their script and skipt the talking heads (and embedded opinions) I can easily absord an hour long program's material (about 38-40 real minutes) with 6-8 minutes of reading.  If it is complicated stuff, perhaps 10 minutes.  In short TV and cable is a collosal waste of my time.  No thanks.  I also dislike the bias that so many talking heads include.  Even if unintentional, it is there and it stinks.  The written word can also include bias, but it is much more difficult to hide.  Lastly, I do not need or appreciate “Production Values.”  Pretty pictures do not convince me and overly graphic details will not change my values.  I know what beauty and pleasure look like and I know what death and misery look like.  Spare me.  Please, journalists, just report the facts. 

    Back to basics.  Cable?  Hell NO!  TV of any kind?  Hell No.  Learn to read and find the appropriate sources for the written words that you need.  Amen.

  36. Susan Fourtané
    December 9, 2011


    I love your comment. I gave you five stars for being one of the best things I have read today (apart from Bolaji's blog about the truth of made in China). 

    I agree with every word you have said here. I don't miss TV either, not even a bit, not one day, the same as you I haven't owned one in hundreds of moons, not having TV has been one of the blessings in my daily life. 


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