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Plan Well, Retire Well

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paid tv

Cutting the cord- Is it time to give up cable/satellite television? Part Two

Several months ago I wrote about how my husband and I were thinking about cutting the "cable" and doing away with our paid TV service. I got a lot of interesting reaction from readers, friends and family. I also discovered that this decision is a lot more complicated that I thought.

Getting rid of paid TV involves more than just calling and cancelling service. I discovered that we had an "equipment upgrade" a while back and that gave us a whole new two year contractual obligation. My husband is under the impression that if we move (that's a whole other blog!) we are out of our contract. I have a call into Customer Service about that one.

We first talked about what shows were 'must watch" and how we could get them in a timely manner from a different source. Many network TV shows are available on the network's websites the next day with limited commercials. Cable networks can be different. Some of our favorite shows are ending this season so we want to be able to wrap up those shows.

Another consideration is that if we watch TV on the internet via computer, it would become a solo activity instead of a shared activity. For a lot of people (especially those with children) that could be a problem. The alternatives are watching on an internet connected TV-we still haven't figured out how to best use that feature-or everyone watching their programs on their own.

We also had to decide how we watch TV. Most of the time, we record everything on our DVR and watch when we have the time. We won't have the DVR any more so that could be problematic for some shows where we can't pick of the feed through the internet. Some shows we only watch in reruns as they are the "fringe" shows that don't command the highest priority on our DVR and are left off. Those shows we decided that we could do without. We also have some shows that we will subscribe to a premium channel for-we decided that we will wait until they come out on DVD and watch through a service or purchase for our own library.

My husband watches sports but his favorite teams are not a part of this market area so he really doesn't want them unless they are playing the local team. The exception to that is baseball where we have been paying over $200 per year for the ability to watch ALL the games. He says he can live without the TV broadcast as long as we can keep the satellite radio and he can listen to the game with his favorite broadcasters,

One type of show that I watch regularly and I won't be able to find on the internet or elsewhere is the news. I watch news in the morning, evening and before bed. You might say I have a news habit. The thought of just reading the news on the internet or newspaper is like asking a smoker to quit cold turkey. I get the shakes and break out in a cold sweat!

One answer is to get an antenna. I watch network news which is broadcast over the airways and also called free TV. I do remember the old days of rabbit ears on top of the set or having to hold them as my dad would say...a little to the left, hold it up a bit higher-THAT'S IT-DONT MOVE! But I also remember moving to Central Illinois where the TV stations were farther away and harder to pick up. I lost the ability to use a small indoor antennae here about 25 years ago and that is the main reason I have paid for TV ever since. We have now looking at installing a 30 foot outdoor antennae but I think that's going to be pretty expensive.

So here are some of the questions you will want to ask yourself before cutting the cable;

  • What kinds of programs do you watch-regular network (free) TV or more cable networks- include premium movie type channels
  • How do you watch TV-"live" at the times shows are regularly broadcast or via DVR at some later time?
  • What shows are must watch that you can only get in one way (for example network news casts-usually not available for watching at your convenience if you have missed then)
  • What about sports?
  • Is TV watching a family or group activity or individual activity?
  • Check and see what contractual obligations you have to your current TV service provider. If you make the change too early- it could cost-not save-you money!
  • How much will it cost to be able to get good quality TV reception at your house? What are all the options? Would "antenna service only from a cable provider etc. be less expensive than other options?

I'll let you know what we decided and when we will be cutting the cord.

If you have had an outdoor antenna installed for local TV reception recently, please add to the comments about your experiences and whether you are happy with the decision and the quality. I'll be watching!

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I gave up cable TV service about six months ago, and I do not miss it! - I have found my "must watch" list dwindling a bit since cutting the umbilical cord. I'm finding it's GOOD to make TV a more planned activity, not lapsing into what comes on at the touch of a remote 8-) - Since I live alone, watching things online is not a major inconvenience. - Shared watching is not hard if (1) your TV is digital and is part of a home wireless computer network; or (2) you connect your digital TV to a computer via an HDMI cable (both devices need an HDMI port). - Digital antennas work more reliably than the old analog rabbit ears. I don't have one myself, but am considering getting one.
by Beth Smith on Friday 9/20/2013

We live in Champaign (less than 3 miles from WCIA) and have tried 3 different antennas including one on the rooftop. The reception is horrible. The commercials come in perfectly, but the shows are consistently poor quality. I just shut the thing off. There is no free TV anymore. I am convinced the "Digital Improvement Upgrade" was all a scam to force people to purchase new equipment and to force everyone to hook up to some kind of network.
by Jane Bergman on Monday 9/23/2013

Thanks for your comment. I am looking forward to seeing our "must watch" list dwindle as well. We are starting with the new TV season tonight and pledging not to add any more shows. However if they are in between our favorite shows...that could be a challenge. Keep reading-I'll let you know how we do.
by Pam Atkinson on Monday 9/23/2013

Jane- that is what I am afraid of. The cost to put a 30 foot antenna on our house is about $1600! Not a good argument to save $1500 by dropping the paid TV. We are looking into alternatives. Maybe it would just be easier of we moved somewhere there is NO paid TV....or TV of any kind! The decisions would take care of themselves. Thanks for your comment Jane and keep reading to see if we are successful.
by Pam Atkinson on Monday 9/23/2013

We are absolutely satisfied making the switch to an outdoor digital antenna this summer. I went to a website and typed in my zip code (Urbana) and learned what "free" channels are out there on the air waves. Then I learned how far reaching of a digital antenna we would have to buy, based upon which of those free channels I must have. For us, PBS is a must, along with the local channels. We had to get a type that could pick up to a radius of 60 miles, I think I recall, as some of what I wanted is best picked up out of Monticello towers. We bought the antenna from our local big box do-it-yourself store. We laid it on the back deck, facing west/southwest as prescribed based on the channels I needed. And it worked! Really worked! Price I recall about $100. Therefore, it was worth keeping, mounting on the roof, and enjoying our television. The antenna sits about 4 feet above our one story ranch. We had little interference to block the signal, which was one of the considerations (heavy trees, taller buildings, etc). What a surprise to get more channels than we expected, some of those great re-run channels like ME and THIS. We do have our television connected to the internet, and enjoy Netflicks to watch those must-see serials (hubby cannot be without his zombies and such for weekend evening binge watching). But since we rent new release Blue Ray DVDs from Red Box, get the Net Flicks, beam other things off the internet through a contraption ($60) we have dangling behind the wall mounted set, well, who needs more? Yes, the signal occasionally on ME or THIS makes gurgling burping sounds as it pops in and out. The network channels are perfect and high def clear. PBS still reigns at our house. And we get all the PBS feeds (Create, World, even the WEIU feed from south). Experiment was a total success for this empty nester 50ish family. We'll not go back on the grid. High speed internet runs $69. per month to feed the "boob tube" or "idiot box" as our parents called it. Okay, I'll never ccut the internet, that's just going too far. grin.
by Judy West on Friday 10/11/2013

I totally agree about NOT cutting the internet cord! I can only live being cut off from the world for about a week or 10 days. Thank you for your insights about the TV. We will be "cutting the cord" on December 3 when our contract expires. I imagine that by January, I'll have something insightful to say about the transition.
by Pam Atkinson on Thursday 10/24/2013