Last week I cancelled my cable television. When my two year contract with Verizon ran out, I received a bill $20 higher than the previous one. I contacted them to see what they would do for me over the next two years. Turned out, they wouldn’t do anything but raise my bill. So after doing a little research, I cancelled my TV subscription. This post is a mostly a story about that research, and I’ll follow up with several more posts about how it went.
This is a story, not a how-to guide. My usage and requirements are my own, and probably not typical. My goal is not really save the most money, but rather take back control of the TV situation.
When we moved into our house seventeen years ago, we signed up for Verizon DSL. When it became available in about 2007, we signed up for Verizon Fios internet. We added television in 2012, when our kids were teenagers. In those four years we’ve watched a lot of TV. It’s on most nights for an hour or two. We watch lots of local TV and some HBO shows. We watch old syndicated shows and new ones, all in HD on a 50 inch Samsung TV.
We also have an old (CRT) TV in our bedroom. On it we watch only over-the-air TV, using the free converter box we got back when the analog OTA signals were shut down.
We want to be able to watch local TV (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) We definitely want HBO. We’re going to investigate other services to see what works for us. Ideally, we want to be able to watch all our TV in the bedroom as well as the living room. We have two current model Apple TV’s – one that we bought when it came out and one that was a gift to me from Apple when I attended WWDC on a scholarship in 2016.
We’ll be losing the land line phone, but we’ve been anticipating that change for at least five years. The ringer on that phone has been off for over a year, and we listen to the few messages on it less and less frequently.
Live Streaming TV
There are a plethora of streaming and on demand services available. I’m only listing the ones we’re thinking about using.
I signed up for two free 7 day trials of live TV services. Direct TV Now has a $35 / month service with lots of stations. As a bonus, HBO is only $5 / month more through them. Sling TV has a $25 / month tier called Blue, which includes a bunch of channels. These services are pretty expensive, and we probably won’t keep them, but we’re taking a look.
Other TV Services
We’ll pay for HBO Now unless we decide to get it through Direct TV. In addition, we’ll decide whether to use Netflix and or Hulu for TV shows. All these services are month-to-month, so we’ll decide as we go on these.
We already pay for Amazon Prime, but we basically never use it to watch TV or movies because it doesn’t work on Apple TV. With the cable box leaving, we’ll have an additional HDMI port on our TV, and we might get a Fire Stick to check out that service as well.
In order to watch local TV throughout the house, I bought a Tablo DVR. ($195). This device purports to let you Watch, Record, Pause and Stream Free Broadcast HDTV. You connect it to your local network and use their iOS and Apple TV apps to watch and record local TV. The device and apps get mixed reviews, and there is no way to try it out without getting it into the house. To use it as a DVR you need to attach your own USB hard drive, and we have a few of those sitting around. The Tablo needs to be connected to an HDTV antenna, and I bought a new one of those for $35. It will go into the attic, and the Tablo will be wired to our internet router.
Over the last two years, I paid about $150 / month for internet (75 MB/s up and down), TV (including HBO and some other premium stuff), and our landline phone. The bill went up to $170 / month when that contract expired, which is why I contacted Verizon. They didn’t have anything for me – apparently you have to be a new customer now to get any kind of deal, and my bill was not going down without a drastic decrease in service.
When I contacted Verizon, I was prepared to keep paying for cable TV. Their “Your deals are over, your price is going up and you have no choice” attitude was what did it for me. This is not really primarily about money for us. But I’m pretty happy to be shipping the cable box back to Verizon. We paid $500 for it over the course of the past four plus years, and the interface is really pretty terrible. To keep getting cable at the level we want, we would need to pay about $170 / month.
Fios internet alone will cost me half that, or $85 / month. We could probably save some money, especially in the short term, by switching to Comcast, but I’m not interested. Fios has been rock solid. In the decade we’ve had it, we have had zero problems with it. Neither my wife nor I can remember even one instance where the internet has gone down for us.
The Tablo tuner is an upfront cost only. Over a two year period, it comes to $10 / month, so I’ll cost it out that way here.
HBO will cost $15 / month. It is a tribute to their programming that it is the only TV service we are sure we’ll pay for.
Other services will cost somewhere between zero and about $50 / month. This does not count Amazon Prime which we already pay for for the free shipping without watching anything.
Our total will range from $110 and $160 per month.
Red Sox Sadness
I’ve gotten used to having NESN, which allows me to watch pretty much all the Red Sox games I want. There is no way to get NESN other than with a cable subscription. The MLB At Bat app allows you to watch every out of market MLB game, but we live near Boston. I should be able to work around this by setting up a VPN in another market, and I may try this on a Digital Ocean server or something. But it won’t be as easy as picking up the remote and watching NESN, and it will cost me some $$.
Some Last Thoughts
If we wanted to continue getting every channel we had with cable, we would pay about the same amount, and still wouldn’t get NESN. As it is, we’ll pay less, but give up some content that we don’t watch much anyway.
I expect that we’ll gain something else, too. The Apple TV will become the main input to our TV, and while not perfect, its interface is already much better than the Verizon cable box. In addition, I expect that the Apple TV and its apps will continue to get better, and Verizon shows no signs of improving their interface.