Thursday, February 16, 2012

Could I? Should I? Cut the cable?

Posted by Greg Matusky
Frank Shorter once said he ran marathons so that he could eat mayonnaise straight from the jar and not worry about the calories. Sometimes I feel like I do PR so that I can watch TV, anytime, anywhere, and classify it as research when my wife complains that I might as well be practicing the luge, laying flat on my back, perfectly still for hours on end.

And this weekend, during endless marathons of "Intervention," "Swamp People," and "Gold Rush" (man, I can't believe the Hoffman clan was right on the gold before their sluice box broke down again), I realized just how close I am to cutting the cable and never again paying a cable bill. With streaming TV, I am almost there.

For every flat screen in my home, I now have the option of watching streaming content instead of buying cable TV. In my bedroom, Google TV lets me enjoy Netflix, Amazon, HBO GO, the NBA, MLB packages, and a host of other streaming apps. Downstairs, a $99 Internet-enabled Blu-ray player lets me time shift "30 Rock" and "Modern Family" utterly instantaneously, thanks to Hulu Plus. In the family room, an HDMI cord to a laptop provides the porthole into mindless YouTube prattle and recent episodes of virtually any show from its network website.

I am king of this new streaming domain ... allowing me to relive the slacker life of the 1990s through "Portlandia" or pull for Junior over Senior in an OCC biker build-off that leaves no reason in your mind why Sandra Bullock left Jessie James (this guy is a jerk!). Even catch up on "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret."

Obviously, mind-numbing drugs come with a price. I pay for Netflix, Hulu, and the sports packages. With VUDU, it's pay as I go. But all in all, it tallies no more than $30 a month, compared to maybe $120 when you factor out FiOS phone and Internet. And I am not alone in living the untethered life. Cable TV lost 300,000 subscribers in 2011. Many of them are just like me, consumers who look at their monthly cable bill and wonder if it really holds the same value as a car lease.

And we're just the tip of the iceberg. Behind us is an entirely new generation of TV consumers, brought to age on free YouTube and P2P networks. Now college age, they have never paid a cable bill. And from the size of my son and daughters' viewing habits, they don't plan to start making payments in the future. Rather, they'll probably still do what they do now -- have Dad pay the Netflix bill while they share the logins.

So I am close. Real close. Sure, maybe I'll miss some things, like watching Brian Williams' "Nightly News" casts or the Grammys in real time. I mean there still is a ton of content unavailable through the WiFi box that sits in my home office. But the time is coming. Soon. Real soon, when I will live free of cable's reign, a liberated man, no less intoxicated by the "television light shining through a hundred bedroom windows" -- as Marshall Crenshaw once sang. But I might be a little less poor for it.
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