TV or not TV

Lately I’ve been seriously considering dropping my cable TV subscription. The impetus of this is my Schedules Direct subscription — the service providing TV listings to my MythTV box — coming up for renewal.

It’s hardly as though the $20 for another year is going to break the bank or anything (the banks seem to be doing a good enough job doing that themselves these days), but it does highlight the fact that my TV viewing habits of late have decreased from their already fairly low levels. (Judging from the date of my last post here, so have my blogging habits, but I digress.)

The “dump it” argument is pretty straightforward. The only two shows I really wouldn’t want to do without are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and both of those are available on Hulu for free. There are a few other shows I also have my MythTV box set to record, but it’s only a handful. Is it really worth the $56/month charge on my cable bill for what I get out of it? With the savings, I could easily bump up my Netflix subscription (current queue length: 148) and watch most of the shows once they come out on DVD that way. As an added bonus, being able to power down the MythTV box for good would also probably take a chunk out of my electricity bill.

The counterargument, however, is that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are the only two shows I regularly watch that are readily available online. (Excluding BitTorrent, of course.) While it’s obvious to me that the broadcast model of TV is inherently doomed, we’re still a ways away from the everything-available-online-on-demand world that will inevitably replace it. Not everything shows up on DVD, and even then there’s a fairly significant delay before they’re released. Plus, I’d pretty much lose the ability to watch something live, in the rare event I want to do that.

Besides, for the time being, “online streaming video” is de facto synonymous with “Flash”, and performance of Flash on non-Windows platforms is notoriously awful. As in, unable to play videos off of Hulu full-screen without skipping even on a recently-acquired laptop, when even my five-year-old former laptop could play non-Flash videos full-screen without having to step up the CPU speed. (YouTube videos might play fine, as long as you don’t do anything else while it’s playing. Like move the mouse at all. Seriously.) That’s assuming, of course, that the Flash plugin doesn’t crash in the first place. You know how Firefox these days runs plugins in a separate process? Yeah, you can thank the Flash plugin’s stability for that.

On top of all that, I just know that if I call the cable company to cancel my TV service, they’re going to jack up the charge for Internet service with the excuse that the rate I have now is part of a package deal.

What I’ll probably end up doing is renewing Schedules Direct and keep doing what I’m doing now, but keeping an eye out for any changes that might shift my decision the other way. Unless someone can come up with a convincing argument in the comments to do otherwise.

3 Responses

  1. I canceled my cable subscription several months ago and I do not regret it. The impetus to do so was because the TV could not produce proper audio (sounded like we were logging on AOL with a dial-up modem). Canceling was something I was considering before the TV began to fail as I mainly watch TV shows on their respective network websites or Hulu and I receive media from NetFlix. There are a few sites which I cannot get to work as a result of using Ubuntu 8.04, so I simply restart in Windows XP. For one reason or another, I am sure you do not want to use XP, but being the CMG I am sure you can come up with something (elseiffor? Kuliniebox?).

    The monthly charge is essentially a few dollars less than bundling the services together. I get phone calls from the cable company suggesting I sign up to “save” on the internet by bundling it with cable. I’ve told them I do not have a TV but they still suggest I sign up to save. In general, I find canceling cable was the smarter option due to my decline in usage. Your mileage may vary.

  2. Man, that “we’ll give you a discount on A if you buy unnecessary thing B and save you money” would’ve worked, too, if only you didn’t know how math works.

  3. On the plus side I did not have to explain the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. All I had to do was say “no” and hang up.

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