Sunday, September 18, 2011

An Introduction to Cordcutting

I am a Cordcutter and have been for over 3 years.  Cordcutting is the act of canceling or getting rid of your Cable or Satallite TV service and turning to alternative means to find content to watch on your TV.  There are many reasons people attempt to "cut the cord" and it may differ depending on who you talk to.  Here is a list of reasons my family and I kicked cable out to door years ago.  

  • Cost $$$ - Cable TV prices always seemed to go up.  When we stopped to think about what we ACTUALLY watched on cable TV, we realized that 80%+ of what we watched was on Network TV (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, etc...) or PBS.  The amount of show we watched on cable networks was low.  We were paying a lot of money to watch a small percentage of shows.  The majority of the TV we watch is still available for FREE over-the-air in HD!
  • Lack of Options and Poor Service - Like many Americans, we have very few options for watching cable TV.  We live in a neighborhood with lots of trees so Satellite TV was not an option.  At the moment I think that leaves me with only 2 vendors that can provide us with service.  I had a horrible experience with Comcast so part of my motivation was that I was not going to be forced into doing business with a company I didn't like. Most cable companies make you sign-up for "packages" that have way too many channels and most of them you will never, ever watch. 
  • The Internet - The Internet has changed the way we consume information.    Most people use the Internet now to get their news, weather, etc..  Those used to be a big reason why people watched TV.  The Internet is so much more efficient in delivering important news and information because it is available when you need it and updated in real-time.  You don't have a wait for the 6 o'clock news.  More importantly, many of us are turning to the Internet for entertainment.  So much content is available online and in some cases FREE.  If I am going to pay for a high speed internet connection I want to get the most out of I can.  

My Configuration

Everyone that ventures away from cable and cuts the cord will end up with entertainment setup that works for their specific needs and desires.  Mine has changed over the years but this is the breakdown of how I do it.  Please refer to the simple, crude diagram below that list the key components of my home entertainment setup.  For this introduction I am going to highlight the key "content" devices.  These are the critical elements of a cordcutter's setup.

TiVo HD 

I am still a TiVo ( customer and subscriber after 10+ years! I still use 2 TiVo HD boxes attached to an old analog UHF/VHF antenna that is installed in my attic.  My TiVo boxes serve a very important function in my cordcutting strategy and that is to capture the local network TV channels from the antenna.  It surprises me still, that people don't realize that they can receive HDTV channels of the local networks in their area for FREE.  The government still mandates that base network TV is still made available for those that don't want or can't get cable TV or satellite.  If you are in a large city like Atlanta, there are plenty of available channels that are broadcasted over the air.   Since my TiVo is a DVR, I have all the same features I would from cable DVR.  I still get a nice on-screen guide that tells me what is coming up, and all the pause, fast-forward, and rewind capabilities you get with any DVR.  TiVo invented the DVR and it is still the best.  It works flawlessly with out cable.  Just attach an antenna and let TiVo walk you through it.  

BOXEE ( is the newest member to my cordcutting line-up but it is quickly becoming my most used entertainment device.  BOXEE is capable of streaming content directly from the Internet and my local network or PC.  BOXEE is what I use the most to watch movies.  You see, instead of using a DVD or Blu-ray player to watch movies.  I use BOXEE to "stream" a DVD movie file from either my computer or a network attached drive (NAS).  I gave up long ago on trying to keep up with DVD or Blu-ray disks because of my kids. Disks get lost or scratched to the point where they don't play anymore.  When I purchased a disk now, I would quickly "rip" or copy the disk to my hard drive.  From there I can just watch the movie by using the file instead of the disk.  BOXEE does this very well.  This happens to be only a fraction of what BOXEE is capable of.  You can access services like Netflix, VUDU, MUBI, and OpenFilm, and all the rest the Internet for video, music, and information.  I plan to do a full review of BOXEE soon so check back for that.

XBOX 360 ( primarily a gaming console and gaming is a large part of how my family is entertained.  So, I need to point out that gaming does seem to to supplement entertainment that my family would get from cable tv.  Do we game more now that we don't have cable? It is hard to say.  I think gaming popularity is mostly independent of cable tv watchers.  I want to add that the XBOX 360 is a pretty good entertainment hub for things like movies and music.  I was surprised just how much more the XBOX 360 had to offer.  Now I hear that XBOX is trying to launch a live TV service through the Internet connection.  If that turns out to be true, it could be a very interesting option for those looking to cut the cord from cable tv.  

Interested? (Keep Reading)

Please understand that there is no way to provide you with all the information you need about cordcutting in one single blog post.  For me, cordcutting is more like a hobby.  I enjoy tinkering with my home entertainment system.  I always knew how to set the clock on my VCR.  I had fun with it and enjoyed the learning experience.  Only recently have I found more and more friends and family asking me about how we do things without Cable TV.  I can see how in a downturn economy more people are taking a hard long look at finances and how much they are paying for Cable TV.  I figured the best way to help is to blog more about the subject so I have a resource to point people to.  

In the coming weeks (months?) I plan to take a deeper dive into some key components and tips on cordcutting.  Things can get a bit technical if you want to set things up just right.  As you can see already, there is not just ONE magic box,or service that will enable you to cut the cord.  It is a combination of technologies and a fresh new outlook on how you consume media.  I don't know if I go as far as to say is a change in lifestyle.  Cordcutting is NOT about throwing all your TVs out the window.  I believe I consume as much entertainment as I did before, but I am more in control.  With that control I watch more stuff that I really care about.  I don't just watch something "because it was on."  I like to think I am more enlightened.  

So, please use the commenting system below to ask any questions you want.  Check back soon for more posts on cordcutting.  I have some very useful posts in the works already.