What Cutting Cable Has (and Hasn’t) Done to Our Viewing Habits

If you asked a dozen financial bloggers what their top suggestions would be to free up money in a monthly budget, cutting cable would be at the top of a heck of a lotta lists.

Cable TV is completely discretionary. It’s expensive, costing an average of $99 a month, and the prices tend to increase each year. And, thanks to a host of streaming services, it’s imminently replaceable as long as you have a decent internet connection.

We cut our cable down to a bare-bones 10-channel plan 18 months ago. Last January, we eliminated cable completely.

I got so used to watching TV and movies on apps that I didn’t give it a second thought until the other day.

Little Bit and I were driving home from my in-laws’ house the other day. I’d noticed her watching SpongeBob Squarepants, something she’s never shown much interest in, but didn’t think much of it.

“I wish we had our old TV,” she sighed.

“Huh? Old TV?” We’ve had the same TV since she was a toddler, so I figured she meant cable rather than the actual TV. “Why do you say that?”

“Because I just found a new TV show I liked, The Loud House. If we had our old TV, I could record all the episodes and watch them.”

Yeah, that used to happen all the time. I’m pretty sure at one time we had 5 zillion episodes of Octonauts and Kung Fu Panda on our DVR, just so we could pick one out anytime we were bored.

Life without a cable subscription is different. Not worse, but different.

Our Set Up

We have several TVs around, but we pretty much only use the one in our family room. For years, we hooked it up to the internet through our Blu-Ray DVD player, and that worked okay. It didn’t have any voice recognition capabilities, though, and would only hook up to more established apps like Netflix and Pandora.

For Christmas, though, we got an Amazon Fire TV box, and that’s made living with streaming content easier. We can use a lot more apps, like the PBS app or our local TV station’s news app, to stream more shows. Plus, searching for particular shows is much more convenient when you can say what you want instead of typing with the forward and rewind buttons.

We have three paid streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sling. Aside from those, we mostly use YouTube and Pandora. We also have a pretty hefty DVD collection and an HD antenna for live TV.

If you want to see how we got there, I’ve written posts on making a decision between Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, the lure of the Amazon Add-On Subscriptions like HBO and Acorn, and our experience with Sling.

What Cutting Cable Has (and Hasn't) Done to Our Viewing Habits

Changes for the Better

Even before we cut our cable, we had Netflix and Amazon Prime. With those, our internet, and our cable, we were paying about $185 monthly. For our current internet connection and streaming services, we now pay $98. That’s up $10 from last year, even though we dropped our basic cable due to our “trial rate” expiring, so it’s probably time to switch internet providers again. Or at least call and threaten to do so.

Even then, that’s over $1000 a year we’ve freed up from the budget. 

Other than that, though, some things are better.

  • We watch less news. While we still have access to broadcast news and CNN and Bloomberg via Sling, we just aren’t watching the news. I still read a fair amount, but drinking our morning coffee to Pandora instead of the news has probably been good for our peace of mind.
  • We watch way fewer commercials. Sling has commercials, but Netflix and Amazon don’t. We get a lot less “I want that!” than we used to.
  • We spend less on extras. While I didn’t spend a ton on on-demand movies, we tended to rent a movie every month or so. Although we still rent an occasional movie from Amazon, we don’t do it as often.

Other Changes

  • We discover a lot fewer new shows. When others around me start talking about what they’re watching, I’m completely clueless. We tend not to watch a ton of new stuff, even that comes directly to Netflix and Amazon. Watching what everyone else watched became less important. I’m sure we’ve missed some good stuff, but I don’t care.
  • We end up forgetting to watch shows we like. We all really enjoy MasterChef Junior. Since it’s on a broadcast network, there’s no reason we couldn’t watch it last season, but we didn’t. Same with the second season of Home Fires. Without a DVR to stockpile our shows for us, we tend to miss even the shows we like until they make it on one of our streaming services. And if they don’t? There’s always something else to watch.
  • We watch less stuff live than we used to. We used our DVR a ton to pile up shows we liked, but we still used to catch a fair amount of live TV by browsing through the guide. Now, even with Sling, we watch almost everything on demand.
  • We watch a lot fewer sporting events, We can still watch sports on Sling, and we can catch a lot of football games with the antenna. But we watched a lot fewer sports shows over the last year and a half. When we do, it’s usually with my in-laws rather than at home.
  • We watch a TON of YouTube. Without a plethora of shows stacked up on a DVR, Little Bit mostly picks YouTube videos to watch. While I find watching someone else play Roblox mind-numbingly boring, she loves it.
  • We’ve made a few substitutions. Pandora and Amazon Music instead of Music Choice. YouTube instead of Nickelodeon/NickJr. Watching last season vs this season. None of it’s better or worse (Okay, Pandora and Amazon Music are way better than Music Choice, but Jon still likes to watch it when we go over to see his folks.)

What Didn’t Change?

Before we cut the cord, I read a ton of articles that said “cutting cable will mean less time watching TV. You’ll have more time to pursue hobbies or hustle up some side income. You’ll free up so much time!”

No, we don’t watch the TV any less than we did before. At least not due to cutting cable.

We watch different shows and movies than we used to watch.  Unless we deliberately shut off the TV,  though, we still watch a heck of a lot.  Cutting cable didn’t change our default evening entertainment.

If we only subscribed to one service, we might watch less. There are so many good TV options between the services we have, though, there’s always something to watch when we turn on the TV.

We still watch a lot of the same shows, too. Even before we cut the cord, we watched a lot of Netflix. Frankly, I find having whole seasons to stream a much easier way to watch most TV series. So while we might be a season behind, we’re still catching a lot of the content we like.

Would I Go Back?

Since our internet costs have gone back up, Jon and I have talked about switching internet (and therefore cable) providers again. If we do, we might be eligible for one of those sweetheart “New Subscriber” deals.

Would I go back, if the price is right? Only if it saves us, rather than costing a single extra penny.

If someone gave us a digital cable with DVR and high-speed internet for less than $80 a month, then financially we’re better off going back. We probably get enough benefits from Amazon Prime to keep it anyway, and we really like Netflix for $10 a month. Sling would be redundant, though.

Otherwise, cable TV has been way too easy to replace. Compared to what we have now, there’s just not a lot of value added from a cable package.

So if you’re on the fence about cutting cable, know that your TV-watching habits are likely to be a little different,

They just won’t change in ways that matter.

Are you a cord cutter or a cable watcher? What things weigh into your TV content decision?

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26 Responses to “What Cutting Cable Has (and Hasn’t) Done to Our Viewing Habits”
    • Emily Jividen 08/01/2017
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