Has Cable Changed My Life?

We’ve had Verizon FIOS for three months so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how it has changed our lives. We weren’t exactly television snobs, just cost conscious. I think our lack of exposure to massive cultural shifts in that time period coupled with the pleasure of silence has created a wall of resistance in our hearts, a wall that was ripped away by Verizon raising the rates on our existing plan.

The answer though is “not much.”

The most significant outcome is having a nice steady signal. When we used antennae service, we occasionally lost our channels which was always frustrating. When you have 3 channels (and one of them is FOX), a 30% hit in viewing options just leads to greater consumption of public radio.

Seriously? We can't even use half of these buttons. Out cat can.
Seriously? We can’t even use half of these buttons. Out cat can.

Watching  WTAE (ABC) has been nice – but it is sort of weird to watch a television station I haven’t seen in ten years. I have no idea whom the anchors on the news are and almost no sense of the schedule. It is nice to have more options to find the local news on the weekends (oh, those games of sport and their schedule distorting ways), but it is surreal. We have started to watch “Once Upon a Time” on Sunday nights which is cool. And I’ve watched “Modern Family” a few times. I tried watching “black – ish” after enjoying the debut episode, but the gay jokes in the second episode turned me off. No thanks. I can just look at Facebook for that.

As for the “cable” channels, we pretty much watch MSNBC and pretty much watch The Rachel Maddow Show every week night along with Melissa Harris-Perry on the weekend mornings. Sometimes I watch BBC. And sometimes I channel surf, but not often.

Mostly the television is off during the day. Sometimes I remember to turn on the soaps, but usually I prefer the quiet.

Frankly, the remote control is like a mini-sales tool. I have to skip through seemingly thousands of screens that tell me I ‘haven’t subscribed to that channel’ in order to find something viewable. They are trying to lure me over to the dark side aka a bigger channel package by exasperation tactics. I won’t succumb.

We did rent a few movies. That was challenging – so many things to click. Over the weekend, our cat Simon managed to rent ‘Transformers’  by taking a nap on the remote. I wish he could use that power for something more constructive. When we do rent, I cringe thinking “we could watching something on Netflix that is part of our package!”

Actually, Ledcat and I made a deal that we’d not consider any changes for a full six months so we could make an informed decision. Declining a DVR was a good decision because we already have a huge backlog of Netflix and Amazon Prime stuff to watch. We eliminated the television in our bedroom to save $ and that’s a good decision, too. We sleep better if we watch our 10 PM crime shows like ‘Person of Interest’ downstairs and then have the period of transition to go upstairs and get ready for bed. If nothing else, it eliminates the debate over who has to actually get out of bed to let the dogs out and lock up the house. (Yes, we let them back in again.)

I can’t imagine we’ll upgrade packages. We’d both love to get Comedy Central, but for mysterious reasons – we’d have to go up two tiers ($50+ with fees) to get that station and keep the BBC. I like watching the news on the BBC because the Singapore desk is reporting from tomorrow. That’s interesting. Reruns don’t interest me – I broke that habit during our ten+ years of being cable free.

Overall, it is a good deal – we saved money by converting from DSL/old phone wire to FIOS. Or rather, we get a little faster internet service plus cable for the same price as we were paying. It isn’t really a savings, more of a better deal.

But I can see the rabbit hole just waiting for us. We are considering a new television as ours is about 12 years old and cannot handle the adapter for Chromecast or other similar devices. And then maybe a bigger flatscreen tv will make me want to watch more television after I wrap up my latest Netflix binge on the pretty screen. Plus, what do we DO with our old television that still works just fine? Isn’t it more eco-conscious to keep it until it dies, recycle it and then buy a new tv?

I did a little math. On a weekly basis, we watch:

  • 12-14 hours of news (local and national) usually on CBS, sometimes NBC or ABC
  • 4 -8 hours of news commentary (Maddow and Harris-Perry)
  • 4-5 hours of entertainment (Once Upon a Time, Big Bang Theory, CSI, Person of Interest)
  • 10-12 hours of Netflix and Amazon Prime (mostly me during the day)

From a financial point of view, investing in a device to broadcast our streaming services on our actual television makes far more sense that purchasing a higher tiered level of cable. A DVR makes no sense – commercials are when we make tea, let the dogs out/in, and deal with cat issues. Or talk to one another about what we are watching. But I spend less than $200 on the streaming services versus another $600 for more FIOS. Even with the one time costs of a new TV and the device (or a modest monthly fee), it is still a huge win for us. (I’m leaning toward no new TV now that I see the numbers in print. So to speak.)

I don’t think there’s anything noble or valiant about putting your tv in the closet or getting rid of it altogether. It is great if you only watch PBS but that doesn’t actually mean anything except you have limited tastes. I’m rather bummed by how many shows we’ve missed over the years, but I’ve also missed a lot of great movies, music and plays. I’m not a snob about cable, just cost conscious – spending $50+ per month for a few more hours of television is not a good investment of limited resources.

I’m going to make a note on my 2015 calendar to revisit this topic in one year and see if I’ve actually changed my viewing habits. Or my opinion.

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