Wellness Wednesday - Cutting the Cord

Today's post is about why Whitney and I stopped subscribing to cable TV and how it has affected (this being Wednesday and all) our wellness. Two years ago is when we originally canceled cable and we haven't looked back!

Why we canceled cable

We had long been dissatisfied with several aspects of our cable service and the value we were getting for our money, but when our promotional rate ended, it pushed us over the edge to finally cut the cord. Now I'm fully aware that cable companies pretty much play a game of "name your price" based on how much effort you're willing to put in to manipulating various retention representatives (so I could have gotten my rate reduced back), but this absurd pricing scheme that rewards confrontational customers and punishes non-complainers with constantly rising rates is one of the major reasons I wanted to cancel cable.

Another major reason for canceling was the availability of a superior alternative for our purposes - over-the-air TV! I know for many sports fans the lack of ESPN and other cable sports channels makes this a non-starter, but lucky for us this is mostly just an issue during college basketball season. Most of the programs we were watching were on over-the-air channels, with the main exceptions being a handful of HGTV and Comedy Central shows. We figured we could just watch them online, but ultimately we never did and only missed them a little bit.

Why was over-the-air TV superior for us? The DVR that we were renting from the cable company was terrible - it was super old and slow to respond, it had a small hard drive forcing us to delete recorded shows regularly, and it was even prone to overheating (despite ample ventilation) which would mess up our recorded shows. By connecting an antenna and TV tuner to our computer, we're able to use Windows Media Center as our DVR and record shows on our large computer hard drive, which is a much better overall experience. Another issue I had with cable was the inferior picture quality compared to broadcast; with our cable service I could usually spot compression artifacts (pixelated "jaggies") around overlaid text or graphics, but I haven't had this issue with broadcast. Lastly, over-the-air TV is free!

Our recently installed attic antenna. Our house is at a lower elevation
than our last place so the rabbit ears couldn't get all the channels simultaneously.

Now that I've covered our reasons for canceling cable, here are Whitney's thoughts on how it affected our wellness.

How it influenced our lifestyle

After we canceled cable we added Netflix to fill the void we imagined would result. We picked up and watched a few series this way (Breaking Bad and Mad Men to name a few) but have found that we're not really logging into Netflix anymore. We are, however, big House of Cards fans. Once cable was canceled and the plethora of channels wasn't available at the push of a button we slowly changed our watching habits. We began watching something on DVR or pulling up Netflix for a specific show. Gone are the days of channel surfing. If we're watching TV then you can bet it's something that we pointedly chose to watch. It's been two years since cable was canceled and we're learning that life still goes on even if we're not tuning into the the predictable House Hunters. We've also been watching less and less TV. A few of the shows we were watching ended their series and we didn't replace them with new shows. So what do we do in the evening?!

  • Watch just one show on the DVR (before we might end up watching 2 or 3 shows a night)
  • Go to bed earlier and get a better night's sleep (before after we'd watch 2 or 3 shows we usually just stayed up for 11pm news)
  • Play a game
  • Read a book (Patrick is currently going through Game of Thrones)
  • Play with the cats!
  • Or ... have a conversation with each other!

Don't think we're against TV - we've just learned not to revolve our evenings around it. We still enjoy trashy reality TV - you can bet we tune in to everything Bachelor - and if it's on ABC chances are we watch it. Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder are our favorites.

The wellness aspect really comes in when you examine what we've replaced the television with. So many people I talk with who have also "cut the cord" are exclusively referring to cable. They're still watching TV just through other means. And Patrick and I probably thought we would too but we're realizing we're enjoying not being tied to watching TV every night. Reading is improving our intellectual wellness and eight hours of quality sleep is improving our physical wellness.

Concluding thoughts

As Whitney indicated, we're not trying to smugly one-up the other cord-cutters by cutting TV altogether. In fact I think a big reason we watch less TV is our house layout; we can't see the TV from the kitchen and it's not on when we're dining, so it can't be the default or background for us, and we have to make a point of watching something. It's been fascinating watching the popularity of cord-cutting rise, and hopefully it leads to more consumer-friendly options for TV in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Proud of you. Whitney, remember when you were in grade school probably we tried to do one of those National Stop Watching TV weeks? It was hard, but probably harder on me than you!