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Cutting the cord, life without DirecTV (or cable)

“Thank you for calling DirecTV, and thank you for being a loyal customer since 2004! How may I assist you today?”

“I’m calling to close my account.”

It took some doing. After being transfered to a specialist in such matters, who tried to tempt me with such things as a six-month discount, a new TiVo box when they become available, a free premium channel or two, and so on, they finally did disconnect the account.

When asked why, I was armed with:

  • Their migrating all HD services away from my HR10-250 TiVo DirecTV receiver
  • Their continuing inability to deliver a new TiVo model years after the first offered “release date”
  • Being forced to pay for hundreds of channels when I only ever rarely watch half a dozen

Call me a TiVo fanboy if you like; I won’t dispute it. I’ve just never been entirely happy with the user experience of the DirecTV models and DirecTV’s insistence on lobotomizing the TiVo software to get rid of streaming and sharing features.

Nearly everything Jane and I watch (Jeopardy, Glee, The Mentalist, House, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) is available free over the air. Our home is spittin’ distance from the transmitters on Mt. Wilson — I could get the signals with a paper clip stuck in the antenna port, but I have an antenna in the attic.

So my DirecTV bill of some $90/month would get me an occasional glimpse at the Daily Show, the Weather Channel, Conan on TBS, rarely CNN, and NASA-TV. DirecTV pulled ESPN and the local Fox sports channels from the HR10-250 in HD, so I never even bothered with the games there.

Three months ago I put a Roku box in my system, and we’ve been loving streaming from Netflix, Amazon, even Radio Paradise HD. (Current favorites in our queue: Dr. Who, Have Gun – Will Travel.)

Everything else we might want to watch (Entourage, Saving Grace, Big Love) is either available on disks or streaming. I’ve long since lost the need to see a show the night it’s broadcast.

Now in place of my DirecTV receivers, I have a pair of TiVo Premiere models. I put an XL model in the living room home theater and the standard model in the bedroom. I’ve had enough experience with TiVo to know that I should go ahead and buy the lifetime service subscriptions for both boxes. The total bill was roughly equivalent to 13 months of DirecTV.

I’m tickled with the new TiVos. I love how they work to download a rented (or purchased!) movie from Amazon. The RSS feed support is going to be fun — Jane’s What’s Up podcast will just appear in the Now Showing queue. I love being able to share recorded shows between the two boxes. (But not downloads, why TiVo?)

It’s also fun to see what the local broadcasters are doing to make use of their digital bandwidth. KTLA is using sub-channel 5.2 to market their library of classic TV using the moniker Antenna TV. It’s like having a free version of Nickelodeon on hand (Mad About You, Gidget).

Just before I wrote this, I did a Google search, “life without cable,” yielding 11,600,000 results. Interestingly, the first page of results all seemed to imply that giving up cable meant giving up network programming as well. Not one of them mentioned the bounty that was available in free over-the-air broadcasting.

I have every reason to believe that our deprivation will be barely noticed and short-lived, and I’m happy to do my part to disrupt the MVPD business model. Give me a la carte programming choices and I could change my mind.

And of course if Verizon were to install FiOS in my neighborhood …. :)

10 comments to Cutting the cord, life without DirecTV (or cable)

  • Ed Greenberg

    When we lived in Van Nuys, we were also line-of-sight to Mt. Wilson, and lived on broadcast TV just fine. Of course, the quantity and variety of what’s on the air in Los Angeles is amazing.

  • San Gabriel Valley folks get spoiled with the plethora of over-the-air alternatives. Definitely had no problem being cable-less (or satellite-less) there. Also, The Daily Show shows up on free Hulu pretty quickly. Here in Murray, however, over-the-air really isn’t an alternative. Just PBS and maybe the CW (analog) can be received that way. That’s part of why I spend so much time in the office (well, that, and the lack of a tv at home!). Here, I can stream all sorts of things, including a lot of college football on Saturdays.

  • David

    We cut the cord about a year ago and we’re still feeling pretty smug about it. Here in Maine, there are a lot of areas with poor broadcast reception, but we bought an indoor-outdoor antenna from Radio Shack for about $80 – a big 20″ flying saucer-like thing – and the HD reception of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBN and FOX is excellent. Actually a better picture than we were getting from Time Warner cable – probably due to the compression of the signal needed to accommodate a gazillion shopping channels. $80 for the antenna and $80 for the Roku – recovered in the first two months without cable!

  • nfldanchor

    I live in Canada and pick up our locals using ota with cheap rca antenna we bought on ebay and it works fine with great HD picture on the channels we get. I also have an Apple tv and Netflix and that is great too. Roku is coming to Canada next month and I will defimitely be getting one of those here. I cut the cord last week after Rogers announced another increase to our services. I will be using the magic jack plus for my phone service as well ext month . No cable bill and a yearly 20.00 phone bill with free ld in Canada and the Usa . I will save at least a 1000.00 to 1300.00 per year.

  • Akkana

    Over-the-air isn’t much of an option here in San Jose –we can pull in one broadcast channel passably, plus a very staticky second one. But between the internet, Netflix, the library’s DVD collection, books, hobbies etc., we rarely miss broadcast TV. I’ve never regretted telling the cable company what they could do with their bait-and-switch plans.

  • DB

    I am about to do the same here. For exactly the same reasons.

  • Great article. It’s a shame I missed it earlier.
    I also made the plunge almost 2 years ago (right as the Premiere units came onto the market) and haven’t looked back since. I documented the entire thing in my blog http://bit.ly/BuhByeDTV
    My reasoning and experience seems very similar to yours. The only thing I miss is ESPN, but a trip the gym solves that. I can get in a workout at 24-hour fitness and watching SportsCenter at the same time.

  • charles wallace

    We also said goodby to directv, dish, cable almost 2 years ago. Get 30 digital stations OTA and Jon Stewart/Colbert Report online. LOVE IT, WE ARE LIVING BETTER WITHOUT ALL THE PROPOGANDA, FEAR MONGERING, AND LIES FROM FOX AND OTHERS.

  • Tom

    Thanks for the info and the inspiration. Been thinking about it a long time and I have had it. $200\mo for thing. directv contract expires in October. see ya!

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