By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor/Columnist
Show of hands, who still pays for cable television? Ok, that was slightly cheesy. But it’s a good question, isn’t it? With so much utter crap on telly these days, who still bothers to pay for it? I mean, aside from a few dramas on the major networks, and maybe Game of Thrones, there’s not a lot to watch. Sure, there’s sports if you watch it, but the Olympics only rolls around every few years. Reality TV bites. Even American Idol is going the way of the dinosaur, now that Randy Jackson is finally calling it quits. That show stopped being watchable three years.
So all things considered, is it really worth paying for television, when there’s so bloody little to actually enjoy?
I reached that conclusion two months ago when my cable company, which for now shall remain nameless, jacked up my bill by yet another 25 bucks, pushing it to almost $200. Sure, it include(d) phone and internet, and the friendly reps on the phone insisted it was all part of the bundle, all on schedule, but it didn’t matter to me. A hike is a hike.
So I took a hard look at our actual television usage and discovered some disturbing facts. My internet cost about $65, phone added about $50 or so, leaving nearly $90 for television, including equipment rental (cable boxes and a DVR). We were watching maybe four non-network shows in total, and one, “Doctor Who,” wasn’t even on at the time. When we watched other shows, we streamed them over the internet. We were keeping a phone line just in case, but the only people who called it were telemarketers. So at the end of the day we had $150 flying out the door and getting nothing for it.
Buying a cable television subscription is like filling your grocery cart with chips, cookies, candy and soda, then tossing some bananas and bean sprouts on top to feel better about it. When you get home, you eat the good stuff, the crap sits around until you’re desperate, then you stuff your face and feel ill afterward. The cable companies suck you in with “bundling” deals, which always sound better than they are.
Mummies got bundled, too – wrapped up in sheets after having their brains yanked out with a hook. Which is another pretty good metaphor for cable TV, now that I think of it.
So, long story short, I cut them off. Dropped everything but Internet, which we actually use.
As it turns out, there are plenty of options out there if you want to do the same. Maybe you’ve heard of Roku, the company that makes those little boxes that connect to your wireless and stream Netflix, Hulu and dozens of other channels? Yeah, they’re brilliant. For just $50 to $100, you can watch your favorite shows when you want, without paying extra. Subscribe to Neflix and Hulu for about $20 total per month, and you get movies and more television.
Omaha’s a bustling metropolis with broadcast TV galore, so all you really need is a digital antenna to pull it down. These will run you about $30, and after that your television is basically free. It takes a little effort to find the “sweet spot” for antenna reception, but it’s worth it.
Don’t want to buy all that equipment? Got an X-Box? Then you’re all set. Microsoft has begun streaming Amazon live video, and you can watch Netflix and Hulu on your game console. Of course, your roommate might have a Halo tournament when you’re trying to watch “The Walking Dead,” but that’s the great thing about asynchronous television – you can watch it whenever you want. It’s always there.
So if you’re on a limited budget (and who isn’t), cutting the cable can be a good way to save a few bucks while maximizing your entertainment budget. Why pay for crap channels you’re not using, when you can pay for exactly the content you want?
Right, I can’t think of a reason, either.