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My Two Year Anniversary Without Cable Television

After having gone two years without cable TV, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever pay for it again.

Between the channels I get over the air, Amazon Prime and Netflix, and being able to buy some cable shows the day after they air on Amazon, I’m not missing that much.

While the obvious upside is more cash in my pocket, another positive, unexpected outcome is that being a cord cutter has made my viewing choices smarter.

When I had cable TV, a lot of viewing time was spent watching reruns of favorite shows, such as Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Law & Order, etc. (A huge chunk of the content on cable TV is simply syndicated reruns).

I like these shows, and when I get home from work, my inclination is to watch something I’m familiar with, that I know I’m going to like.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it…

Cable TV provides a continual broadcast loop of this. 

Selecting something from the Netflix or Amazon streaming catalogues to watch is a much more deliberate process than choosing a show or movie to watch on cable.

With cable, I’ll watch a mediocre episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation because it simply happens to be on at the moment I’m watching TV. But I would never actively go to Netflix and select that episode to watch.

Without cable, far less of my TV viewing time is taken up watching reruns, or some movie I’ve seen a hundred times. That time gets used to watch more new shows, or catch up on shows that I missed entirely when they originally aired. The end result is that I’m watching more TV, but not spending more time watching TV.

While it’s easy for me to be self-congratulatory about saving roughly $1,000 a year, I am a one-percenter on this issue — only one percent of pay TV subscribers are expected to become cord cutters in 2013.

I have no delusions of being a trendsetter.

While I’m not all that surprised that so few people have joined my ranks — and there are certainly obvious reasons that some people need cable, such as sports (though the NFL is still largely shown on broadcast TV, available over the air) — I would think that the price of cable would drive a few more people to cut it. So will there be a point when cable becomes too expensive for the masses?

In 2011, the average cost for a cable subscription with some premium channels was $86/month (not including extra fees like DVR, cable box rental, etc.) Based on past yearly rate increases, in 2015 the monthly fees is predicted to be $123, and by 2020 over $200/month — and god can only imagine what kinds of new auxiliary service fees the industry will think of by that point.

It seems unimaginable that people would shell out $2,400 a year for cable, but if unbundling ever comes to pass, and buying ESPN a la carte costs $30/month, I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard to run up a $200/month TV bill.

So I think Americans are going to finally have to ask themselves what’s the value of TV entertainment — what is it worth to them?

As much as I think that $200/month is a terrible value, I’ll probably still be in the one percent come 2020.

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