why I’m considering cutting the cable

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on what is crashingly obvious to anyone who isn’t a cable television executive: as iPads, Netflix, Apple TV, and Google TV become more popular, their ease of use makes the clunky cable remote glaringly outdated in its lack of user friendliness. Watching “Thomas and Friends” requires three steps using Netflix on the iPad; watching it on Comcast requires five steps– plus navigating ten menus if you don’t know what channel it’s on. The WSJ points out that for an industry losing market share, this is bad business: 

technology improvements are important for an industry that suffers from a poor reputation among consumers, who have long bemoaned rising cable prices and poor customer service.

However, when it comes to my own TV remote, I have a bigger bone to pick with Time Warner than its lack of smooth interface. Whenever I do a search for some of our household’s favorite shows, I am presented with a list of alphabetical titles that I would prefer not be seen by my children. To wit: if I want to tape an episode of “The Backyardigans,” I first have to scroll past


“Super Why” calls up


and if I want to watch “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” admittedly itself not the family-friendliest of programming, I have to first bypass


I have a few problems with this. One is these films’ tendency to make up compound words for no reason: “bigbouncyboobs” is as ungrammatical as it is distasteful. The other is that I have three kids, one of whom can READ. 

So block these titles, you say? Well, there’s my real problem. I HAVE. These are not shows you can actually watch in my household. But their titles still show up in a list of available shows. And according to Time Warner, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that. While the customer service representative I spoke to was very understanding of my concern, she informed me that while channels could be blocked, there was no way to remove the titles from the show list. 

I think that answer is unacceptable. And I’m seriously considering moving to a Netflix-based TV experience, for less than $10 a month, which has everything my kids would want to watch, and my husband and me too, with two glaring exceptions:

morning news shows (me)
evening ball games (him)

I’m curious: have any of you cut the cable cord? Are you happy with your decision? 

And should I take this Time Warner battle to the streets? 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Meredith L. October 28, 2010 at 6:05 pm

We got rid of our cable over the summer for a number of reasons, including:
1. Cost. I spoke with three separate people over the phone at Time Warner (I live in Brooklyn) and they tried to convince me that it wasn't worth the pittance I'd save to get rid of cable. But, when I priced all our services and did the math myself, I found that by losing cable and the DVR machine we're now saving nearly $100 per month. Totally worth it.

2. Service. Sometimes our DVR would actually record the shows we painstakingly set it up to record. Othertimes, not. And sometimes it cut off our shows mid-record for seemingly no reason at all.

3. Thanks to my brother-in-law we discovered a site called SurftheChannel.com that allowed us to watch NEW episodes of True Blood and Mad Men FOR FREE just days after they aired. Hulu is great for the regular network shows, but doesn't have anything from HBO or other premium channels.

Once I figured out how to connect our computer to the TV so we could stream shows online but watch them from the comfort of our couch, that was it. The Time Warner office is not that far from our house and they have Saturday hours. Bye-bye, cable box!

We connected our TV directly to the cable outlet, and now we get the regular network channels (NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC) as well as multiple PBS stations (including PBS Kids), New York 1, TBS, TNT, and, for some reason, The Food Network.

So no, we don't miss cable. At all.


zena October 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I HATE HATE HATE Timewarner. It'll be a cold day in hell before they get a penny off of me. We have a similar setup to what Meredith has, except we use a satelitte. We bought an HDTV converter and small satellite (it's about the size of a sheet of paper, and about 1/2 inch thick) and it sits in our window. We get all the main channels, plus local public access channels, two of which are children's. All in all, we recieve about twenty channels. This cost us $80 for the equipement, but i'm sure you could get it cheaper. My little ones watch Nick Jr. online when they want to watch one of their shows. Just something for you to look into!


Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

We cancelled cable about a month ago, mostly to save the $100 per month, but also to try to find more family time. So far, only our bank account is benefitting, as we also hooked the laptop to the tv for netflix and hulu watching, and I now have 7(!) PBS stations to fill my addiction to their programming. lol Cable is only missed by our 'tween son, as his Cartoon Network shows are not available online, but we've been getting him into more books and treating him to movies once a week.


Jessica October 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm

We cut our cable in May and haven't missed it at all. We already had Netflix and got Hulu Plus. All of our shows are on Hulu. My husband does miss SportsCenter, but he gets to see it at the gym sometimes.


Mollie October 28, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Wow, good point. I never really thought about this, although scrolling past the porn channels and seeing the titles pop up in searches irks me too. (I tried to block the channels once, but I couldn't figure out what our "code" was, and then I got lazy and forgot about it. No kids to worry about, as you know.)

At the end of last season there was a plotline on 30 Rock about how much money "Kabletown" makes from its porn channels — the lesson I took away is that porno-viewers are much more valuable to other cable providers than are people like you, and me, who would prefer to avoid the porn entirely.


Amanda October 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I was just thinking about this today since my husband just got netflix on our wii. I love it…so many options!

By the way, my book club girls and I just ordered your book for our next book club! Excited to read it. 🙂



sharon October 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I haven't pulled the cable plug yet…. but am OH SO tempted to do so…… we have Cablevision, who is currently in a dispute with FOX…. so we can't even watch the ball game known as the World Series if we wanted to… (but the Yanks aren't in it, so who cares anyway!)….. but what I am most (potentially) disturbed about- is FOX carries the Superbowl! So can you imagine me dragging my husband and my six impressionable young children to some sports bar to watch the big game?
I mean- Janet Jackson exposed was one thing…. but now it's come to this?


JEZ October 29, 2010 at 12:17 am

No cable for us and LOVE it! My daughter watches shows on channel 2 and multiple episodes of DORA (along with plenty other titles) on our laptop via Netflix. We also have netflix hooked up through our Wii. I sometimes think I miss cable until I go to my Mom's house and lay on the couch until 2am violently flipping through 72 channels in hopes of being able to somehow watch 5 different shows at once. And waking up with a Comcast hangover is not a sign of a good evening.


Amy Wilson October 29, 2010 at 12:45 am

Wow, you guys are seriously inspirational. FOR REAL. I think I have to do this now.

Meredith, thanks for the surfthechannel.com tip! Clearly I have to figure out how to connect our computer to the TV. Maybe Santa will bring Apple TV? Though it sounds like we don't even need it. I didn't know you could connect a TV directly to a cable outlet- but I'll be trying it.

The nearest Time Warner office to my house is impossible to miss- they have a neon sign that is seriously one of the worst eyesores in NYC. (More on that here: http://www.line-man.com/forums/index.php?/topic/20864-catv-time-warner-sign-too-bright-for-upper-west-side/) I would love to reward them for that obnoxious sign by dropping off a few cable boxes…

Zena, I live in the city so might not be able to use a satellite, but it's worth a look.

Jessica, thanks for the "Hulu Plus" tip.

Sharon, good point… if the cable companies pull the networks before major sporting events anyhow, what's the point of keeping the cable to watch sports?

Once again, you all provide serious motivation and really helpful how-tos…


Safire October 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

We pulled the cable plug about 3 years ago and have LOVED it. I never miss it. I have never regretted doing it. We mostly just watch our huge movie collection, or Netflix streaming on our Wii.

At the beginning, I was missing all my regular shows and I used to watch them on hulu. But I got frustrated with the ads, etc there that I just stopped watching.

Haven't regretted doing that either. Good luck!


Our Wee Family October 30, 2010 at 4:06 am

Haven't had cable in 8 years. We get our news, a few evening shows, PBS for the kids and use Netfix for movies. Who needs more TV than that?


Anonymous October 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Been cableless a year. netflix, hulu plus, and youtube fills the entertainment needs. Any really important news/catastrophe is on live feed with most big news organizations with better coverage.
I scan drudge and huffington for up-to-the minute news. I found watching news channels was mostly watching pundits posing as newscasters or commentators. I don't need those people to help me form an opinion, and real articles on assorted subjects will fill you in better than the "newsbites" you get from regular cable. CNBC and other financial networks are irrelevant now. Nothing but a lot of noise.
Cutting cable will improve your quality of life. Besides, if the kids might reroute their frustration from not having the Cartoon Network into actually reading a book for fun.
Sounds like with netflix, hulu, and apple tv, you'll have it all goin' on!
Tell us what you end up doing.


Em and Lib November 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Cut the cord 10 years ago! Went to Netflix only and coudn't be happier. Cannot tell you how much MORE family/entertainment time you have. It will amaze and refresh your relationships!! Also, life is infinitely better without kids watching commercials and begging for every NEW cereal and gadget out there…IMHO.


insideouthappy.com November 3, 2010 at 1:57 am

Did you know that a regular old antenna (ours cost $15 at Frys) gets better HD reception than standard cable? Antenna + Netflix equals all the programming this house needs!


Betsy Smith November 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

We cut cable last month, could not be happier with the decision. The kids got an Apple TV in their room (the old one not the swanky new one) bought them Scooby Doo seasons and a few other shows and done. No more Oh my God what are you watching moments. No more extra $60 a month for added noise in my house. That is gross that you have to scroll through inappropriate titles to get kids shows.


Audra Caldwell November 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm

We cut our cable about 8 months ago… The only thing we miss is SPORTS. So many of the college sports games are on ESPN now, and you can not access them without cable. We are a sports family, and have 3 boys who I'm sure will grow up to love sports more than they do now. We have netflix and the free local channels and that works great! The things I do not miss the most… Toy ads!! I love that my children seem so much more content, and tend to go for toys they actually want and not something that they think they want b/c of a TV ad.


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