90 days (and counting) without cable TV

Back in December when I wrote about how I canceled cable, I received some greate encouragement and was solicited for updates. Well obviously I haven’t done so since, but after over three months my family doesn’t miss cable at all. Well, that isn’t completely true as there have been a few times when I thought about how I’d like to have cable, but then I remember that I’m saving $60 a month and I forget about whatever it was I wanted to watch. 

Over-the-air and Blu-ray Discs via Netflix.
I get almost all of my content from two places. Over-the-air provides most of our content and my kids are actually very pleased with the cartoons on PBS and hardly miss the Disney Channel — although I do bring up YouTube on occasion so my daughter can watch The Wiggles. We watch the nightly news and network TV shows like Lost and for the most part get to see everything we want. We watch about two or three Blu-ray Discs from Netflix each week, and have not once used the Watch Now feature on the BD300 or purchased a single show on the Apple TV or Xbox 360.

The missing piece.
The one missing piece is some premium TV shows on HBO and SciFi HD that have yet to be released on Blu-ray. I don’t mind waiting an extra 6 months for a series to be released on Blu-ray, but when the show is only released on DVD, it really drives me nuts. Luckily this scenario seems to be going away as more and more TV shows are coming to Blu-ray, but until then, we’ll have to find other ways to watch our shows.

Various sources
Most know my friends Warren and Andy helped me create a process to automatically download and convert shows for Media Center and while I had tons of fun working on the project — and continue to work on a version for movies — I have to admit I stopped using it because I felt guilty about watching the one or two shows I don’t have access to just to save some money. So from now on, I’ll just wait until the shows are released on Blu-ray to watch them.

With about five months to go until the FSU Seminoles open up the college football season against the Miami Hurricanes on ESPN HD, I’ll end up not having cable for 8 months which is about $500. This still seems like a good idea, but at the same time I dread adding the service back and dealing with an installer, etc. So while it makes sense this year, I’m still not 100% sure I’ll do it all again next year. I suppose it depends on what happens with DirecTV and Media Center, because with DirecTV canceling and adding service is super easy. But if the DirecTV Media Center tuner isn’t ready by September, then I’ll have to go back to FiOS. And although FiOS has fantastic quality and selection of HD, their service dispatch system is quite possibly the worst in the industry.

14 Responses to “90 days (and counting) without cable TV”

  1. Starkenator says:

    Ben you should check out some of the selection for kids on the Netflix watch now as it is pretty good. They have a bunch of Wiggles episodes, Bob the builder, Wubzy, etc. The quality is good enough for the kids (at least as good if not better than youtube). I did watch a standard def movie on watch now to try it out and must admit it was painful but for the kids it is great.

  2. CowboyDren says:

    I thought that the DirecTV Media Center project was stillborn due to economic conditions. That same week, Dish Network announced that their competitive system was almost ready. Then again, with Charlie Ergen at Dish, “ready soon” means “before the Second Coming.” Care to share your DirecTV scoop with the rest of the class? 🙂

  3. FrankInLA says:

    Hey Ben… over a hundred days here… can’t say I miss it. and over two hundred net saved dollars! Though I have up’d my NetFlix to two at a time.

  4. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    DirecTV officially suspended the project. I’m told it was just about ready and that the MS parts weren’t going to be ready until Windows 7. So rather than DirecTV continuing to pay MS for testing, they suspended the project until MS was ready to progress, which means windows 7. I fully expect the tuner by the end of the year, but I need it by September. Who knows what is going to be available in Sept.

  5. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    Yes, I up’d my Netflix as well.

  6. Dallas Knox says:


    Recently made the switch as well. I was getting raped for over 80$ a month for basic DirecTv due to an Apartment Contract Monopoly.

    I was wondering if the move by Time Warner Cable (I know your on FIOS) to limit their Download Speed will impact your decision to remain OTA. My wife and I are moving back home to your area (Clearwater) and the house we are looking at might not have FIOS available untill 2010. Time Warner will be our only option. A couple Netflix Watch instantlys and we will have blown through the cap. Any thoughts?

  7. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    Netflix Watch Now movies are only a few gigs, so it’d take more than a few to blow through your cap.

    Personally I’m a big fan of surround sound so that means I’m not a big fan of watch now anyways. So with by mail Netflix coming out cheaper per movie than any of the download sources with surround sound, the cap wouldn’t bother me. Especially because I’m a turbo type customer anyways.

    Luckily it doesn’t matter for me though, as I do live in a FiOS ‘hood.

  8. Kevin says:

    I went through something similar but then just decided that the amount of money I was saving was not that much and it was just easier to keep cable. I would miss sports the most. Plus if you bundle you all your services, it helps bring the price down. I think Fios is a pretty good deal. I am paying more for two iphones than internet, TV, and landline service.

  9. Ken P says:

    I tried, and enjoyed, your DVRMSToolbox addition for the downloading and automatically converting shows to dvr-ms. I have stopped using it for premium content. I didn’t feel guilty downloading the premium content, but I got spooked about the legal ramifications. I realize the chance of getting caught is VERY slim, but with my luck I would end up being one of those “examples” we hear about from time to time! I ordered HBO. 🙁

  10. John says:


    I see from one of your recent Twitter posts that you got a FiOS M card. I didn’t know they were available. How much is it per month? Did they charge a ridiculous price for the install? I’ve got 2 regular cards for my TiVO right now and I’d like to go the single M if it’ll save a little money.

  11. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    I got the M-Card to test the Moxi, the availability depends on the old stock of S-Cards at your local FiOS office. The card is $4/mo, so since FiOS would charge you $75 for a truck roll, even if you could get one, it would take you a year and a half to break even on it.

  12. John says:

    Yikes! The truck rolls have gone up since I got my 2 regular cards a couple years ago. I think I only paid $25 then. Thanks for the info.

  13. fuzzymuffins says:

    oh it can be done. i’ve gone almost 9 YEARS without cable TV in my home. do people really think they’re life will end if they don’t have it?

  14. […] that I could get by without making a huge sacrifice. Engadget contributing editor Ben Drawbaugh has found success in ditching cable for over-the-air TV and Netflix, along with internet-based extras. Four months and […]