No Flipping

The day has come. This morning I called DirecTV and cancelled my account. Cut the cord, if you will. As someone who used to work at a television network, this feels bittersweet. Not bittersweet enough, however, to keep me flushing money down the drain every month for programming I’m not watching. Here’s how I’m able to live in this brave new cable/satellite-free world…

1) I Don’t Care About Sports

Being a nerd, I have little interest in televised sports, with the exception of some nostalgia for the ‘85 Bears or mid-90’s Bulls. While the streaming options are getting better for sports fans (MLB on Apple TV, for example), this is often a deal-breaker for many people. A non-issue for me.

2) News is Everywhere

Between Twitter, Facebook and a slew of streaming news sites/apps, it’s amazingly easy to stay on top of what’s going on. Not to mention I don’t have to be subjected to the terror of local newscasts.

3) Roku and Hulu

The Roku 2 (using the Hulu Plus integration) lets me watch almost all of my “must see” shows right on my TV, with a dead-simple interface. What about shows they don’t offer (or offer on a super-delayed schedule)? For that, there’s…

4) Apple TV and Netflix

Not only does Apple TV have the best Netflix streaming UI by a wide margin, it also gives you access to Apple’s large iTunes library of rentable or purchasable movies and TV shows. Netflix has a ton of great back catalog titles (and is almost essential if you have kids for the SpongeBob catalog alone), and you can fill in the new release gaps with iTunes rentals. If there’s a TV show you really want to follow that’s not on Hulu, chances are that you can buy a season pass for it (still far cheaper than a monthly cable or satellite bill if done in moderation) via Apple TV.

After the initial investment in the Apple TV and Roku hardware units (around $99 each, cheaper if you go with an alternate Roku model), you’re looking at $8/month for Hulu and $8/month for Netflix (plus your basic Internet connection cost). Obviously if you want Netflix discs it’ll be more, ditto for a la carte movie rentals or TV purchases via Apple TV. Still, it beats a huge monthly cable or satellite bill.

A Few Drawbacks:

  • I won’t be able to easily watch live events like the Oscars. To be honest though, any watercooler moments are going to pop up online within hours, and in recent years I’ve found myself fast-forwarding though most of these events anyway.
  • I’ll have to be patient with certain shows. HBO, for example, tends to not put their shows on iTunes until the season is completed. This’ll make it tough if there’s another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I’ll live.

A Few Added Benefits:

  • Since Netflix, Hulu and Apple (obviously) all have great iOS apps for their respective services, I can easily watch shows/movies anywhere I happen to be.
  • The Apple TV and Roku units are jammed full of cool apps/features that either don’t exist on most cable/satellite services, or exist in almost-unusable “added to check them off the marketing list” form. Between the two devices, I’m able to watch YouTube videos, get video content from Amazon (which I suspect will become more and more handy in coming months) check out movie trailers from different providers, view photos and videos from Facebook, listen to music from Rdio and Pandora, stream all of my iTunes and iPhoto content to my TV and more. Not to mention that AirPlay is flat-out magic.
  • I can get rid of the giant coaxial cable running through the house that drives my wife insane.

It’s strange to me that the kids are growing up in a world without channel flipping. Not sure that Larry Sanders would approve.