Friday, April 3, 2015

Cutting the Cord Isn't Easy

I have had one goal in life for the past three years. I want to cut the cord with cable. Every year I get one step closer to doing it, only to back off. Three years ago I thought about it, then didn't do it. Two years ago I wanted to do it and looked at some devices that would get it done, but they didn't seem viable. Last year I kept looking into these devices but still felt the time wasn't right. This year I was planning on cutting the cord, and still may, but I keep running into the same issues this year I have run into before. I've looked into devices and gotten the pros and cons of each. It's just a matter of doing it, but then there is also the matter that it seems so hard. A friend sent me to this subreddit. Some of this shit is like Greek to me. I have specifications to cut the cord and there is no easy way to get it done at this point without having 3-4 devices.

1. No satellite or anything that has to be placed on the house. This is my wife's only stipulation.

2. I want my Braves games and all of the college basketball games I watch. This means I need local channels AND ESPN. Some devices have one but not the other.

3. I rarely watch anything live, so I need a way to tape my shows and watch them later. If I get rid of Time Warner Cable then that means I need to find a device that tapes shows. I have found a few, but they don't seem to have the capability of the DVR I currently have.

4. I need children channels as well. The kids gotta watch something on television.

5. I still need to pay for Internet, which isn't cheap. I can find shows on premium channels online and find a way to watch those if I need to.

The problem is there isn't really a device that delivers all of this content in one package. Roku doesn't have the local channels I need, plus I have to purchase apps on Roku which would drive the price I pay even higher. Throw in having to purchase a recording device for some of the content I want to watch and getting rid of one cable box has turned into a 2-3 device affair with no guarantee it will meet my television needs.

My cable bill isn't as bad as the bill others would pay. So I don't think I have it worse than others. I simply hate Time Warner Cable and am tired of their shitty customer service. It's only going to get worse. It's already bad enough when I call their customer service line I explain what I want and the representative won't listen to me. I explained a couple months ago I do not want premium channels, wanted to cut my bill and needed a quoted price for that. What they came back with was MORE premium channels and an INCREASE in what I pay. Really? Then what followed is I was referred to a retention specialist who then decided that he can give me a deal that includes a free three month trial of EPIX with a slight decrease in monthly cost. I told him I want fewer premium channels and was told that it's actually cheaper to have more channels. Of course it is.

Finally, I bitched on Twitter and got TWC to respond and they had a representative call me. This was February 13. Unfortunately when she called I was in a meeting and when I called her back I left a message. I'm still waiting for a call back. They don't care though. They know it's not easy to cut the cord. Why call me back when there are so many other customers who they can screw over by sending a massively high bill to in an effort to get them to call and re-negotiate their cable bill? That whole thing of sending an incredibly expensive bill to a customer in an effort to get them to negotiate is the sign of a horrible business practice. I can't wait until cable companies go out of business and the public can piss on their ashes.

I looked into Roku and then would get a subscription to either Netflix or Hulu. Great. Unfortunately, what am I going to do about the sports I want to watch? Well, I could get the Slingbox for $20 and then upgrade for $5 per month. So now I have two devices and am paying for Internet. I do want to watch Braves games, so a subscription to MLBtv is required and there is a slight chance that the Braves will be blacked out in my area. Then there is the issue that I have a television in my bedroom too, which means I will need to buy two Roku's. Not a huge deal, but it's an upfront cost.

So say I have decided that I am cutting the cord and get Roku. Now I have to decide if I want Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu Plus. Each has their own positive and negatives. Hulu Plus is the only one with recent seasons of shows ready to be watched a day or two after they air. Netflix has a ton of movies. Amazon Prime has a good selection of shows, plus offers free shipping on items purchased from Amazon.com. There are more decisions to be made at this point and another monthly bill that has to be paid. It's another upfront barrier to cutting the cord. Even if most of these services are month-to-month, I prefer to be in a situation where I know what service I'm buying, even on a month-to-month basis. That's not realistic in this situation.

It's not that I am lazy or don't want to cut the cable. I hate cable companies. I despise them for their greed, inability to adapt to what consumers obviously want (which is to choose the channels they get and pay for them based on what they want), and general disregard for their customers. Their customer service agents don't listen and then try to justify the jacked-up prices by explaining that they are providing NEW AND IMPROVED services! My Internet can now be faster! I don't want that. I don't want faster Internet. Mine works just fine.

So I am about to go through this song-and-dance with Time Warner Cable again. I'll probably bitch about them on Twitter and then some "retention specialist" will call me and we will try to work something out. If cutting the cord were easier for me, I would do it in a heartbeat. It's too complicated with too many unknowns at this point. I hate Time Warner Cable, but there is no "cutting the cord" option that will allow me to flip channels between local sports and ESPN. I can't find one.

I can deal with the learning curve, but cutting the cord requires making choices and sacrifices that just having cable doesn't require me to worry about. What's worse is I still have to have an Internet connection to use Roku, so I'm not totally done with the evil cable companies. I still want to cut the cord and I still am going to try and do it this year. It's so hard to wrap my mind around all the options I have. There are layers of options to get through once I have cut the cord and I don't feel technologically advanced enough to make this decision right now. I wish I could. There is always the concern that getting me to the point I want to be will push my cable bill right back up to where it was with Time Warner Cable.

One day, a company will come along and make things easier for the consumer. I can't wait to see Time Warner Cable and other companies lose even more customers when that day comes. Ten years from now the idea a cable company would jack up the price of a service in an effort to get you to call them and re-negotiate will hopefully seem as ridiculous in reality as it seems in my own head. That's the dumbest business move to make, piss off your customer in an effort to get them to stay with you? But right now, the common person will struggle to cut the cord. It requires so many decisions to be made and to further complicate the television-watching life of a family. Cable still has the consumer by the balls, but that will change once cutting the cord is made easier for the common person or more complete knowledge about the options once the cord has been cut is available. For example, if I cut the cord, these are the options I have if I like certain shows, sports, and movies. It's all still a little fuzzy now.

It's hard for me to make a decision because I feel like I don't have complete information on how to make the decision I need to make to cut the cord. I read subreddits, do Google searches to make it easier on me and I become further confused. It's all a cable conspiracy I'm sure. Suggestions to resolve my confusion or new curse words to pass along to Time Warner Cable are always welcome.

14 comments:

  1. I was in a very similar situation to you. We have TWC in my area as well, but the only complaint I've had with them is the price. I decided one day that I'd had enough and I was going to pull the trigger and get rid of cable TV and go strictly to internet. The only thing that I knew would be hardest to replace was live sports, but I figured I watch too much live sports to begin with so it wasn't that big of a deal.

    This last season I watched two NFL games all year. I saw one game on Thanksgiving at a relative's house (I don't even remember who was playing) and the Super Bowl (I have an antenna to watch local channels if need be.) It's amazing how much time I have to do other things when I'm not watching sports all the time.

    I bought a Roku and now everything we watch is either on Netflix or Hulu. Our bill went down from $140/mo to $45/mo. I've replaced flipping through random channels, most of which are filled with crap, with scanning through Youtube or the Netflix queue.

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    1. My only complaint is price as well. I have tried to have enough, but I can't pull the trigger on getting rid of sports like you can. I watch a lot of live sports and I just can't give them up.

      I can't fathom watching only two NFL games. I think TWC has me by the balls...

      I do want Roku and a reduction in $100 makes me wonder if I should just try to find another way to watch sports. Do you have the Roku 3? That's what I would get.

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    2. I take that back. The customer service is shitty at times because they don't listen to what I'm saying. That sort of goes back to price though.

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  2. My fiancee and I have begun debating cutting the cord as well but I'm in the same boat as you. I love watching live sports.

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    1. I had a horrible experience today with a TWC customer service rep. I may just get SlingTV with ESPN and try to see if I can use an antenna to get the other channels. I'm very, very close to actually doing it...maybe.

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  3. Sorry about this late comment, and you may have made your decision.

    I've cut cable years ago and I have Apple.TV in my house. Love it! Easy to use, and I use Ipad as a remote for my Apple.tv. I have Netflix only, since I'm not crazy about the current batch of TV programs.

    We have TWC and we use their premium 50 download and 10 upload for 55 a month, which is not too bad (looking forward to Google Fiber here in Charlotte). The reason for such a high upload is that I do much video conferencing at home. I already have Amazon Prime (neat extra--you can listen to full music albums on amazon prime at no cost--not every album is available).

    I watch ESPN online for all of their games: You just put in your TWC account and presto, free ESPN.

    Apple.tv and Roku 3 have the same "channels" and features. Apple.tv is more robust and simpler in my opinion.



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  4. Sorry about this late comment, and you may have made your decision.

    I've cut cable years ago and I have Apple.TV in my house. Love it! Easy to use, and I use Ipad as a remote for my Apple.tv. I have Netflix only, since I'm not crazy about the current batch of TV programs.

    We have TWC and we use their premium 50 download and 10 upload for 55 a month, which is not too bad (looking forward to Google Fiber here in Charlotte). The reason for such a high upload is that I do much video conferencing at home. I already have Amazon Prime (neat extra--you can listen to full music albums on amazon prime at no cost--not every album is available).

    I watch ESPN online for all of their games: You just put in your TWC account and presto, free ESPN.

    Apple.tv and Roku 3 have the same "channels" and features. Apple.tv is more robust and simpler in my opinion.



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    1. I did make my decision. TWC and I came to an agreement after they unbundled me, I bought my own modem and figured I would give it another year. I'm cutting the cord next year. I already know what I'll do. Going Roku 3 (4?), Sling TV and then probably getting Hulu.

      Sling TV has ESPN, but I can log-on to ESPN3 online by just having TWC with Internet? I was under the impression you needed an actual cable account with TWC. Is that not true?

      AppleTV may be a better option for us in a year. That's not a bad deal for 50 download. I'm looking forward to there just being more options here in Greensboro. I don't trust some of the options available here that aren't TWC.

      I know I'll love it once I cut the cable. It's just a matter of doing it.

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    2. To answer your question about ESPN3 with internet only, yes you can! You do not need cable access to use it! I've used it and so have other friends without cable. You will not get ESPN or ESPN 2 (watchESPN) unless you have cable subscription, but for ESPN 3 stuff (delayed version), you can watch it on line and on apple.tv or roku). This could change, but I recently watched some of the college bowls on ESPN 3 (in Dec granted), but could not get the Championship game on ESPN 3 :(

      Moral of story, take my experience with a grain of salt, since it's been a while since I've used ESPN 3...will try it tonight for baseball tonight and see if I can get it. Will let you know my result.

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    3. That's fantastic. It really changes my opinion of ESPN3 and cutting the cord b/c I can catch Duke games on ESPN3 I believe. Most of them. We are so close to cutting the cord and SlingTV is the reason. I can get ESPN and other stuff on it. That's nice. Plus, I'll get Roku 3. I just have to make sure all my ducks are in a row.

      By the way, I listened to Sound of Contact and liked it. I'm working on the other stuff now.

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    4. I checked out the watchespn.com to watch college baseball conference championships today, no go. :( There was a time when TWC allowed access without cable subscription (I believe Comcast and Verizon FiOS does this as well). Ugh, they are trying to nickel and dime us to death with add-ons as you said in your blog.

      They changed the website now and are using apps for espn viewing :(

      Hopefully soon you'll have more competition so you can cut the cord and watch whatever you wish to watch and pay for what you want. Good luck.

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    5. That's what I was afraid of happening. I wish it had not, but I guess there isn't anything else to do.

      So ESPN3 can't be used on Roku 3 w/o a TV subscription, which of course ruins the point. Of course, with SlingTV I think I would have access to ESPN3 and live ESPN as well. So that's good.

      Someday a provider will make this easy knowing they are losing customers otherwise.

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  5. My wife and I just got Apple TV and as someone who is in the same boat as you Ben wanting to get the live sports fix I would very much recommend it. The interface is very simple for Apple TV and should have everything you need for live sports. ESPN 3, NBC Sports, MLB TV etc,

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    1. I don't want to be a slave to Apple though! I have to rebel...but if it has those three networks then that takes care of a lot of my needs. That's especially true if I get an antenna to get local channels. Do you know if you need a cable subscription for ESPN3?

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