Life without cable or satellite TV, a 1 year experiment

I’ve been thinking of ridding myself of cable and satellite TV for over 4 years. When I moved to Austin, TX a year ago, I thought it would be the perfect time to give it a try. Here were my requirements:

  • 100% legal
  • No cable, satellite, or antennas
  • Minimize DVD usage – I’ll have a DVD player hooked up, but I despise physical media

Here was my evolution of equipment/services and the learning from each setup:

  • Version 1: Apple TV, MacBook Pro connected to TV, Netflix subscription
    There were less wires and stuff for me to maintain. I didn’t have to worry about a DVR and scheduling things on time. Initial small list of shows we were watching was far less expensive on iTunes than what I was paying Comcast back in the Bay Area. However, episodes were not always delivered on time. Hey, I’m paying! Shouldn’t I get my content on time? Live streaming on sites like CNN for news and other time sensitive media was poor quality. Laptop to TV works, but it isn’t ideal for the living room – video cable across the floor is cumbersome and experience isn’t remote control based.
  • Version 2: Apple TV, MacBook Pro connected to TV, Netflix subscription, antenna for OTA broadcasts
    I realized news and other time sensitive media access was poor, so I hooked up an antenna to my HDTV. Damn, I already broke one of my requirements. Tried Boxee on Apple TV – Cool software, but Hulu management is clueless.
  • Version 3: Apple TV, MacBook Pro connected to TV, Roku box for Netflix streaming, antenna for OTA broadcasts
    As a result of trying to minimize dealing with DVDs, I added a Roku box for Netflix streaming. Yes, I could use the laptop connected to the TV, but this solution seemed more elegant.
  • Version 4: Apple TV, MacBook Pro connected to TV, Roku box for Netflix streaming, antenna for OTA broadcasts, Tivo
    Wow, I realized that shows from the big networks are expensive! Since I had a lifetime subscription Tivo, I decided to hook it up to record the shows on OTA channels.
  • (Desired) Version 5: Nothing

    Netflix – I’m disappointed with recent developments at Netflix. See these articles about Disney blocking content and Warner Bros delaying new releases.

    Streaming shows are still a mess – low quality and many have weird advertisement integration. I recommend that content providers simply embed ads throughout the stream – no strange pop-ups, pop-unders, or redirects. MTV, your ad server is crap. It constantly fails. And if you’re going to get an exclusive sponsor for a show, that’s fine, so long as it’s not the same exact commercial. Seeing the same commercial 10 times in an hour doesn’t work. Seeing a series of 10 commercials from the same advertiser would be an amazing advertising opportunity.

    Tivo – There is nothing really wrong with the Tivo, unless you consider the redundant recording of the same show millions of times a problem. Scheduling conflicts can be irritating.

    Apple TV/iTunes – Content providers don’t upload shows on time – way too many spoilers on social media to avoid. If I’m paying $40 or $50 for a season of a show, shouldn’t I get priority access? I doubt if they are making that kind of money from ad revenue per TV viewer. Also, the catalog isn’t that comprehensive. Lots of great long-tail shows aren’t available.

So after this 1-year experiment, I haven’t found a great new way to receive media. However, I have broken my dependency on TV. If it weren’t for my wife, I’d just throw it all out.

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