Cutting the cable: One year later

Posted by Xavier Hacking

In the summer of 2013 we made the decision to cancel our expensive cable subscription. We had it all: Around 100 channels from Holland, Germany, Belgium, UK and even some Spanish and Italian channels that nobody watches. Ten Discovery-like channels, several music channels, a bunch of 24/7 news channels and all the regular stuff. Of course I had the HD upgrade to watch everything in high quality. In addition we had the recorder feature upgrade, so we could pauze the broadcast and easily record shows.

Oh and I almost forgot the premium channels to watch my sports: Sport1 and FoxSports, so I could watch all mayor football matches in Holland and Europe live and finish the weekend on Sunday evening with the live broadcast of the final round of the PGA Tour Golf tournament of that week.

The Problem

Yes it was great. And a giant wast of time. And money. And focus.

So what did we actually watch? As many others we enjoy good television series. But, commercials are awful and most series are broadcasted way behind their USA release schedule. So we’d rather get the Blu-ray box and watch them that way. About the news: You can get way better news updates and opinions through the web, so that was already over for a long time. For music and radio we have Vevo, Spotify and YouTube. And for sports, all the games are viewable via the channel’s websites and apps. Only problem with that is that the quality is not really the best you can get.

The biggest problem was that we were watching things we didn’t need to watch. The TV was always on and sometimes we even kept switching channels until we found something viewable.

The alternatives

So as we discovered that regular television sucked overall, we went looking for alternatives and found them in Hulu Plus and Netflix. Hulu Plus has a majority of the main US television shows and covers recent (max 1 day delay) episodes. Netflix has complete series and a lot of movies. At that time Netflix and Hulu Plus weren’t available in The Netherlands, but there are of course ways around that (VPN and such). Hulu Plus is still US-only by the way.

Nowadays Netflix has also a Dutch version. Our current setup is that we have the Dutch Netflix on the PS4, and the USA Netflix on AppleTV since AppleTV is configured to use the VPN route. I’ll probably post a blog about this soon, but you can find info to do this on the web.

Without my cable subscription I still want to watch live games of my team. FoxSports has an iOS app that let’s you easily stream live video to AppleTV. Problem solved. As said before, the quality is good, but not HD. With the WWE Network app on AppleTV we can watch our weekly dose of pro-wrestling, so that’s also great.

The video streaming quality on all these AppleTV/PS4 apps is actually great. It doesn’t even use all the bandwidth on the Wifi so we can still use the internet without problems while watching a streaming show.

The Experience

We now only watch shows that are actually interesting. We aren’t bothered anymore with lame MSM news and political shows and simple RTL4/SBS6 entertainment. The Voetbal International talkshow (football) I now listen to in my car as a podcast instead of watching it live the evening before. Other Dutch programs are just not appealing anymore. Also I now only watch football games of my own team, instead of just turning the television on at 13.00h to watch Premier League teams all Saturday.

About the apps: They remember were we left of the last time we watched a series so we don’t miss a thing. Great! I can even start watching on the big screen, and finish the show on my iPad or Mac. The Netflix recommendations for shows we’d might like are okay but they are not there yet. Watching Bob the Builder with my nephew one Saturday morning lead to a screen full of kid shows that would be perfect for me, for weeks! Ugh.

The content libraries are huge. HUGE. We haven’t bought any Blu-rays of movies and series for over a year now and won’t do so anymore. Well, maybe the Star Wars 1-9 4k boxset in 10 years. Almost all movies and box sets we have are also available on Netflix. WWE Network offers all their PPV’s over the past 30 years and more. Enough things to watch.

First World Problems

Yes there has actually been one minor problem with this setup: Watching the World Cup 2014. I had to use the streams to watch some of the Holland games. They worked without problem, I could even choose which commentary I wanted to listen to. But streams are behind the broadcast over cable. Way behind. Sometimes even over a minute. So while the whole neighborhood was already loudly celebrating the goal (and we made a lot of them), I was still waiting for the goalkeeper to take a goal kick on the other side of the field hahaha. Very frustrating. Eventually I decided to buy a secondhand Digitenne device for €10 to watch these games over DVB-T. I haven’t used this thing since.

The conclusion

We are not going back to cable. Period. We now pay for the things we like to watch and nothing more. I have all monthly subscriptions, so we can cancel a service right away if the content library is not interesting anymore, but this is unlikely considering the over the top libraries. The apps are good, the quality of the streams are high and we are not being distracted with crappy shows and commercials anymore. - Nov 6, 2014 | Knowledge sharing, Lifehacking

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