The Cord Has Been Cut

Earlier this month, I received an email from DirecTV thanking me for my 11 years as a customer.

Today, I called DirecTV and suspended my account.

I first talked about cutting the cord back in November, but I’ve dragged my feet since then. Some of my favorite shows were just winding down, the kids still watched a lot of television, and I was generally uncertain of how going solely online would work.

Then a friend sent me a Roku box for Xmas. After a little bit of experimenting, I finally disconnected the DirecTV receiver and replaced it with the Roku box to see if we missed having DirecTV at all.

So far it’s not been a problem. I started to turn on the local news before remembering it was gone, so I instead visited the websites for the local TV and newspapers and got the same information (and even some of the news video). My wife wanted to watch Castle and another network show, but she just went upstairs and watched them on our iMac. Even the kids haven’t been bothered by it at all, as they’re enjoying seeking out new movies and replaying their old favorites on Netflix.

Here’s another bonus: the kids love the Roku box. The remote is so simple our four-year-old daughter who can’t even read can navigate to Netflix and find the Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny covers in the Recently Watched section and watch them when she feels like it. The rest of the time her older brothers help her read other covers that catch her eye.

The first real snag came with tennis for the Wife. She doesn’t watch all the time, but she does like to catch the major tournaments. The Australian Open started this week and she worried she’d have to miss out. Then I learned ESPN3 carries streaming video from the tournament and is available on the Xbox 360. A few minutes of installing later, I had the first matches playing for her. Problem solved.

The Roku is now the key component of our entertainment center, streaming video from Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand. I’ve only used the latter once to check out the free pilot of FX’s Lights Out, but it worked well enough I intend to use it to catch my must-see shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. We used DirecTV’s streaming music from time to time, but have now replaced that with a Pandora channel on the Roku. We like Pandora even better for its customization options, and the Roku’s optical audio output still allows us to pipe the music straight to our stereo.

We’ve started to experiment with other channels, too. I can play a slideshow from my Flickr photostream, we get instant weather from a dedicated Weather Underground channel, and I discovered a UFC channel for purchasing live events. I’ve dipped into Crunchy Roll to browse Japanese television shows (Samurai dramas? Hells yes!), and CHOW taught us how to avoid looking like idiots at the sushi bar. There are sports channels, foreign channels, a chop-socky channel I’ll need to find, and a lot more.

I see two slight changes in our future: an over-the-air antenna and an upgrade to our broadband setup. The OTA antenna would be for the convenience of locals and network shows, but it isn’t a priority. My broadband connection is cable, though, and I’ve reduced the speed to save some money. It works fine for the most part, but getting some of that speed back may let us stream HD more consistently. I’m going to start by replacing my ancient wireless router with a newer, high-speed box to make sure it isn’t our bottleneck, but even if I both buy a router and bump up the speed of my package, I come out well ahead by dumping DirecTV.

Our viewing habits have changed already, too. Instead of surfing the same dozen channels over and over again and settling on whatever looked the least painful to watch, we’re finding movies and documentaries that we missed out on when they first aired or first hit theaters.

What? Programming that we actually want to watch instead of just settling for? Who’d have thunk it!

I’ve got six months to go back to DirecTV and get my original plan back, as well as continue with my free DVR service. Right now, though, I don’t see it happening.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

7 comments

  1. Troy says:

    I envy you as I proposed this to my wife when the discounted bundle with Comcast went bye-bye but alas, she does not see it my way….who’d of thunk it!

    On to Internet access….which wireless router do you recommend that will allow the best connection at the best price? Can you also set up your Xbox 360 to go wireless thru your router? I’m of the cables in the hallway that connect the router to the numerous Xboxes and computers in our house!

    Recs by you highly sought after and thanks,
    Troy

  2. Troy says:

    Tired of the cables in the hallway rather!

    • Mike says:

      Hey Troy,

      My wife was skeptical at first, but when I showed her all that was available, she was sold pretty quick. It helped that we don’t watch a lot of television, though. The kids easily do most of the TV watching at our place, and even then it’s worst in the winter.

      For a router, I’ve been very happy with the Apple AirPort Extremes I purchase at work. They have stronger radios, greater range, and more options than any of the other consumer-level wireless routers I’ve used. Of course, they cost about $100 more. You can get a Linksys that does wireless-n and still be in good shape, though. I like Linksys for the simple fact they’re the consumer-level of Cisco, the major network hardware provider.

      There’s a wireless adapter for the Xbox 360. You should be able to buy it at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or just about anywhere else that sells 360 accessories. Sometimes they come in bundles with headsets and Gold membership cards. It just hooks on to the back of the 360. Real easy to set up.

      Take care,
      Mike

  3. Kate Sherrod says:

    I cut the cord, oh, it must be five years ago now. At first I just relied on my local videostore, then I took out a giant (like eight discs at a time) Netflix subscription and never looked back. I’m a single-person household so my results weren’t typical but I loved 1. Always having something good to watch 2. Never watching crap just for the sake of watching something 3. No freaking commercials and 4. Cutting my bills by 80%.

    Now with the streaming services I’ve cut way back on discs so it’s even cheaper. I keep a digital rabbit ears for when the parents come to visit, though. They still gotta have their “news” (even though the broadcast news cycle is 3-4 days behind NPR and weeks behind Twitter on the good stuff). The digital rabbit ears are a whopping $20. I was glad to have them for the World Cup last summer… but then I found FootyFire.

    Snip!

    • Mike says:

      We’d probably have done it at least a year or so ago if it weren’t for the kids. We were convinced they’d have a tougher time without all the kids’ channels on DirecTV, and the Wife liked having the educational shows available for them, but really, they’ve been happy as can be with Netflix.

  4. Troy says:

    Thanks, Mike!

    Take care,
    Troy

  5. […] talked about cutting the cord in our home way back in January, and we haven’t looked back since. As of June, I cancelled […]