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. His Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Deadliest of the Species, was just reprinted by Evileye Books.