Life without TV

The other day, I got the cable bill in the mail. Like so many Americans, I bundled cable, internet and phone together into one gargantuan package that I justified because “Cable is only a little more than internet alone, and I cannot live without internet.” But this cable bill was a little different. Like 100% different. It was within a few dollars of double what it usually was. Apparently the two year contract had expired and this was my new price.

SURPRISE!

I, of course, called the cable company and said “no way, what can you do for me”. Comcast generously offered to only increase the bill by $80 instead of $100. Thanks, guys. But no.

So I called Verizon and negotiated their three way package for roughly the same price I’d previously been paying at Comcast. I took time on a Saturday to return all the stuff to Comcast in person. (Thanks for making that so easy Comcast… not.) And we were all set. Right?

Except we were really annoyed by Verizon. The UI on their menu was between bad and appalling. There didn’t seem to be anything on. It all just seemed like the same thing we’d had before, but lamer. And I took a close look at that $130 bill. Was it really, after all, that necessary? I mean, we don’t watch that much tv. We already have Netflix. We already have Amazon Prime. We have a ton of kid’s DVDs. Once you net out all the things available that way, how much is really left that we’re paying for? The answer is: Red Sox baseball, Patriot’s football, Nick Jr. and the Macy’s Parade. The difference between the triple pay package and just internet service is $60. As much as I love baseball… that’s like $1460 over the period of a two year contract.

So in our “30 day satisfaction period” we cancelled our cable service. (Note: Verizon sends postage paid boxes. Much more convenient than Comcast!) Then we bought a Roku. For $100 one time, we now have a device designed to stream digital media to our tv. It has a beautiful interface and about 10 buttons. We bought a nice version for our big tv, and connected our two ancillary tvs (guest room and laundry room) with less expensive versions that cost about $50 each. So for $200 one time, we just enabled all our tvs with massive amounts of content. This is particularly nice since with Comcast we were paying roughly $10/month to have tv in the laundry room. With Verizon, it was only $5/month, but there was no guide. It’s amazing how spoiled we are since my childhood – it was difficult to operate the tv without a guide! So at $60/month, the ROI on the Rokus is just over three months.

Going back to the “what we can’t get online” list, in order to get the Macy’s parade (or the news, for example), we would probably need to get an antenna and digital converter. I’m not sure we’ll do this since we watch very little network tv, the antenna sounds like a bit of a pain, and we’re not missing much.

However, when it comes to live sports, I’m SOL. We’d originally thought that my existing MLB subscription would permit me to get baseball. But for me Red Sox games are blacked out with MLB tv (which I’d be able to stream through the Roku as well). NFL is similarly locked down, or maybe worse. So I have a choice: cobble together my sports hobby through radio and strategically getting invited to friend’s house (more plausible for football than baseball), just stop caring very much about the local teams (I’m so time crunched this might be a viable solution), or spend $60 a month on cable. For a long time I’ve made that latter decision. But as the other media choices have gotten richer and richer, it feels increasingly extortionate and the number of things I truly want cable for is down to those two: the Pats and the Sox. It’s just not enough.

So what am I watching on the Roku these days? Adam and I have gotten into Burn Notice. It is a fun spy-thriller, with a mostly off-screen body count and amusing mixture of plots and subplots. Well acted, well written, and there are about 60 hour-long episodes on Netflix. That’s like my tv watching for a year. It is so convenient. I can pick up an in-progress episode on any of the three tvs. Or, alternately, watch it on the iPad while travelling or upstairs in the bedroom. (Heck, the Roku is so tiny we actually brought it with us to DC in case we had extra time at night while the boys were asleep. They made sure this didn’t happen by going to sleep at 10 each night, but it was a possibility!)

Finally, I figured that while I could go BACK to cable any time my yearning for a Sox broadcast got that powerful, the cable companies lock you into two year contracts. This was my chance to go cable-free and see how good or bad it was, without commitment.

So how about you? Do you have cable? If so, have you ever thought of giving it up? If you don’t, what do you miss and how do you get around it?

Wrapping up the unwrapping

I have trouble finding online time when I need to take care of both boys (and not at work). Finding it while my parents were here and wacky hijinks were ensuing? Not so much.

To sum up:
*Christmas was really wonderful. I got an embarrassing proportion of the goodies.
*The after-Christmas clothes shopping was amazing. I got, uh, 4 really nice-looking sweaters (in a nice, washable fabric), 3 jeans that fit the me I am right now, a really nice skirt, a sporty (but cold) shirt, and three pairs of fun tights for much, much less money than you’d expect.
*I have now finally been to Cape Cod — all the way to P-town. I am happy to report that it’s cold. And windy.
*The living room has been repainted. It looks much better, but I’m no longer convinced it was the right color of cream. Also, the ceiling really needs to be redone, I think.
*And what goes better in a newly repainted living room than a SWEET big-screen tv, with a bonus $250 unexpected rebate due to my previous switch to Comcast? (FTW!)
*Thane is the sweetest, most kissable, best-sleeping baby in the world.
*Grey is like a barrel o’ monkeys — tons of fun with an astonishing amount of energy.
*I’m really a good cook. All the meals I made came out well, and I made a lot of tasty meals.
*I really like Avatar. It’s nice to have a tv show I’m enjoying watching with la famiglia.
*I will miss my family greatly. Sniff sniff. Imagine having to do my own dishes? And whole hours will pass without puns!
*On the other hand, it is sort of nice to have some quiet. That was in short supply with the number of adults extant more than doubled.

I’m a happy woman.

Verizon vs Comcast

While my brother was here, two Comcast guys came to my door. I let them in because I’d actually seen them working on the phone poles lately, so I knew they were legitimate. I pretty much never buy or pay attention to solicitations. That serves me well in some ways (I’m hard to scam) but it makes it difficult for me to find out about legitimate opportunities.

We currently have Verizon FIOS for tv and internet. I’ve been relatively satisfied with it. We have the super duper upload speeds, and a standard tv package and two receivers, which cost us about $111 a month. The Comcast guys were offering better download/upload speeds (likely over the same wires), a land line phone with voice mail, caller ID, call waiting and unlimited long distance (which I wanted and was thwarted getting with Verizon), Starz, Encore, more free On Demand, the first month free, free installation and activation, a one year price guarantee and no contract. The kicker was the free DVR. Oh, and the cost per month would be $95.

I haven’t heard great things about Comcast’s customer service, but that was too good to pass up. So we took it.

The Comcast installation dude was here exactly on time the day he was supposed to be. (Don’t get me started on the rigmarole that was adding the second Verizon receiver, which resulted in me having to take an extra vacation day.) He was professional and thorough. He added phone lines to all the floors of my house. He paid attention to the aesthetics of the installation. He was very polite and quite nice to Grey (who was very sad when he was gone when Grey woke up!) He was here for like 4 hours, but did very nice work. He even set up our wireless router.

The upshot? The internet is working pretty much the same. And I’m very excited about the DVR! I feel like I’m finally entering the 21st century! I can pause! Record! Rewind! Fast forward! SO EXCITING!

Apparently our entire neighborhood is converting. My next door neighbor has the trucks out in front today.

Check that out — an entire post that wasn’t about parenting!

(Waves to the people who are responsible for surfing the web to find out what “the blogosphere” is saying about their company. Well, I kind of hope my blog is sufficiently visible for those folks to find me.)