From My Cold, Dead Hands

Here’s something I never, ever thought I’d say: we are considering cancelling our satellite TV.

I love TV, it’s…well, I was going to say my only vice, but I don’t want to invite a chorus of comments pointing out my other vices, so let’s just say it’s my biggest vice. It’s how I relax, it’s how I keep in touch with the world, it’s how I birth new fantasies of dinner parties featuring Ken Jennings and Dr. Joan Watson and Eli Gold and Jeff Probst.

Last year, we got Netflix, mostly because Sir Monkeypants and I, once avid movie goers, hadn’t been to the theatre in years, and we thought it would help us catch up a bit, plus we both really wanted to watch Orange is the New Black. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, but having Netflix has really changed our whole family, in that we are now addicted to the concept of the Binge Watch. The kids are working their way through old seasons of Star Trek, Drake and Josh, and every animated superhero show ever made, while Sir Monkeypants and I are digging through The 100 and Sherlock and House of Cards. It’s so immediate and thrilling and a totally different experience to be able to watch the whole series within a short period of time, as much as you want with no waiting.

Side note: I read (okay – I saw a headline) for an article going around Facebook last week that claimed that the immediacy of Netflix is ruining our children’s ability to wait for stuff. I am worried about this, yet they will pry Netflix from my cold, dead hands. Thoughts?

Second side note: Watching Netflix like this has me wondering if we are raising a generation that won’t have a common pop culture platform to share. Like, know how you can find someone at a party that’s exactly the same age as you, and they the the exact same memories of running to put on their PJs during commercials of Charlie’s Angels and The A-Team, and watching G-Force and Spider-Man And Friends on Saturday mornings, and knowing all the words to the Growing Pains theme song? That kind of thing might be gone now, because my kids know everything there is to know about Drake and Josh and iCarly, but they are technically just outside their age range because they’ve been off the regular airwaves for several years. And now that we have access to old TV shows and movies in a way we never did before, their pop culture education is such a mish mash of stuff that WE loved as kids, and WE want to watch, as opposed to natural discoveries in their own time. Possible PhD dissertation? Discuss.

So! Back to TV. Friends of ours got a digital TV antenna, and with this antenna, which cost them perhaps $125, they get all the major local stations, in HD, just over the air. NO ONGOING COSTS. With these major local stations, they get just about all the major network shows.

We’re currently paying over $80 a month to Bell for our satellite, which, thanks to Netflix, we are now only watching half the time, at best. Sir Monkeypants and I watch perhaps four network shows on a regular basis, and we would continue to get all these with an antenna.

We’d be giving up TSN and some other live sports; my beloved Game Show Network; and a bunch of kids’ channels, like Disney X D and YTV.


For the last month or so, we’ve been recording our daily TV watching to try to determine just how often we watch these alternate channels, and we’ve also been trying to redirect the kids’ interest away from Disney X D to Netflix programming, with mixed success. But overall I would have to say…it is looking good.

One potential problem is that giving up satellite means no PVR, which is my love and lifeblood, but there’s a company right here in Ottawa that makes PVRs for antennas or something (Sir Monkeypants is the tech guy around here), and said company is physically located about three minutes from my house, so we can picket them if we run into problems.

So…TEMPTING. The idea of being totally free from Bell AND Rogers seems like some kind of crazy 21st century fantasy.

Do you think you’d ever walk away from cable?

18 thoughts on “From My Cold, Dead Hands

    1. Agreed – for us adults, at least, sports is the biggest hurdle. But we’d still get most of the football and hockey games we’re interested in, as well as stuff like figure skating and curling on CBC. We’re currently looking into stuff like live streaming from the internet – we already have an apple TV and a chromecast, both of which allows us to take internet streaming stuff and throw it up on the TV easily, with pretty good quality. Plus…there’s always the pub! I’d miss the sports, but I’m not sure I’d miss it $80 a month worth.

  1. Totally want to cut cable / satellite! Absolutely. And my kids only watch Netflix. It’s just my husband – and RUGBY. Rugby is only available on the most expensive of specialty channels which, in itself, I don’t have a problem with. He DEFINITELY gets $20 worth of enjoyment / month out of watching rugby so I’m good with paying that. It’s the $70 minimum of complete junk you have to pay for just to qualify to pay for the rugby that makes me angry; because you can’t just buy the rugby channel.

    The music industry, the publishing industry, the tv industry – some are learning more than others, and some are learning the hard way, that people don’t like to be forced to pay for things they don’t want. IMHO, Bell would be better off letting us pay $20 / month for rugby, which we would do in perpetuity, than losing all of our money forever (which is what will happen when I finally wear my husband down to cut our satellite).

    However, they still think they can have their cake and eat it too. The more people who cut satellite and cable, the less they may believe that.

    And, btw, the CRTC has to take some blame in all this too … not leaving them off the hook.

  2. This is an interesting and timely debate since we are moving out tomorrow and are leaving the cable behind. I like AMC and other cable tv programs in the higher channel ranges (I religiously watch the Walking Dead) and yes, TSN would be sorely missed, but we have discussed that once we move back to the house post-reno we may go the satellite antenna way and forget about Rogers and Bell. Has anyone written about this in a post that I can link to?

  3. We haven’t had cable tv for years now and don’t miss it. We use Netflix. You get used to it. My kids will never have that – watching the same shows at the same time as their friends. Their “you know you were born in the 2000s” will be a little different than the 70s, 80s, 90s. Their shared experience will be that they could watch whatever whenever. Interesting.

  4. smothermother

    we cut cable 4 or 5 yrs ago. sometimes I miss just flicking through mindless tv. but with Netflix and downloading we really don’t miss that much. for sports, the hubby buys the streaming packages. even at $125 for the NHL one, it’s a heck of a lot less than the $80+ a month we were paying for cable, plus the leafs games aren’t blacked out. during the Olympics the live streaming was really good. but now I am really interested in looking into a digital antenna. I wonder if I know anyone with one to try out. hmmm…

  5. I’m like you, I think (minus the reality tv addiction) – I love TV indecently and ashamedly, and even with Netflix I could never see cutting the cable, and I adore my PVR. But lately I find it takes me so long to watch stuff that I could probably just wait until it hits Netflix anyway – and I never just sit down to see what’s on, I only ever watch recorded stuff, so Netflix should suffice. We’d have to figure out the sports thing for the boys, but I’m sure that could be done more economically.

    I agree that binge watching removes some of the tv-watching experience we had, but I think it also means you get more out of a show. When I rewatched Buffy on Netflix I couldn’t believe all the small details and recurring characters I had missed by watching it week to week with long breaks over summers and holidays.

  6. We’ve been talking about ditching satellite once we get some internet sorted out for us.We watch more “TV” on dvd then we do actual real time TV. Binge watching for the win. We borrow whole seasons of shows from the library.

    I read the article about Netflix and delayed gratification and while there was some truth to it in theory, I think it’s like most “alarmist parenting articles” (in my humble opinion anyway, for whatever it’s worth) in that it makes it seem like Netflix is the only influence in a kids life. Sure they can turn it on and watch whatever they want, whenever they want….. in theory. I, as the parent, get to decide what is a reasonable amount of screen time. My kids, and I’m sure yours are no different, do not get whatever they want whenever want it. They’d love to eat out far more than they do, have every toy they cross paths with, have more visits with out of town relatives and so on. There is plenty in life that lends itself to delayed gratification… unless you’re one of those “snow plow parents” (another parenting article making the facebook rounds this week).

    As for the pop culture angle, I think this allows kids to find what appeals to them, not just something to watch because everyone else of their generation is watching it. I mean it’s well documented that Mike didn’t see any of the movies he should have as a child of the 70’s, but he turned out pretty okay. There will be plenty of pop culture to be found for our kids I think (silly bandz, anyone?) maybe just not so much TV based, but there will probably more app based. Just think, if not for NetFlix, your kids might have missed iCarly all together. Anybody feel like spaghetti tacos?

  7. I disagree that the Netflix/binge-watching culture is hurting our children’s ability to wait for things. I hate waiting (whether it’s a half second for a page to load or a week to watch the next episode). I hate, hate, hate waiting when there’s no good reason for the wait. Media is on-demand now and that’s the way it always should have been; the fact that it wasn’t in its infancy is just a technical artifact. There are some things that unavoidably must be waited for, and anyone can learn to wait for them if it’s important to them; if they lose interest because they can’t wait, well, it wasn’t that important then.

    I also don’t think your pop-culture argument holds water — like so many other things, it is unarguably different for the younger generation, but not better or worse; what makes culture so interesting is that it is changing and unpredictable, and that’s just as true of the culture of youth as it is of the pop culture you seem to think they’re missing out on.

  8. As far as cutting the cord goes, we did it a few years ago and have never looked back. We pay $8/month each for Netflix streaming and Hulu+, and there’s more than enough content (old and new) to keep us happy. We also have an antenna for OTA content, along with a PC running Windows Media Center if we want to record any broadcast content.

    I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect solution; there are definitely things that we’ve had to miss out on or (ahem) acquire by other means, but I’m OK with that if it’s not too frequent. Cable/satellite prices are indeed ridiculous; I completely agree with Tudor that the various media industries are gradually learning to adapt to the digital world, and definitely the cable industry is pretty far behind. Regardless, whatever we miss out on is worth the money we save, not to mention not having to support some of the most-hated companies in North America (Comcast and Rogers, I’m looking at you).

  9. Oh, I say walk away. We watch games online, Netflix, youtube channels and station shows. There’s so much available. My husband does watch sports online, so there must be a way. Things are changing fast, I reckon more and more will be jumping to online only.

  10. Oh, I say walk away. We watch games online, Netflix, youtube channels and station shows. There’s so much available. My husband does watch sports online, so there must be a way. Things are changing fast, I reckon more and more will be jumping to online only.

  11. Question: do you have unlimited data? If we watch two or three netflix movies or shows in a month, we come precariously close to our limit, which puts a damper on the whole binge watching thing. We have the full-on cable package with rogers for the sake of about half a dozen channels we actually watch, which drives me crazy. If there were a way to keep only those and not be forever worried about overusing netflix, I’d be all over it! (And I’m feeling very out of touch technically speaking because I don’t even know what some of these words you all are using mean!)

  12. I haven’t had cable in at least seven years. We had Netflix for about a year, and really enjoyed it, but we suspended our account last spring. We spend most of the spring and summer outside so we watch very little TV. We were sure we would reactivate Netflix this winter, but we’re not really missing it so we haven’t yet. We have rabbit ears so we get CBC, CTV, and two or three other channels. Otherwise, anything we want to watch we do online, or we watch our own DVDs. My husband is pretty sure he’s figured out how to wire the computer to the TV so we can watch stuff online while sitting comfortably on the couch in the living room. We’ll see if that works out. 🙂

    I had cable many years ago and loved Turner Classic Movies. I still wish I could subscribe to just this one channel, but I borrow classic movies from the library all the time, so that helps. To be honest, I can’t imagine paying close to $100 a month for cable. People say things like “I can’t live without my PVR,” but you’d be surprised how well you can adapt if you try. Good luck!

    1. I agree – what I wouldn’t give to be able to subscribe to individual channels on a pick and choose basis. I’d even pay quite a premium – $10 per month for some channels that I actually watch, which would add up to less than the $80 a month we’re required to pay to get all the channels we want in a package.

      I’m really heartened to hear you watch so much stuff online. It’s a new age!

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