A Farewell to Cable

Philip HarrisChatter, TelevisionLeave a Comment

This morning, a friendly Shaw Cable technician picked up our DVRs, so now we’ve officially cut the cable. Or rather we’ve cut one of the dozens of cables that connect us to reality.

The decision to drop cable often comes from the realisation that it’s possible to download most content for “free”. That switch to a life of digital thievery is usually accompanied by a whole host of justifications as to why it’s okay.


That’s not how I work. As someone whose livelihood comes from people paying for entertainment that they could, at least in theory, steal, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to not pay for my own entertainment.

But… there’s so much good television available at the moment – True Detective, Game of Thrones, Broadchurch, The Walking Dead, Hannibal, and lighter shows like Supernatural and The Big Bang Theory. But there’s a lot of crap too – sometimes every channel seems to be a stream of reality TV and endless variations on American Idol.

When we looked at our viewing habits, there are really only a handful of shows that we really care about.  All of those shows are available for purchase from iTunes as soon as they’re shown on TV. Dropping cable has reduced our Shaw bill by over $100 a month (and that’s not including the HBO subscription we’d need for Game of Thrones). That means we could buy a couple of shows digitally every month and still end up ahead. Throw Netflix and the new Canadian competitors (Shomi and Crave.TV) into the mix and there’s really no reason to have all those channels available 24/7 just so that we can watch 4-5 hours of TV a week.

So, this week we ran the numbers and made the switch.

And it’s oddly liberating – not having the DVR sitting there under the television, constantly reminding us that there are a dozen or so programmes sitting on it we haven’t watched, not being able to turn the TV out of habit. And we’ve freed up an HDMI slot for our PS4.

I’d love to see the numbers for people dropping cable and opting for Netflix and its cousins or just buying everything digitally. It certainly feels like the days of paying for dozens of channels are numbered. As Amazon and Netflix have shown, the current generation expects to get the TV they want on their schedule. We’re certainly happy with our single Netflix Channel and iTunes and we’re part of a generation that grew up without digital downloads of anything. At one point, even buying a VHS video was an impossible dream – they cost hundreds and could only be rented. If we’ve embraced this new world of convenience then I’m sure there are plenty of other people doing the same.

The Canadian cable companies seem to be tackling the problem by creating their own Netflix-alikes. It’s early days and the selections are limited but give it a year or two and I can see them giving Netflix a run for its money. The frustrating thing there is that each company is fighting for customers by snagging exclusives. Pretty soon, hard core TV viewers are going to need all the streaming services to get all the shows they like and that could end up costing them more than cable itself.

The question is, what does all this mean for regularly scheduled television? Is it going the way of the dodo or will someone find a way to balance the two options?

Who knows?

Me, I’ll be enjoying life without cable. I’m already finding myself firing up my Kindle instead of automatically turning on a random TV show. Given the number of ebooks I own, that can only be a good thing.


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[A Farewell to Cable by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 12th March 2015]

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