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Why Golf Channel, TSN and traditional cable are worth my $40 per month

Cutting cable

Alright, I get it.  Paying for cable is foolish because Over-The-Air (OTA) TV, subscribing to Netflix or using other online service providers to get content on your TV is fun, cool and less expensive than cable.  I can’t tell you how many blogposts and news articles I’ve read over the last couple of years that provide how-to-instructions and compelling “whys” for cutting the cable cord, largely for financial reasons.  Before I slam those arguments entirely, let’s review the benefits presented in some of those articles, things I agree with to a point:

  • You (may) spend less time in front of the TV,
  • You have better on-demand entertainment, and
  • You pay only for the services you use.

The problems with generalizations are…they are generalizations.  Here are my specific reasons why (for now) I’m willing to spend $40 per month more money for traditional cable TV services beyond alternative services.

You (may) spend less time in front of the TV

Who says?  I watch TV when I want and I only feel compelled to watch my favourite TV shows when they air.  If I miss something so be it.  I will either use my PVR to record a show in advance or just suck it up to a missed opportunity. Netflix wouldn’t change that paradigm for me.

You have better on-demand entertainment

Who says?  If you love watching many TV shows then I could see that.  I suppose many people enjoy sitting on the couch watching marathons of their favourite shows or entire seasons of TV shows but that’s not me or how I live.  Furthermore, my favourite type of on-demand TV is live TV; as in sporting events.  I can just imagine the sheer thrill of watching the U.S. Open golf championship or any other sporting event I see on the Golf Channel, TSN and other stations when I already know the outcome.  Missing live sporting events on TV is one of the biggest downsides I see to cutting the cable cord.  As more live sporting events are online, I will definitely reconsider my position.

You pay only for the services you use

Netflix will cost you about $10 per month and that’s for limited programming.  So, for limited services you pay limited fees – you get what you pay for.  Don’t forget though, there are on-going operational costs associated with Netflix.  For example, you need some major internet bandwidth for Netflix and other online services; increasing your download and upload thresholds, and usage allowance costs money folks.  Beyond Netflix, maybe you want to use Roku or Hulu for entertainment.  There are some start-up costs you need to think about with those services.  Then there’s Apple TV.  Streaming videos, movies and shows from iTunes is great, and the AirPlay stuff sounds cool but if you don’t have other Apple products, well, you don’t have Apple products.

Closing arguments

Personally, I can count on two hands the number of cable channels I watch on a regular basis, two of them being Golf Channel and TSN (much to my wife’s exuberance I might add).  I don’t need 300 channels in my cable box and I don’t want to pay for them either.  This is where my main beef with telcos exist.  Unfortunately for many Canadian consumers, the cable companies haven’t got their act together yet to offer better pricing options to retain valued customers.  I hope those days are coming.  (I’d like to hear from Rogers, Bell, Shaw and others on this subject).  In the meantime though I’m going to keep my cable package until renewal time comes or more live sports can be obtained online.  Getting rid of cable doesn’t make sense for everyone as much as many frugal bloggers and anti-telco industry experts might think.

Cutting the cable cord might very well be the right thing to do for many households.  Major consumer debt would be a good reason.  However, if you enjoy cable TV, the convenience of it and you can save money in other areas of your financial future self then don’t be so quick to cut the cable cord.  I’ve calculated I’m currently paying about $40 more per month over some alternatives listed above when you consider the increased internet costs and start-up costs.  I’m sure I can find my $40 per month or $10 per week savings elsewhere if I look.

Personal finance decisions are personal for a reason and although there are some good options out there and interesting rules of thumb to follow you don’t always have to follow the crowd.

Have you cut the cable cord?  If so, how much are you saving over traditional cable services?  What are you using those savings for?

Are you considering cutting the cable cord anytime soon following hundreds of thousands of other Canadians over the last year?

Filed in: Saving, Spending

31 Responses to "Why Golf Channel, TSN and traditional cable are worth my $40 per month"

  1. Bryan says:

    I recently moved into a new home and so I have Rogers services free for 6 months (Cable, Internet, and home phone which isn’t even hooked up) but prior to that I had the setup I describe below, and will be going back to it, perhaps with 1 addition, once my 6 months free expire in January.
    1. Internet through Acanac. They use Rogers lines (like Tek-Savvy which is also a good alternative I hear) and you get unlimited internet. This eliminates the bandwidth issue. I had it for a year, never had poor service or have it cut out. The only catch is that you pay for a year upfront.
    2. Watch my shows on ctv.ca, citytv.ca, etc. I don’t watch too many shows, and the ones I do are up the next day on the carriers’ websites. For free. For specialty shows from HBO or others, I would download them. I also have a hookup for my computer to connect to my tv through an HDMI cable, which makes the experience the same as normal cable.
    3. Stream sports live through websites. Maybe not the most “ethical” way to watch sports, but this is how to do it if you don’t have cable. I readily admit the quality is sometimes less than Standard Def, but again, it’s free.
    *4. The addition I may make in the future would be an HD antenna. I have seen the quality and it is 1080P-esque. Very limited channels though, and worse if you are outside an urban area.
    When I switch back to my plan, the only cost I will have is internet, but with no worries of going over my bandwidth, I know exactly what the cost is each and every month. The antenna can vary from $20-200 depending on quality, plus installation if you aren’t too handy, or don’t want to youtube it to learn how.
    I certainly am enjoying my PVR, and HD sports on cable right now, but the savings are worth the the sometimes lower quality. I do suggest though, if you are sticking with Rogers or Bell, call them every 6-12 months and see if you can get a better deal. I hear it works quite often if you ask, and also tell them what you could get from a competitor.

    • Great comments Bryan.

      I know of a few people who use TekSavvy and they like it. We like HBO shows like True Blood, used to watch Dexter, and others, so that’s a nice perk. Do we need it? No, but it fits our lifestyle and we’re willing to pay for that entertainment.

      The addition I might get is the HD antenna as well. I think we’ll get 5-7 channels in our area, that’s it.

      The PVR is nice but it’s really the sports why we keep cable.

      As for the retention call, I’ll be making that in another 6 months :)

      • att0m says:

        There is no such thing as an HD antenna. All channels are broadcast over UHF with the exception of 1 or 2 VHF channels. Any UHF antenna will receive the network broadcasts. Most people around Lake Ontario can receive 15-20 channels using the right antenna. Hope this helps.

        • Thanks for your comment, it did help.

          I’m not sure I can get 15-20 UHF channels in the south of Ottawa. There are towers a few kms away, just not sure what they will pick up. OTA range is max, about 150km so I might not get many U.S. channels in Ottawa.

          • Cee says:

            I’m a bit late to this but in suburban Ottawa (near Baseline Rd) I can get 8 channels with a pair of rabbit ears on my TV – 4 english, 4 french. If I were in a tower than might stretch to 10. What I cannot receive at all are the American stations.

            In rural areas further south, near Smiths Falls, with an antenna attached to the House, you can pick up the main english stations (CBC, CTV, Global, TVO) and the American stations out of Watertown but nothing out of Quebec.

          • Not late at all Cee! Yeah, it’s the American stations I would like. Not too worried about CBC and #HNIC on Saturday nights :) Thanks for your comment Cee. Always good to read about different perspectives.

  2. Liquid says:

    I’ve never had cable so I don’t miss it. The only time in my life when I did have cable was when I was younger and living with my parents lol, but back then I didn’t have to pay for it. For your household it appears having those channels make sense, but I don’t watch a lot of golf or other sports regularly so just catching the highlights on the evening news is good enough for me :) The good thing is most shows I like to watch are already free online from the television network’s websites like city, cbc, slice, etc. At $40 a month, I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years so far, which I’ve used to buy some stocks in Bell, Rogers, and Telus with a 4.5% average dividend, which makes me over $100 of passive every year! :) I can’t speak for the telcos but I think if they didn’t bundle the lame channels with the good ones like TSN then we’d all be left with just the popular channels over time, and maybe the CRTC mandates specific quotas like there needs to be a certain ratio of Canadian vs American broadcasters in those packages, etc.

    • Yeah, I love my sports. Just ask my wife :)

      At $40 per month, give or take you’re right…that’s about $5,000 saved over 10 years. Not a trivial amount of money saved.

      I hope they come out with better cable options but if not, I’m probably looking at dropping cable at some point. It’s becoming too expensive.

      Thanks for the great comment Liquid.

  3. Robb says:

    We have satellite through Bell and pay about $45 per month for the middle of the road package. Then I add Sunday Ticket (the only way to watch the Browns play every week) in the fall and that costs about $170 ($10 per week). In April we add HBO so we can watch Game of Thrones, then cancel in June when the season is over. That’s an extra $20 per month. Spread it out over the year and we pay about $65 per month for cable.

    We just tried Netflix through their month-long free trial and thought it was ok. We’ll keep it for a while so we can finish watching Breaking Bad, but I’m sure I could get those seasons for free at the library. Not that impressive, though.

    All in all, cable is pretty cheap entertainment for us.

    • Nothing wrong with middle of the road package. I think it all depends how you want to live. Some people don’t watch very much TV to begin with and don’t enjoy live sports. Others, only love movies. I think this is very much a lifestyle choice.

      I can’t believe you add Sunday Ticket to watch Cleveland. I suppose that’s the only good thing about Cleveland – they have a football team? :)

      We have HBO for a few months for GOT, True Blood and others. It’s nice having the most current episodes on TV and not renting or waiting for them. Do we need that? No. Do we like it? Yes.

      Honestly, if it wasn’t for TSN and Golf Channel, and maybe some new HGTV shows for my wife. The cable would be gone. It might be gone anyhow..

      Thanks for the detailed comment Robb.

  4. Rob says:

    Have you tried going without cable?

    I was initially skeptical about moving from a premium cable package to basic cable, which we did when we moved. I grew up on cable! It was how I lived!

    Then I was very skeptical about cancelling cable, which we did after not replacing the TV.

    Now my wife and I watch at most 1/2 hour of streaming TV shows a day on our laptop, and usually closer to 1/2 hour a week. It is amazing the amount of time we have freed ourselves from wasting in front of a TV to focus time on things we choose to do instead of getting sucked into watching shows we didn’t intend to.

    Yes, sometimes I do miss having a large TV and cable, but definitely not enough to warrant the cost savings or the additional free time. I wouldn’t have known had I not been willing to give it a shot.

    I’m not saying that you should decide NOT to have cable, but try giving the alternative a shot for a month or two. Maybe you’ll save enough to attend more live games?

    • You know what Rob, I have not tried.

      Maybe I should?

      So, you have confirmed point #1 in my post. More free time. I usually use the TV as background noise.

      You have a point about “not knowing until I try”. Maybe I will in a few months, just to see how much I miss it.

      Thanks for the detailed comment!

    • Robb says:

      @Rob – What are you doing with this “amazing amount of free time”? Our kids are in bed by 7:30pm, so we’re basically prisoners in our own home. I started a blog and do some freelance writing at night, but still manage to watch a few shows without it feeling like a time suck. And at $2 a day, I can’t think of much cheaper entertainment.

      • I’ve never had cable since I moved out of my parent’s house about 10 years ago. I now watch more TV than I ever have. I won’t say cable doesn’t make sense for some people but you really can get by without it and still watch almost everything you would have otherwise. It has gotten easier over the years as I used to just rent movies and TV series and mail order them via Zip.ca. Even though I’m a software developer and tech savvy, I never wanted to pirate stuff so I’ve always found legal cheap alternatives.

        Since then it’s gotten better and better now to the point where I don’t miss out on anything that I want to see. I first wrote about all the free alternatives to cable in Canada in 2010 before most bloggers were talking about it:
        http://www.howtosavemoney.ca/Services/TV/FreeInternetTv

        Sports are increasingly becoming accessible online too. I don’t know the situation that well because I’m not an avid sports fan. However, I do know that live Hockey is available via CBC and I have watched the olympics for many years online. As far as basketball, golf, and football go, I’m not really sure.

        In Atlantic Canada, I’ve always had unlimited high-speed bandwidth, so that’s never been an issue. I also wrote a guest post on Young And Thrifty years ago about home theater PCs which I find more convenient than plugging and unplugging a laptop all the time:
        http://youngandthrifty.ca/home-theater-pcs-a-cost-effective-way-to-save-money/

  5. Matt says:

    The only reason that Cable Companies and Telco companies (not the same fyi) have not changed to a more flexible format as far as paying for only the channels that you want is because it is a regulated industry and the internet, of course, (and thank goodness) is not.
    So if you want Bell, Telus, Rogers etc to be able to offer their customers more flexible selection of programming, then you need to contact your MP to ask them to crap the CRTC.

  6. Dave says:

    Mark, have you heard of https://www.vmedia.ca/ as an alternative the Rogers, Bell and Shaw? Might be worth a follow up post.

    Dave

  7. Mike Holman says:

    I’m with you Mark – I love watching sports and have not found any acceptable alternatives to cable.

    It seems like dropping cable is more appropriate for non-sports people or someone who really needs to cut costs anyway they can.

    • Thanks for the comment Mike. Good to hear from you. You still blogging?

      I couldn’t care less about watching old seasons of How I Met Your Mother.

      Live sports is my reality TV. Until I find a suitable alternative to sports coverage on TV, I will probably keep cable, but I will certainly fight and negotiate for the costs.

      Take care,
      Mark

  8. Rob aka Mr BTSX says:

    FINALLY a blogger who doesn’t bash TV, yes both my wife and I love our TV, even if we’re not sports fans

    As to cutting the cord, first off we are in transition, living in Spain cable was the only way to get any decent channels and our internet was too slow to stream, did download a lot but rarely watched what we downloaded. A move to Germany meant high speed internet, and streaming. So now I can for the first time start streaming so got a VPN (Hot Spot Shield) and started with netflix (not worth it) and now Hulu. Currently watching The View, a show not available on TV here.

    The main advantage to cable is the remote, and for my wife movies yes streaming is great but it’s a pain having to get up each time you need to pause change shows etc. Next month I’ll buy apple TV and that should solve that problem. So we’ll play it by ear but I expect at some point in the not too far future we’ll be able to drop cable.

    Rob

  9. Avrex Money says:

    I did live without cable for about two months for one summer, while I did a home renovation. I found I could easily live without it. In fact, I probably only watch about 5-10 hours of cable programming on average in a week.

    However, as you stated in your post, “Missing live sporting events on TV is one of the biggest downsides I see to cutting the cable cord.”

    This is the same reason I haven’t cut the cord. I do like to catch the big hockey or football playoff game live. Until there is an alternative, I won’t and don’t need to cut the cord.

  10. Rob says:

    @Robb – Wish I could say more exciting things, but with two kids under five it is mostly trying to keep the house in good repair (lots of DIY recently) and some semblance of order (8:24pm and the younger has been fighting sleep tonight for an hour now – 7:30pm! What’s your secret?)

    I definitely don’t mean to say that everyone should give up cable permanently, but you never know if you never try. It works for us and we find that it helps us live more intentionally. When we had TV, it wasn’t unusual for us to get sucked into watching two hours when we only meant to watch 1/2 hour. If I want to watch a show, I still stream one. We have been TV (and cable) free for about a half year now.

    • Robb says:

      @Rob – fair point about getting sucked in just because the TV is there. We have two kids under 5, too. We put the little one (16 months) down at 7pm and then try to get our 4-year old down by 7:30pm. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but we keep at it because we value having some down time in the evening.

  11. We have cable and have no plans of getting rid of it. If I lived by myself I wouldn’t pay for cable, but since bf pays for it, I’m OK with it (in fact I do watch a lot of bad cable while I’m blogging).

  12. Be'en says:

    What to look for if shopping for UHF antenna?

  13. I spend a lot less time in front of the TV without cable. IT used to be mindless – I’d just flip it on and watch even if I didn’t love the show. I also don’t watch sports and have no interest in them, but it is definitely important to lots of people so whether or not to have cable is a personal choice.

  14. Bernie says:

    Not to mention, the greatest sports league of them all, the CFL, is only available on TSN. I couldn’t live without my CFL fix!

  1. […] I defended the big cable companies or at least my position to keep paying them for the services I like.  Paying for cable is very much a lifestyle choice and depending upon what you watch (sports) and […]

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