January 18, 2007
On Monday, I disconnected my cable service.
While the cable-box-is-your-DVR paradigm has served me well over the past five years, it just seems a bit silly now. I’m paying a pretty high premium for time-shifting (either in the near term: to pause live television, or in the long term: to record shows I’d like to watch later.)
Let’s look at the math for a second.
Cable is expensive
My cable bill is $130/month. That breaks down to $70 month for the cheapest digital cable/DVR combo, and another $60 for the high speed internet connection.
I’d love to ditch the internet connection. But all the other options suck. Dialup: are you fucking kidding me? DSL: too slow. Verizon FiOS: not available in San Diego yet.
Ok, so I’m stuck with internet. What about cable? How much am I spending per year? Well, math fans, $70 x 12 is $840. Ouch. I have to say this number was a bit shocking. Does cable really provide that much value to my life?
My high school economics professor used to always talk about opportunity cost (i.e. if you spent money on something else, what would it buy?)
So what could I buy with an extra $840 in my pocket?
- 42 DVDs (at $20 per DVD)
- 120 paperback books (at $7 per book)
- 420 television episodes from iTunes (at $2 per show)
- 840 songs from iTunes (at $1 per track)
Starting to make sense? Yeah? So let’s keep going!
The point of this exercise — the reason I cut the cord — is that I want to save money, so the more of that $840 I can keep, the better.
iTunes is now a real alternative
Here’s what I figured out. I watch 5 shows regularly. You know, the ones I can’t miss. They areâ€¦ LOST, Battlestar Galactica, Studio 60, Heroes, and Dr. Who.
With the “season pass” feature from iTunes, I can subscribe to an entire season of episodes from a show for approximately $35. Too, they’re widescreen, near HD quality, and commercial free. (Another plus: if I’m traveling, I can take my shows with me or download them on the road.)
I don’t have one of the new AppleTV units, but that’s ok. My office is also my living room, and I’ve got a clear view of my 23in Cinema Display from the couch.
Now, of course, nothing is perfect. For me, the main drawbacks to this plan are not being able to watch live television or content that isn’t available on iTunes yet. But I can live with that.
So, five shows at $35 per season. That’s $175. I’d save $665 a year.
Not bad. But can we do better?
And it’s really cheap
I typically watch LOST and BSG with friends, so I probably don’t need a season pass for these. But I’ll probably still want to buy my favorite episodes, so let’s say that works out to $10 per show.
And it turns out Dr. Who isn’t available on iTunes yet (cheeky Brits!), so I’ll have to watch that with friends or maybe grab a torrent.
That cuts down the cost quite a bit.
- BSG: $10
- LOST: $10
- Heroes: $42
- Studio 60: $35
- Dr Who: ~
Total cost: $97. (About $743 less than I had planned to pay.)
The future is unbundled
A year of television for under 100 bucks. Not only is that it’s an awesome price, it really makes the business model of companies like TiVo seem tenuous.
DVR was magic five years ago, but we’re living in the future now.