Cutting the cord and ditching the dish, the new trend in home entertainment.

August 4, 2015

FullSizeRenderBy Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

We recently made a major decision in our household, we decided to ditch our dish and strictly rely on our Internet service for screen entertainment (I was going to write “for our TV entertainment”  but that’s not 100% accurate, since we use a variety of devices, besides just a television).

Our decision was made mostly out of economics and partially out of values. I started doing the math. We were paying well over $60 a month for our satellite service and at the same time paying about $20 a month for Internet entertainment services Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, which is what we found ourselves watching more than the satellite services.

We have two small children, a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old. Our preference is for our children to spend as little time watching the screen as possible. When they do, 90% of it is educational material (let’s face it, sometimes, you just need a distraction for a short time). While the satellite service provided “Baby TV”, we found that all those programs were available on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube as well, plus a lot more.

We also realized that Baby TV was pretty much all we were watching. We each had a couple network shows we liked to watch, but honestly, those shows are available on Hulu, which is about $8 a month or free with an HDTV antenna. I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the programming on cable or satellite is just garbage, in my opinion, and not shows we want to watch.

Making this move requires a little more effort when choosing entertainment. It isn’t quite as convenient to flip on the TV and channel surf. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video provide you with select choices of shows that the service thinks you may like, mostly based on your previous viewing. It seems that Netflix mostly now thinks I like to watch animated shows and an occasional shoot-em-up movie!

We aren’t alone in our decision, though.

According to Experian Marketing Services, in 2014 7.6 million homes with high speed Internet cancelled their cable or satellite subscriptions, up 44 percent compared to 2011. Almost a quarter of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 subscribe to Netflix or Hulu and don’t pay for TV, according to Experian.

The trend is happening locally as well.

Kaila VanLoon of Ludington said she and her family used to be cable subscribers. They then switched over to satellite because it was cheaper. But, those cheaper prices are typically only for a limited time. The fine print states how much the prices will be after a certain time.

“The price went up past what we were at with cable,” she said. “We now have Roku, and use Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon prime to watch various shows through. And there’s a YouTube app so any special episodes for the kids we find we can stream from our phones to the TV.”

Netflix is the most popular streaming service in the U.S. It began as a DVD service and eventually evolved into a streaming service. It costs $8 a month with no contract and is available to use on multiple HDTV devices as well as computers and mobile devices.

Other popular streaming services include Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, CBS All Access, DirectTV Sunday Ticket (satellite subscription not needed), HBOGo. The prices vary for those services.

Getting those services on your TV requires a streaming box. The most popular tend to be Apple TV and Roku. Others include Xbox One, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 4, Google Chromecast.

My personal experience is with Apple TV. The $99 device is hooked up to our living room TV and is controlled by remote control or a remote control app on an iPhone or iPad. We are also able to “mirror” our mobile devices through Apple TV

“We had DirectTV for about 10 years,” said Melanie Hargreaves of Victory Township. “It was great when our children were little and I was home. But, after they went to school and I went back to work, we just couldn’t justify $80 a month for something we didn’t use. For about a year we used an old antenna from my parents and only pulled in CBS on a good day. It was then that we bought and installed a digital antenna for local channels. My husband, Jason, did the installation himself and we are perfectly happy with all our channel choices.”

Hargreaves said she and her family are able to watch CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and Fox through the digital antenna.

“We had dish for many years as cable was not offered in our area,” said Kim Ryan. “We canceled it one year ago (too expensive) and have been using Netflix, Hulu & iTunes since. Some of our favorite ‘cable shows’ are not offered for free online so we pay to get a season pass through iTunes. We watch on either an iPad or TV (with the help of Apple TV). As for local channels to get news, we resort to Mason/Oceana County Press for that info!  I can 100% say that we have not missed dish.”

Kim made a valuable point. Watching TV is no longer limited to a television set. In our house, we have two flat-screen TVs, one in our living room and one in our bedroom. The TV in our bedroom hasn’t been used in probably a year because we more often than not watch shows and movies on our iPhones, iPads or laptops (yes, we have all three). My wife and I certainly like to spend quality time watching a TV show or movie but we also have our own taste in screen entertainment as well. Using our individual devices allows us to watch what we want.

Other people would prefer to just reduce the amount of digital entertainment they experience.

“We had a baby on the way and needed a bigger home, which meant more expenses,” Chad Rushing of Ludington said. “So, we had to find ways to free up money from our budget. TV went first as an obviously unnecessary expense. We realized that we were mostly just sitting and watching reruns of crap we didn’t want to watch anyway.  We don’t really miss it at all. We have much more control of what is coming into our house and in front of our children this way, too.”

Here’s a warning for those of you who subscribe to TV services such as cable and satellite: They don’t want you to go. I initially canceled our Dish Network service in early April. The customer service representative tried everything he could to talk me into staying. He basically offered me half the price I was paying. This really irritated me than anything. Finally, I gave him my final ‘no.’ The next day, I stopped watching the satellite, assuming it was off. Then, three weeks later, Dish automatically withdrew money from my checking account (I was on autopay). I called them to find out what was going on. I explained the service was canceled. They apologized for the error and said it would be taken care of. Then, I got a bill. I called again. They told me I hadn’t sent in my equipment. This was mainly because they never sent me the box they said they would deliver.

Finally, I received the box, which contained a note asking me to check the serial numbers of my receiver. If it matched certain serial numbers, they didn’t want the equipment back. I figured this was their problem because I didn’t want it either. I stuck it in the box and shipped it out.

Then, they tried charging me for shipping. I again called them. After about four total calls, after initially canceling, I had it worked out.

I do not see us using this service again. We are happy and, like Chad stated, we are controlling more of what our children will be watching as they grow older.

It’s a whole new world and cable and satellite dish isn’t in ours. Now, I just need someone to come over and take that dish off my roof!