There should be more “diary of a cord cutter” pieces like the one the Washington Times ran this week. It’s a subject that captivates just about everyone in media -- and
it’s a lot of fun to analyze a person or household’s attempt to save maybe $2,000 or so a year.
The piece is about Hampton Stevens’ experience. Stevens lives alone with two dogs -- so there was no risk of a child missing Nickelodeon -- and he just got tired of his massive cable bill.
He may also have had a reason for dropping service along with the wallet: "Besides, as any nerd will tell you, giving up cable is cool these days,” he writes.
So, he held a vote -- he and his two dogs -- and there was unanimous approval to drop a service that brings “mandatory equipment rental” and “charges on surcharges.”
His cable bill hovered around $200 a month with a DVR and some premium channels.
So, he and the dogs bunkered down and apparently hooked up an antenna to get the broadcast channels, Then, they dabbled in Hulu -- the free part -- while grabbing some shows from Amazon and iTunes for a few bucks each. DVDs were an option.
They took some other measures, but Hampton grew frustrated. Offering music to a network's ears, he suggested cord-cutters might risk having no one to gab with at the water cooler while having to wait for TV episodes online or on DVD. He warned about becoming the guy who “comes to work psyched to talk about [a] ‘Game of Thrones‘... that everybody else watched and talked about six months before.”
He also grew frustrated at times with poor feeds online. Also, unsatisfied with his computer monitor or laptop screen, he ran up some bills trying to hook up a feed to his TV set.
A sports fan, he faced another conundrum. He could pay handsomely for the online packages for baseball and NBA games or go to sports bars. Even pirating NFL games might bring him a problem: malware.
He determined that “life without ESPN may not be worth living.”
Indeed, he became a committed sports bar denizen, but even though there was no fee for the games, he’d drop $20 or more a the bars several times a month.
When a grueling year elapsed, Hampton did the math and found that he'd "spent $5,000 to save two grand.”
FInally, he called the cable company and “two weeks later, when the jerks came between noon and 5 p.m., we waited with open arms.”
Hampton’s cord-cutting strategy can be easily criticized. First, some of his ESPN travails could have been solved by getting an Internet provider with ESPN3, a cord-cutter’s delight. And Hulu Plus, along with Netflix -- and even a Major League Baseball subscription package -- costs less than a cable bill.
That would still bring a lack of HBO access until its DVDs came out months later -- and there would be no spectacular massive HD coverage of the Super Bowl. (To save money at least, he could get the DVDs at the library when they came out. But how hard is it to find a Super Bowl party -- and if he agreed to bring the paper plates, he could probably scam a load of free food and spirits.)
Evaluating cord-cutting behavior provides an interesting vantage point into human thresholds for pain: the willingness to wait, sacrifice, go for a jog and -- perhaps most painful of all -- to go without “SportsCenter.”
That last one may not be worth $2,000 a year.