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Published August 18, 2020

 

How I cut the cable TV chord

It took some effort, but I finally did it

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I have been training for weeks because I suspected that it would be hard to cut the cable TV cord.

I put all my TVs on antennas and made sure that I get the 80 over-the-air channels available in my area. The signal has to be boosted, but it’s there, even though I’m about 45 miles from the broadcasting towers.

I have trained by watching free TV to make sure that I was ready for the big event.

The main free channels have digital subchannels that broadcast programs like old sitcoms and game shows - the stuff I grew up on. KUHT (Channel 8) has four subchannels; one shows documentaries, and another runs cooking shows and DYI programs.

Local news is all over the place, free of charge, right over the air. But now there are no ghosts in the picture. I either get a digital signal or nothing. If you want to learn Spanish, there are several Spanish language stations also, as well as shopping channels. I’m not a fan of the shopping channels, but I do like practicing my Spanish.

Right now it’s just to see how many words I recognize. I can’t really string them together unless they are really basic sentences. Seeing a picture or being able to look up the answers help a lot.

Why did I finally decide to cut the cord? I have several reasons, but the big one is the price. My 12-month discount ran out again, and my DirecTV bill shot up. It’s like playing cat and mouse with these guys. When you least suspect it, time runs out, and the monthly charge on my statement goes through the roof.

Also, I’m not watching all that much TV. I work a lot, and most of the time I have it on for the sound. Half the time I don’t even know what’s on.

I used to enjoy watching the Astros and some of the evening news channel lineups. But with the season being partially scrubbed, I realized that I can live without watching every pitch, especially when they blow a 9th-inning lead.

I’m also getting burned out of the nightly cable news shows and watch very few of them. Politics should not be a nightly TV show. It’s too negative.

If I want to be entertained, I’ll turn on Netflix and binge watch a series with cliffhanger episode endings that won’t let me quit watching.

There were other reasons also, but these are the main ones. And now that I weaned myself off cable TV, it was time to make that dreaded call and get rid of this bulky equipment for good.

I took a deep breath and started dialing. Courage, don’t fail me now.

“Are you sure you want to cancel? You won’t be able to watch your favorite shows,” said the nice man on the other end of the line. (I don’t have any favorite shows, and the Astros games are free on the radio.)

“Would you keep it if we dropped the price so low that you can’t resist and sent one of the Astros to your house to watch the games with you?”

I’m exaggerating, but no. That would not change my mind.

“We can get you into a much less expensive package and buy you lunch for a year.”

No, that won’t do it, either.

“What could I do to make you change your mind? I’ll do anything. Please don’t leave, I beg you.”

“I’m sorry, but we have grown apart. It’s not the same anymore. We’ve had some good times, but now I have to move on,” I said as I walked out of the rain-drenched alley and left the sales rep on his knees, soaked to the bone. He failed, and he knew it. (I just added this for the drama.)

After a few seconds of a pregnant pause on the line, he finally said his final words.

“Please recycle your equipment. They are outdated, and we won’t be picking them up.”

I did it. It was over.

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Cutting the cable chord trends

The nation’s six most prolific cable TV giants shed another net 1.5 million paying customers from April through June. That is less than their attrition of 2.3 million in the first quarter.

In 2014, there were just over 100 million U.S. households paying for cable TV, but according to estimates from the analysts at eMarketer, 2020 will end with less than 83 million of them.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)