The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
It’s also quite possible to cut the cord and still have plenty of screen time. The alternatives to the $100 a month cable bill include dozens of services that provide some programming at a fraction of the cost. A list and comparison is beyond the scope of this blog, but the links above can get you started. I do use Amazon Prime, which gives me access to thousands of shows, movies, and more music than you could hear in a lifetime.
Don’t let them tell you that you need more! If you buy the Rokus(maybe the firestick works too?) and hook them up to tvs in your house, you can avoid the fees for the stupid little boxes that you have to rent now for digital cable. You just download the time warner app on the roku and enter your timewarner/spectrum id and password and all your channels are there!
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
A TV package may be cheap, but if it doesn’t include the channels you want, is it worth any money at all? To sift through channel line-ups, we set a base level expectation for what we should receive when paying for standard packages. We compared available channels in entry-level plans, highlighting when a provider doesn’t reserve popular channels for upper-tier packages and giving bonus points to those that offer customizable programming or deals for bundling with other services.
Clearly, the current model of inflicting higher prices on a shrinking subscriber base is not sustainable, but it’s hard to see the traditional TV business—including both cable providers and networks—changing their ways until they have nothing left to lose. I can’t say exactly when that’s going to happen. But if history’s any guide, it’ll probably be sooner than they expect.
Mediacom only offers its cable TV service paired with an internet plan, but that starting bundle comes at a fair rate. You can get high speed internet (60 Mbps or 100 Mbps) with the Local Plus TV plan. It comes with the basic networks like NBC, the CW, and ABC — but not much beyond that. You’ll have to upgrade to the Family TV plan for everything except premium channels.
Other important factors include cloud DVR and the interface itself. Yes, most of the services above allow you to record and play back shows, just like a traditional cable or satellite DVR, but they often come with restrictions. Some services have a traditional, cable-box-like menu system, while some are more experimental (read: they have a steep learning curve).