Opinion: The Hidden Benefit of Dropping Cable TV

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When we think about dropping cable or satellite TV, it’s usually because of the cost.  After all, many people spend $700 to $1000 or even more per year on cable TV.  But after two years without cable, I’ve noticed another benefit which is perhaps even more valuable than the money: I watch less TV.

You might think, that just proves that cable had better programs!!  Yes, cable did have some channels that I miss such as the History Channel and Discovery Channel.  But actually, I can get a whole season of a show on those channels for less than the cost of one month of cable.  So why don’t I? Why do I watch less TV now?

Channel Surfing: The Quest for Something Better to Watch

When I had the zillion channels that cable offers, I would always turn on my TV eagerly anticipating something good to watch.  I’d flip through all of the stations.  After one lap, I’d start again, because I might have missed a show that was in the middle of a commercial.

I’d repeat this process for hours.  “There’s got to be something good on”, I thought.  Sometimes I’d find something interesting and worthwhile, but often not.

So what did I have to show for at the end of this exercise?  Usually I just wasted an hour or two watching ten-second snippets of a bunch of shows plus a bunch of commercials.

Now that I use a broadcast antenna, I only get PBS and the network channels, plus a few local stations.  I can flip through the entire selection of channels much quicker now.  It takes a lot less time to determine “there’s nothing that I really want to watch on TV”.

The Cable TV Buffet of Fatty Food

Having cable or satellite TV is like having a pre-paid buffet for every meal for a fixed monthly fee.  So, basically, you are encouraged to eat as much as you want.  Any additional food you eat doesn’t cost any more.  (That would be a disaster for our diets, no?)

The problem is that the cable/satellite TV buffet has a lot of junk food, high in fat (commercials) and not very good for you.

With an antenna and online shows, I now have a much smaller “buffet” consisting of only the networks, PBS and local stations.  On top of that, I have to search online for a show I want to watch, and sometimes pay for it.  That takes effort and/or money, so I only do it if I really, really want to watch something.

Since I must pay for each show individually online, I’m less likely to indulge in “junk food”, i.e., shows that I really don’t like that much but watch anyway because they are “free” (even though they are really not).  In fact, when I did have cable, I used to think, “I’d better watch some more TV because otherwise I’m wasting money!”

Another benefit of paying “a la carte” for shows is that there are no commercials.  When I had cable, it seemed like I was spending half of my time watching commercials.  That’s not that far off.  When I watch an episode of “Big Bang Theory” online, it takes about twenty one minutes to watch a thirty-minute episode!

So, a thirty-minute TV show has about 30% commercials, while purchased shows have zero commercials. In our food analogy, it’s like getting super lean beef or sushi vs. a hot dog.  Would you eat beef that was 30% fat just because the buffet offered it??  Why pay for shows that are 30% commercials?

Binging on Purchased TV

Of course, we all know people who blow a day or more watching a whole season of some show that they have purchased online.  I did it with “Breaking Bad”.  Maybe you’ve done it.

But at least we are binging on “lean beef” (i.e., TV with no commercials), and at some point it does end (when there are no more shows left).  I contend that even this binge TV-watching behavior results in less overall TV watching than channel surfing every night.  That’s because you binge on shows that you’d probably watch on TV otherwise, and you’d be subjected to sitting through commercials in that case.

Yes, Hulu Plus and Netflix are “buffets” with a fixed monthly fee like cable.  However, Netflix doesn’t have commercials.  Hulu Plus does have commercials, but not as many as on cable.  With these services, you get to choose what you want to watch.  You don’t waste time surfing like you do with cable.

More Time for Your Life

How many hours of TV do you watch per week?  According to TV.com, the average American watched 34 hours of TV each week in 2010.  That seems high to me, but if it’s anywhere close to that it’s crazy.

Do you have kids?  Check out this article from kidshealth.org which talks about how bad TV is for young kids.  They are more likely to become overweight and violent, and engage in bad behaviors like drinking and smoking.  That’s crazy too!

So, for me, the hidden benefit of dropping cable TV has been that I watch less TV, and I spend more time writing, learning new things, hanging out with family and friends, and working on my business ventures.  The TV shows that I do watch are ones that I really want to watch, not just “junk food”.

When you look back on your life, are you going to wish you watched more TV?  What could you accomplish in your life if you freed up a large portion of the time you spend watching TV? Here are some quick ideas.

For ideas on how to get rid of cable and still watch good TV, visit DisableMyCable.com.  Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below! – Brian

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  • Jamie Joy Houck Gatto

    I agree. I have found that what I watch is all high quality, and with almost no commercials whatsoever due to adblock plus (free to download online) even my Face Book has no ads. It’s incredible. P.S. I do not work for nor do I have any vested interest in the adblock site/business. I’m just so happy about the no ads I wanted to share. It’s unbelievable how much brain noise online commercials and ads cause. Much more relaxing without them, indeed.

    • Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for sharing!! I hate commercials too.

      Brian

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  • Fred Chopin

    Very good points!