Friday, February 25, 2011


We did the deed two weeks ago: we cut the cable with Time-Warner. So now that we're saving eighty-some dollars a month (and rising), we lost 50-some channels as well (which were shrinking). We tried a digital antenna, which works really slick (great picture, sound) but only gives us five channels. Which is better than it sounds, since they are all PBS channels and four of them are actually two sets of duplicates.

So we went the Netflix route. On the day I ordered a Roku box, my wife came home with a Wii from the company holiday party. There's something to be said for being able to out-Hula Hoop the entire organization (or at least those bold enough to try). In any case, I set up the Wii and installed the Netflix app, and damn skippy, what a slick deal.

Now instead of watching acres of crap from Time-Warner, we can pick our own crap and, here's the real beauty, not have commercials. None. Those volume jumping, obnoxious (why does every car commercial have to have a metal soundtrack these days?), jarringly interrupting wastes of human attention are gone.

The second really cool thing about Netflix is that you can stop a show, turn your device off, come back whenever, and the show will start again at the point you stopped it. Brilliant!

I was finding it harder and harder, nearing impossible, to watch an "hour-long" show on cable. With only a forty two or forty three minute show time, almost a third of the hour is made up of commercials. Whether you mind those damn things or not, the effect on the story being told is enormously detrimental. As soon as I'd start getting involved with what was going on on the screen, Bam!, a three or four or five minute commercial break. Could you imagine making Mission:Impossible or Perry Mason or any of the classic shows of the 70s (or whenever they had an extra ten minutes per episode) like this? It makes me wonder how many shows fail simply because the power to capture individual users is lacking in these abbreviations.

There wasn't a single show I watched on cable. I think the last was Farscape, otherwise I'd turn the TV on while I was eating. I can't watch the news without my blood pressure turning my eyes red, so I don't miss that (I still read whatever I read on the internet), and watching sports was largely ruined by again, loud, jarring commercials.

Seriously, I love watching baseball but the breaks are so at odds with the game that it just became unpleasant. I'd find myself watching the games with the remote in hand, thumb on the mute button, and that's no way to be.

Not having baseball is actually the biggest blow, at least at this point in time. I sent an e-mail to about their package (you can subscribe and watch games, including spring training, over a Roku box) asking if they aired commercials. Sadly, they do. You pay for your device, you pay for your internet connection (and your router, etc.), and then $130 for a year's worth of baseball, and you have to watch their commercials. Argh. Yes, there's a way a savvy networker can disable the commercials on the computer but I'm not sure you can do so with the Roku box. Nothing comes to mind, anyway.

Having grown increasingly pessimistic over the years, someone will screw this up somehow. I'd hope enough people would "unplug" and force the cable companies to offer a la carte programming (you pick which channels you receive), or even better, the government forces the cable plant owners to lease their lines to other companies (and introduce competition). But the cable companies are trying to get Congress to go along with surcharges on Netflix traffic, waving the annual "we're going to run out of bandwidth" pirate flag up the pole.

Right now, though, my kids aren't exposed to inappropriately racy prime time shows, no Melrose Place type dramas taking place in junior and senior high schools (in other words, nothing like Glee), and a much larger measure of peace and tranquility is taking hold in my family room.

Which is nice, but I still miss baseball.


Blogger Doctor Atlantis said...

Ah, you've joined the club! (The Roku club, I mean.) I use it for Netflix and Pandora. I pay the $30-something a year to not have commercials on Pandora either.

I haven't cut the cable because Comcast (evil Comcast) is giving me 12 Mbits down and b/w 2 & 4 Mbits up. Like a bitchy girlfriend who is a tiger in the bedroom, ya just put up with it... Or at least I do. :)

I'd love to ditch the progamming. We watch about 6 channels out of the 150ish we get. LAME.

Hope you're doing well, dude!

11:19 AM  

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