Is It Finally Time to Cut the Cable TV Cord?

by Barrett

If you can stream more and more cable channels on your Apple TV or Roku, do you still need a cable subscription?

Since you can stream more and more cable channels on your Apple TV or Roku, do you still need a cable subscription?

I’ve been sharpening my scissors next to my cable cord for quite some time, but every time I’ve picked them up, I’ve back off at the last minute. But not yesterday…
(And this has nothing to do with the President’s recent support to open up the market for other technology companies to sell cable boxes.)

It’s not like I have something against cable television. I like cable TV. And those of you who know me from back when will understand when I say I have a strong connection to the cable world.

I don’t mind paying for my cable service… as long as I’m using it.

My Screens are Dark
But my viewing habits have been changing. I no longer spend significant time in front of my shrine-like media center I built over a decade ago in our family room. I think that’s partly due to being Dada to my little boy now in kindergarten.
(How did that happen so fast?)

And it’s also because technology has allowed me to watch my favorite shows remotely on my iPad and iPhone, and on the go and on Metro North during my commute to New York City. And I’m streaming a lot of my content on apps like Netflix and Amazon Video.

My home office iMac has longed replaced my old Panasonic Plasma TV in the family room as my daily viewing portal. And I’ve found that my secondary TV and cable box in my home office have largely sat dark over the past few months. The exception has been to serve up some of this year’s overwhelming political landscape… usually through CNN.

Who Needs Cable When You Can Stream?
So I woke up yesterday and suddenly felt compelled to cut the cord. And I said to myself… maybe I can simply stream CNN on my new Apple TV.

I ran over and took a look and found that in fact CNN does have an app that streams the live feed.

I immediately downloaded the app and activated it by confirming I had a cable subscription.
(I needed to type in a code on a companion CNN activation page on my iMac.)

I was suddenly streaming CNN on my Apple TV!
(for no cost!!)

Then I picked up the phone and then almost dropped it, because I was so excited.

I dialed my cable company to downgrade my service to a sub CNN package level. I figured as long as I had a basic tier of cable TV service, the CNN app would still let me stream away. Right?


I told the cable customer service rep my nefarious plan, and she told me it wouldn’t work. If I wanted to stream CNN via my Apple TV, I would still have to subscribe to it through my cable package.


So I hung up the phone, feeling rather deflated and thought a bit more about my half-baked strategy. Of course, what I attempted would be forbidden. Otherwise, the entire cable business model would come crashing down.

So where’s the value of a CNN live streaming app on a home Apple TV or Roku if you still need to subscribe and pay for the cable channel as well? Sure, it makes sense to stream cable content to a second screen if that screen is mobile or outside the house. You can see the added value in that scenario.

But if your Apple TV is sitting right next to your cable box, and they’re both connected to the same HDTV… I’m just not seeing the point of being able to stream a cable channel, when it also needs to be active on the cable box.

Wait… did I say, “cable box?”

I had an idea…

The Big Switch
I walked over to my dark home-office HDTV and cable box team. There they both were… gathering dust, except for occasionally serving up CNN.

I ran back to my aging media center in the family room. Actually, it really should be called my “Franken-center,” because it now had all of these disparate technologies bolted on…


The truth is my Roku had been gathering dust too, ever since my new Apple TV showed up.

I stood there. And yes, a light bulb illuminated above my head.

I disconnected the Roku and ran it over to my home office. And then the moment of truth…

I reached behind the cable box and unscrewed the coax cable. The old-school cable fell to the floor, and I think I felt a slight rumble caused by the magnitude of my moment.

I pulled out the cable box… and connected the Roku.

I then signed up for CNN on my Roku, just like I had done on my Apple TV.

And voila!
I was watching CNN live on my home office TV without the cable box.

Temporary Insanity
Then I jumped in my car and sped down to my local Cablevision office to return the cable box.

I gleefully handed over my box and companion remote control and was told I would receive a monthly credit… of just under $9 a month.

I ran back to my car and drove home. I walked up my basement stairs and back to my home office. I sat down at my desk.

What had I done?!

Still Married to Cable
Well, I had denied myself all of my cable TV programming on my home office TV except for CNN.
(And any other streaming app I could activate on my Roku that I already had a cable subscription to)

And I’d saved myself nine bucks a month, which you’ve got to admit is not really a game changer.

Did I cut the cable cord?
No, not at all… I just trimmed it ever so slightly.

You might be asking… what’s the point?

Overwhelmed with Options
I think the point is I’m a little frustrated and kind of cranky.

We’ve all got so many ways now to consume media.
And so many opportunities to pay for it…

The list goes on and on…

I simply want to use what I’m paying for.
And pay for what I really consume vs. what I’ve historically spent.

And that equation clearly takes some fine-tuning along the way.

So I ripped one of my cable boxes out of my house. This little act of defiance only reflects on my own process of understanding what I want… and need.

Yes, the scissors are always within reach. And it may feel empowering to talk about cutting the cord. But for now, I’ve only done a little spring pruning.

…And I’ve got nine dollars in my pocket.

Does anyone want to place any bets on how long it will take me to replace the box?

At the very least, either way… I’m ready for the next debate!