Magazine article Information Today

Cutting the Cord ... or Not

Magazine article Information Today

Cutting the Cord ... or Not

Article excerpt

As with most everyone else these days, the small salary raise I received this year was not enough to cover the increasing costs of practically everything else in my life. So these days, I need to take a hard look at my expenses to see where I might be able to make some cuts.

Cutting the Cord

The cable bill seemed to be a good place to start. After all, I don't watch much cable TV--just Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, when I can stay awake. I have a Roku box (roku .com), so I start and stop my Netflix and Hulu subscriptions as my available time to sit in front of the TV waxes and wanes. For baseball, I subscribe to MLB.TV.

On a whim, I called my cable provider and asked how much it would cost per month if I just got internet service. After some dithering on the part of the customer service person, I learned that it would be roughly $5 less per month than what I was currently paying for cable TV and the internet. I really do not understand the economics of cable service.

At any rate, I decided to experiment. I bought Mohu's Leaf antenna ( to see what channels I could pick up over the air. Alas, I live in a condo tower that faces another condo tower. After trying the antenna in several locations around my unit, it seemed as if the only local channel that came in reliably was the FOX network affiliate.

Clearly, this was not going to work ... at least, not for me. (I still recommend trying the Leaf if you're thinking of dropping cable. I gave mine to No. 2 Son, who shares an apartment with a couple of roommates in Washington, D.C. They're on a higher floor, in a corner, with more open space, and they are able to pull in a wide range of channels with the antenna.)

I called the cable provider again (because, you know, I really enjoy sitting there for a protracted period of time in the hold queue, listening to elevator music punctuated by declarations of how important my call is to the company). It took being passed around to two other customer service reps to learn that I could drop my cable service down to the basic tier--local channels only--and save somewhere between $10 and $15 a month. I decided to give this a try.

For the Love of Sports

I'd forgotten to include sports in my calculation. Professional sports are not available on "local" channels. It's not that I'm a super voracious sports fan who spends hours in front of the tube watching anything and everything. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of lukewarm about football, basketball, and hockey--everything except baseball, about which I'm passionate ... passionate enough to pay for an MLB.TV subscription. The magic of the internet makes it possible to watch baseball on the television, the computer, and every mobile device I own.

But here's the dirty little secret about MLB.TV: Due to the Byzantine blackout rules of Major League Baseball (MLB; faq_blackout.jsp), you can't watch any games in which your local teams are playing. Here in the Washington, D.C., metro area, MLB.TV subscribers are blocked from watching any Baltimore Orioles or Washington Nationals games.

All About the Benjamins

As you may suspect, this is about money. The short explanation is that MLB receives vast quantities of cash via contracts with regional sports networks, which make vast quantities of cash by selling advertising. …

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