The Trials And Tribulations Of A Cable-Cutter


Photo: Steve Rosenbaum

So, I did it. I cut the cable cord.It had been a long time coming. And frankly,  probably overdue.  I’d been preaching the gospel of Web video choice for years, and had wired my home with more devices and choices than I needed. Tivo on both big TV’s, Apple TV in the living room, Google TV in the bedroom, wifi everywhere, and a staggering collection of laptops,  ipads and other computer peripherals.

So, with all that gear, certainly I didn’t need to be trapped inside the walled garden of cable.

We shall see.

Week 1. The cornucopia of Web video with all its messy newness.

I found myself thinking back to the good old days of Ma Bell this week. You know,  when you picked up a phone and got dial tone. Your choices were Princess or Handset. Black, cream coloured, or red.  Ah, life was so simple back then. Sure,  no caller ID, or call forwarding,  or 800 numbers, or touch tones or any of the crazy newfangled stuff that had phones evolve from just talking to all this other stuff.

And hat’s kind of what cable was.  It was simple.  It worked (sort of) and it had choice – but not delivered in a way that I controlled.

The first thing I did without cable was sadly set my beloved Tivo remote aside. In the new world of the streaming Web, Tivo’s wonderful interface, graceful remote and trustworthy hard drive don’t seem to have a place.  Yes, I know,  I could buy a new Tivo with Web access,  but at the moment I’ve got more TV gadgets than I need.

So, wandering out on the Web, I wondered what would I lose and what would I gain.

First, ABC News.  I’ve been watching ABC since the Charlie Gibson days. Now Diane Sawyer.  But – bizarrely,  ABC World News Tonight is on the Web 24 hours delayed. Ah,  old news – a lovely offering. So, NBC has Brian Williams ready to watch when I get home.  So much for loyalty – I’m now watching Nightly News.

Now, Nightly news plays – but it’s grainy and it buffers a bunch. That could be my internet connection – broadband via cable.  Maybe, next step may be new, fatter broadband.

Next,  entrainment.  Hulu is banned on Google TV.  And I’ve got Netflix streaming, so there’s a shift from prime time schedules to more movies, documentaries and old TV series. Netflix streaming is amazing. Rock solid,  crisp,  great interface,  lots of choices.  Bravo!

Trying to sort out other things,  I’ve tried a bunch of interfaces – Clicker,  SetJam and Boxee.  None are perfect.  In fact,  I spend more time searching and running headlong into Amazon VOD that I care to.  It seems that no one can tell exactly what device you’re on, so Google TV,  via Clicker, will send you to Hulu – only to end up getting a big FAIL at the end of the point and click journey.  bummer.

The strangest surprise is The Daily Show and Colbert Nation,  which do actually seem to not appear in Google TV,  but can play fine via the Chrome browser.  A day late (I think).  But,  if ever you want to see an experience that is a tech frankenstein,  this is it.

Website,  play,  full screen,  and then – oddly hacked in commercials that have blaring volume,  replay the ad over and over again,  and seem to cut out various pieces of the show.  Sure it’s free – but,  wait,  with ads you can’t skip isn’t this the same as good old fashioned TV but just lower res and with crappy tech?

I do so wish Google TV talked to my Tivo.  But,  alas,  when you type “Tivo” into the help menu on Google TV it says “No results found.”  Maybe the folks in Mountainview haven’t heard,  but Tivo is pretty popular.

So, we’ve survived week one.  Some news,  some Daily Show,  a few docs,  some old episodes of Law and Order.  The family is sitting down for dinner – my son says:  “Dad,  I don’t miss cable,  but one question – How are we going to watch the Super Bowl?”

Ah, hmm… rabbit ears maybe.

Stay tuned. The trials and tribulations of a cable-cutter continue.

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