Diary of a Reluctant Cord-Cutter

Cable TV.  Who needs it, right?

Although I work in an industry so closely tied to television, I pride myself in being a cord-cutting evangelist. When my friends and co-workers take the bold step to break up with their cable company and the hundreds of networks, DVR, on-demand and time-shifting goodness that go along with it, I am on the sidelines wildly cheering them on.  But this cord-cutting cheerleader has always been too chicken to do it herself.  Even worse, I layer my juiced up cable tier with Apple TV, Xbox and Roku just to cover bases. Hulu Plus, Amazon, Netflix, Crackle…I use them all.

But my TV utopia recently came to a screeching halt. A home renovation landed my family in a relative’s home with no cable for 3 weeks. We have a Blu-Ray player with access to Netflix and Amazon and a host of other TV and movie video apps. As a news and politics junkie, I’ve found myself missing the constant hum of CNN and MSNBC that have become part of our morning and evening routine. And the kids miss their favorite shows they hoard on the DVR.  Full House is their current favorite, so, this arrangement does have a small silver lining. Sorry, Uncle Jessie.  But what adds insult to injury is that Shark Week happened…or didn’t happen in my house. SHARK WEEK!

Since Netflix is now at the center of our TV universe, we picked up on House of CardsHOC is, hands down, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen…and it strangely satisfied my appetite for politics, too. The show picked up 14 Primetime Emmy nominations.  That’s impressive, but what’s really newsworthy is that Netflix was nominated at all.  For a technology company whose business model hinges on buying and distributing content, not creating it, this is a big first. Netflix now has the street cred as a producer to bring in massive audiences to their original programs. I can’t wait to gorge on other Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black and Hemlock Grove.  I see Netflix in a new light now…like an HBO or Showtime…without the $100/mo cable subscription.

Although under temporary and reluctant circumstances, my family is part of the growing cord-cutting movement.  According to The Diffusion Group, pay TV households (cable and satellite) have been on a steady decline, and are expected to fall 6% by 2017. It’s not surprising when cable service keeps rising in cost and “over-the-top” digital TV alternatives like Netflix’s House of Cards and original series on Hulu make ditching cable more and more appealing. Just last month, a Cowen & Co. study revealed that 20% of Netflix subscribers have cut the Pay TV cord. This has major implications for the marketing and advertising industry given that many of these platforms (most notably, Netflix) lack advertising.

As my own 3-week adventure in cord-cutting comes to a close this week, I think about how drastically it changed our family routine. Cutting the cord is a little like giving up sweets…it’s tough at first but after awhile you don’t miss it and you actually feel better.  The house is more peaceful and we’re spending less time mindlessly channel-flipping. TV has become more “by appointment”, which is a good thing.

Time will tell whether our household officially “cuts the cord,” but this experience has fundamentally changed the way I look at television…it’s not defined by screen size, commercials, Nielsen or Time Warner…it’s about great content delivered in a way that puts audiences first. So, whether you’re a cord-cutter or not, it’s an exciting new era in “television”.

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