Between Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Amazon Fire, Sling TV and other streaming services, millions of people are cutting their cable and still getting all the entertainment they want. A study by the consulting firm SNL Kagan found that an estimated 812,000 subscribers pulled the plug on their pay-television service in the second quarter of 2016.
I know several families who’ve canceled their cable services with no regrets. They’re saving money each and every month and, after seeing their success, I often wonder whether my family could get by without cable and enjoy similar savings, especially since we’re not big TV watchers. We only watch a handful of shows religiously every week—all of which are available on Hulu.
We decided to put it to the test. For three days, we didn’t use our cable service and only relied on our AppleTV, where we could access Netflix, Hulu and a few other stations. Here are three things we learned from temporarily cutting the cord.
1. We spent more time searching for something to watch.
The one surprising thing about this entire experience was the time-consuming task of finding watchable programs. In my mind, I would sit down, scroll through the program search and immediately find something interesting to watch. That didn’t happen.
We spent more time searching for something to watch than actually watching TV. In streaming’s defense, this was a spur-of-the-moment experiment. We didn’t prepare in advance or create a list of shows we would enjoy watching during this three-day period. We jumped into this experiment feet first, so when the time came to sit down and relax in front of the tube, there weren’t as many options as I had anticipated.
Our favorite shows had ended their seasons, and since we were already caught up, there was no point in viewing these episodes again. The next option was starting a series we hadn’t watched, but we couldn’t agree on which one. I also found that older sitcoms I had streamed in the past were no longer available on Hulu or Netflix. I quickly realized that, for streaming to work, we would need some idea of what we were looking for. I spent most of the three days watching old movies and Golden Girl reruns.
2. We would need a live streaming option.
I didn’t realize how much I enjoy watching live television. There were definitely times I wanted to watch live TV, but couldn’t because we didn’t have the right equipment.
We have about 15 free network channels, including major networks, local programming, kid shows, cooking shows, weather and news. But since it’s been a while since I’ve lived without cable in every room, I completely forgot that accessing free TV requires a digital antenna, which I didn’t have. So even if I unhooked the cable cord from the television and turned to a network station, I only got static.
With Sling TV—which allows live TV streaming—this would have been much less frustrating (that, or a digital antenna.) From a quick search, a digital antenna could cost anywhere between $20 and $150, depending on the reception range.
3. We had extra time for other stuff.
I don’t watch a lot of TV, and during these three days, I watched even less. There were plenty of times when I wanted to hop in front of the television, but I didn’t feel like going through the process of searching for something. As a result, I had more time for stuff I’d been putting off.
I organized my closet, cleaned out a few drawers and even upped my exercise routine. On the final day of the experiment, I didn’t watch television all day. And surprisingly, I didn’t miss it.
With the right equipment, streaming could work for my family—but I’m not ready to give up cable yet.
Even with Sling TV or a digital antenna for live programs, we would have limited viewing choices. With cable, whenever I plop down in front of the television, I’m usually able to find a program within a couple of minutes, even when I have no idea what I’m looking for. This wasn’t the case while streaming. So, while I like the idea of saving money, I think I like having my options more.