I Suck at Canceling Cable


TV shows consume our day. If the TV is not on, we’re talking about it (or telling someone to SHUSH cuz we DVR’d something and haven’t watched it yet).

The average American watches 35 hours of TV each week – a second full time job. That’s 5 hours per day! Incredible! And that’s just an average. So for every one of us who watch less than that, there is somebody else who watches that much more. Where do we find the time?

Anyway, it’s not that all TV is bad. A lot of it is very good. A lot of it is educational and beautiful. Other parts are healthy, entertaining and fun. The problem is how it sucks you in. Even the good stuff sucks you in. And it makes you forget that there are other things in life that are much better that you’re missing out on. And when TV starts causing us to miss out on that stuff, it’s a very bad thing.

So in my efforts to try and be a real man, I (along with my wife) recently decided it was time to cancel cable. It cost about $75 per month (not counting internet, etc.), so it would save us some money and encourage us to spend our time more effectively.

What’s great is that you can watch TV now in lots of ways. And when it comes down to it, our family really only watches about 4-6 channels. A couple news channels, a kids channel, the Food Network and a couple of sports channels.

I can’t wait for the day when you can only order the few channels you want. But I’m not sure we’ll ever get there because the media companies aren’t interested in our personal virtue and discipline. They just want more eyeballs on TVs (which = more money for them).

So here’s how we decided to make it without cable.

I can get my news online for free. We picked up Netflix for $8 / month to watch a movie every once in awhile and to have some good shows on demand for the kids and some foodie shows for the wife.

Survivor I can watch online for free, too. American Idol would be tougher. And the hardest part would be trying to watch the Texas Aggies and the Cowboys. But I figured if I really wanted to watch a game that badly, I’d go to somebody else’s house or to a sports bar. Sports is another thing I often end up watching way too much of and of teams I really have no real interest in (thanks Fantasy Football).

So, for Netflix, we needed an AppleTV to run it on our TV. We also liked the AppleTV cuz it made it easy for us to share pics and videos from our computers/phones/iPad with everyone else in the room – which was nice. So I picked up an AppleTV and got it set up with Netflix.

Now we were all set to take the plunge. No more cable. I was really gonna do it. For real. So I called up the cable company to cancel. I told them I just couldn’t justify spending $75 every month for something we really didn’t need that much.

They sent me to their cancelation (read: customer retention) desk. Here’s how it went:

Guy: “Sir, what if we could get your bill down a bit for you?”

Me: “I appreciate that, but I just don’t need it.” [intent on following through]

Guy: “Well what if I could do $50 per month or so for you?”

Me: “Sorry, still not worth it for me.”

Guy: “Well what price would make it worth it for you?”

Me: “Honestly, it would have to be something like $20-something dollars a month. I mean, basically what we’d pay to rent/buy a movie and a few shows online each month.” [that’s probably what we’d legitimately otherwise spend without cable and I knew it was a low enough number to end the conversation here.]

Guy: “Hmm, well what if we took off your DVR? And I could get it down to like $30-something dollars a month for you?”

Me: “…” [that’s a pretty good deal. Uhg.]

Guy: “And we’re running a deal right now where you get Cinemax free for a year.”

Me: “…Sorry, it just isn’t worth it. I gotta say no. And I would definitely need the DVR cuz the alternative, of buying/renting online, is on-demand.” [WIN!]

Guy: “Let me talk with my manager, just a minute.”

Guy: “Okay, $28 per month, same setup you have now, with DVR, plus Cinemax free for a year?”

Me: [uhg] “…Gimme a minute.”

[I sat there in silence wondering what the heck just happened. I REALLY wanted to cancel cable, but this was a really good deal. How could I pass up this kind of value? And it really would be easier to just have the full cable package with everything that comes with it…and we were still gonna save a bunch of money each month. uhg.]

Me: “Okay. Let’s do it.”


So now, instead of limiting my family’s access to television…we still have hundreds of channels and shows on-demand via cable (with a DVR). In addition to watching it all on our TV, I can now also watch and control all of it from my iPad. We now have an AppleTV with access to every movie and tv show you’d ever want to order and watch via iTunes. We have all the free AppleTV channels, youtube and other free apps on our TV. Now we have Netflix, where we get endless free movies and tv shows on demand (to watch from our computer, phone, iPad or TV from anywhere at any time). Oh, and a free year of Cinemax, too.

I suck at canceling cable. :-(

23 comments Add comment

nicole January 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

Sports are what keep us hanging on more than anything. We watch other shows, but would probably not miss them much. But we can’t quit our sports. Going to a bar is not a real option, as we like to watch together and we have 6 kids that need supervision. And those same 6 kids make it tough to invite ourselves to someone’s house to watch. Good for you for getting a good deal though!

Sarah Frasier January 24, 2012 at 11:15 am

JUST DO IT! They do a commendable job at building the value of television, but just keep thanking them and saying no. Many years ago my family and I canceled the digital cable/DVR thing for broadcast basic- you still get your cbs, nbc, abc, pbs etc., which is all we truly needed (well…on the subject of need, the thought provoking question of true need for any cable presents itself, but that is another thought). Where I live in upstate NY, broadcast basic is $12/month, a far cry from what digital costs. Like your family, we got online access to other media (us via online Blueray player) and we find that, for the most part, it suits our needs nicely. And saves money. Cool.
Now, in another dilemma, can anyone tell me how to stop an 8 year old from obsessing over his new Nintendo 3DS?!? My oldest received one for Christmas, and Santa keeps wondering why it was a good idea…

Marcel LeJeune January 24, 2012 at 11:18 am

You got a deal. Now, have self control. :-)

How about this. Limit kids screen time to to 30-45 minutes a day (TV, games, computer, etc.).
Hold special movie nights with the family.
Don’t have the TV on unless you are intentional about watching something. No channel-flipping.

Limit your time to 1 hour per day.

or just go ahead and cancel it already…

Jeremy Steck January 24, 2012 at 11:21 am

That brought back some memories! We cancelled cable a few years ago and I remember how hard it was. They tried everything to get me to stay.

For a while I really missed TV for the big sporting events, but the way online coverage is, I can follow a game online and get video updates within minutes of it happening. I find now I don’t miss it. My wife and I watch movies and old TV shows. We’ve had Netflix off and on for a couple of years and that works out well with stuff we watch and kids shows.

I really should read more anyway!

Sara January 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

My husband and I never had had cable as a married couple.

However, we watch lots of shows online via Hulu, etc. And depending upon your internet service provider, you may be able to get access to ESPN3.com which shows many more sporting events than ESPN does. Then, if my husband and I REALLY want to see that week’s Alabama football game and it’s not on ESPN3, we’ll go out to the sports bar. In the entire football season, we only had to do that once.

Shelly @ Of Sound Mind and Spirit January 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Would you please negotiate that awesome deal for me sometime? Wow – to get them to drop the bill that much? And all I have to do is threaten (and be willing to carry it out) to cancel?? Hm….

So are you a hero to your wife for negotiating such a great bargain or is she disappointed you didn’t cancel? (Or does it depend on the day…) :)

Brian January 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm

LOL!! It’s like reading a post I made under a pseudonym! LOL! You are as pathetic as me at caving to good deals. Oh well. At least you’re saving a lot now eh?

Richard January 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

lol! I always complain we have so few options in terms of internet content here in the Netherlands but I guess I should be thankful :p

Dan Sealana January 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Angela and I keep our apartment’s TV and digital antenna in the closet so that we have to be very intentional about our TV watching. We mostly use the TV to watch DVDs that we rent (free) from the library.

Honestly, even with a neglected TV in the house, we still often feel like we “don’t have enough time.” I don’t watch sports so that I only thing I ever really miss is local news coverage. But even then, it’s all free online.

Dan Sealana January 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm

… and even though I’m one of those weirdo “living in a cave” Catholics who doesn’t watch TV, there’s still plenty of pop culture dross and political noise distracting my thoughts throughout the day.

Scarp January 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Have you tried Sky Angel?

Lisa Schmidt January 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Well, at least you tried. And you are the “tech guy” after all so I can see how you got to this point. Joel and I quit cable mid-year and it’s the best thing we’ve done. We haven’t missed a single thing that we really wanted to watch outside of a football game here or there (Joel is a ‘sconcin badger – most of their games are on ESPN). We got the silver platter treatment, too, when we canceled. And while tempting, if we didn’t completely rid ourselves, it would always be a ‘near occasion of sin’. Oh and we are foodies, too, who enjoyed Food Network, but we have found most food programs truly worth their salt are broadcast on PBS (e.g., America’s Test Kitchen).

Try, try again.

Teresa Rice January 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Just do it! My husband I canceled cable a few months ago and my life has been more peaceful without it. We did purchase a converter box and a good antenna so we’re able to see the local channels and a few other networks. I am surprised at how clear the picture is with free T.V.

God Bless!

Julie Filby January 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm

OK. I’m calling Comcast right now. To save time, I think I’ll just ask for the deal for people-who-suck-at-canceling-cable. Great post!

Ebi January 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm

The absolute funniest thing I’ve come across all day. The funniest part was the great bargain after earnestly trying to cancel the service! Well the awesome side to it is that you’re paying way less for much more! Hahahaha wow. Awesome. My family would love you. I have been secretly pulling channels off :)

Mark January 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Matt—if you are not too busy tomorrow can you call my cable provider and haggle with the company for a cheaper rate for me…the perfect rate would be if the cable company payed me to watch their shows. Thanks

kerath25 January 26, 2012 at 8:06 am

We’re in the same boat! After months of negotiating with my wife, we agreed to cut the cable. When I called them up and said we wanted to cancel, I told them that we didn’t want our TV anymore. I figured they would think us strange, but I reasoned it would be hard for them to argue when I would soon not have a TV at all. Unfortunately, we were still getting internet through the same provider and the service rep asked if we were cutting that too. When I said no, he offered to give us basic service and a discount on the internet. I caved. Oh well, at least my wife is happy; she still gets to watch the news.

Christine February 1, 2012 at 7:32 am

“The problem is how it SUCKS you in!” In our home, it isn’t the TV that has us hook, line & sinker.. it’s the internet… and we’re not about to disconnect that any time soon! Try to remove the drug of choice from this home!

John P March 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I canceled DTV a couple weeks back. I found the company very easy to work with and I called every few months and asked politely what deals they could give me. I had several months of up to $25 off my bill, free premium channels, and so on. In the end I was getting 70 channels + HD + HD DVR for about $60 a month. But then I realized I *still* wasn’t watching more than 10 channels and just a very few shows I really looked forward to (most were just major networks). I’m not into sports at all, so I couldn’t care less if they’re ever shown again.
I find I can watch mostly all shows I really enjoyed online with very limited commercials, often a very small TV logo, and no annoying graphics. On satellite, I couldn’t even stomach TLC because their graphics interfered so much and so often with the show I took TLC off my favorites list. It seems more and more channels are moving their logo further into the picture and adding more and more annoying graphics. No thanks.
With Netflix DVDs and streaming, Hulu free, and network websites, I’m not missing a thing. For HBO shows, I just wait until it comes out on DVD…I can watch an entire season in a few days. Heck, with the money I save, I can BUY seasons of my favorite shows. So just with netflix it’s around $20 a month. I would’ve had DSL with or without TV, so I don’t consider that an additional cost.
I bought an indoor antenna and get all major networks and the likes of CW, PBS, and so on in perfect HD. It’s around 25 channels in all. Haven’t looked into a personal DVR yet, but not really sure I even care.
I have a second monitor on my computer and often watch DVDs or streaming while playing a game or just surfing the net on my primary monitor. I can stream anything else through my PS3 at this point.
I’m not dead set on HD, so I don’t care if I stream in HD or not. I don’t even get Blu Ray from Netflix. If I enjoy a movie enough, I’ll order it on Blu Ray.
The decision to cancel cable is a personal one and there are many factors. For me, it just wasn’t worth the money.

Quaerens May 14, 2012 at 9:14 am

This could have been written by my husband, except our cable company wasn’t so nice so we did cancel it. Apple TV, Netflix: exactly how you described. We’d been doing it for about 18 months, and the sports were the hardest part. Then, our internet was too slow and the cable guy “had” to let us tune into full cable for free to give us the internet speed we were paying for/ needed for all that wifi action. We were doomed. Now, somehow in the switch to all-digital cable, we received a call from the cable company and we’re signed back up for cable again. **How do they do that?!?**

Matthew Warner May 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm

For us they actually cranked back up the price a little bit a few months later. Scoundrels. Am going to call them back and get my money back and maybe try canceling again. :-)

Faith October 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I haven’t watched TV in 11 years. I love it and do not miss it!!

Patricia October 10, 2012 at 1:14 am

THis made me laugh. We haven’t had cable in 20 years, and i have had similar experiences in phone sales trying to get us to hop on board the cable train. I remember one agent in particular who was especially flummoxed , ” um , can I ask you why you don’t have cable?” she was genuinely interested, sort of like a reporter who really just wants to know. “Well, we don’t like a lot of the programming and feel it is potentially harmful to our children, and they are now at the age when they can watch the tv unsupervised. We get enough programming for free , CBC for hockey and news, TVO for the kid shows, and we can rent movies if we want and there are no commercials! You will survive , if you do cut the cable, its really just a big umbilical cord, to what, , now that is a good question.

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