Nearly six months ago I ditched cable for a high-speed Internet connection and streaming media. It’s not a decision I took lightly, since cable has been part of my everyday life since I left home for college 14 years ago. However, the number of streaming options available these days has grown large enough to attract me to an antenna-and-streaming lifestyle.
When you don’t have 100-plus cable channels at your fingertips, there are bound to be some changes in how you watch TV. What’s been surprising to me about the change is how it’s also affected what I watch — and mostly for the better.
Flipping Channels Is a Thing of the Past
I grew up with the five basic networks, and when I got cable on my own I found myself wasting hours of time flipping through hundreds of channels I didn’t even want to subscribe to. The aimless search for entertainment was not only a waste of time; it rarely ended with me finding something interesting to watch. I flipped channels for the sake of flipping channels.
Without cable, flipping channels is nearly impossible. I’ll go into Netflix (NFLX) or Hulu with an aim to find the content I want to watch, and when it’s over, there’s nothing that automatically pops up next (unless it’s the next episode in a series).
When streaming TV is your only option, it requires a focus on the content you’re looking for. For better or worse, this keeps me in a comfort zone of shows I know. On each app, my queue is updated when new shows arrive, but I don’t wander aimlessly in the abyss of cable content, just looking for shows to fill the hours.
Who Knew There Were So Many Documentaries?
Have you ever found some interesting content on an obscure cable channel and hoped you could find more of it again someday? With streaming, this is not only possible, it’s commonplace.
I’m a sucker for a good nature documentary from PBS, Discovery (DISCA) or the History Channel, and they now make their way into my queue for hours of watching when I might otherwise have been flipping through channels. While the History Channel and Discovery frequently show them, they’re few and far between and I never intentionally sat down to watch them on a regular basis. However, with Netflix, they’re readily available and more abundant than ever.
Nature documentaries may not be your thing — maybe it’s ’70s sitcoms, sci-fi movies, ’80s cartoons, or another genre — but when streaming TV is your only option, you may seek out those options more frequently. Without the crutch of cable, my content watching has become more focused, and I find it’s genres like nature documentaries that I’m choosing over whatever rerun TNT happens to be showing on a Tuesday afternoon.
It’s as if the Kardashians Don’t Exist
If you’re sick of running across the Kardashians — who seem to have a show on every hour of the day — the next thing you should do is cancel cable. Sure, the Kardashians are available on Netflix and Hulu, but they’re not plastered all over the screen every 15 minutes.
That’s the beauty of choosing the content you watch every day: The content you absolutely don’t want to see likely won’t even show up in the streaming site’s suggestions.
Live Sports Are Hard to Find
Of course, there are downsides to cutting cable. I’ve had a hard time finding ways to watch live sports when they’re not on over-air broadcasts. Basketball is particularly difficult, because while you can subscribe to NBA League Pass for streaming only, you can’t watch local games that are available on cable.
This will change over time, and I’m sure the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB will be more than happy to take viewers’ money directly rather than using cable networks as intermediaries. But until options for streaming live sports grow, this will be a thorn in the side of cable-cutters.
The Streaming Future Is Here
It’s now six months into my post-cable days, and overall I’m very happy with the decision. It’s freed up nearly $100 per month that I can now use to buy movies and TV shows I want to watch multiple times, and streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, and others has filled most of the content gaps from not having cable.
Next year, HBO and CBS (CBS) are going to offer streaming bundles, further increasing the streaming options available on the market. I would be surprised if nearly every company doesn’t develop a streaming-only option over the next year or two.
If you’re thinking about cutting the cord, I’ll tell you firsthand that it’s not as jarring a change as I thought it would be. I watch more content that I have a high desire to watch, and the best part is I’m not wasting hours flipping channels. That alone is probably worth the change for me.
Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Get ready for the new year: Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.