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Article: A Weekend without Cable

by on June 10, 2011

I often read people posting ways they’ll try to “cut the cord”, by going without anything but broadcast television and online options for entertainment. Personally, I think we’re not there yet, especially since services like Hulu still require a computer or hardware that I do not own. That being said, I was given the opportunity to at least try the experience a little this weekend when my local cable service was having some trouble in our area. I still had broadcast channels, things I recorded on my TiVo, and my Apple TV. Surprisingly, I managed to survive.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’ll go through withdrawals if I cannot watch TV. I have my favorite shows, but I also understand the value of getting off the couch. Still, when it’s 90° or more, my motivation was quite lacking.


After work on Friday was when I noticed the outage beginning. Although I had been planning on watching the Cubs open their series against the Cardinals, WGN was a channel I was unable to receive. Looking at how it turned out, I was glad I didn’t have to witness that. I did listen a bit on the MLB At Bat app via AirPlay, but then decided that it was time to clean out the TiVo. Two shows later (Flashpoint and Franklin & Bash—I wanted to give it a try), I had officially run out of content. I decided that since I was already into it, I’d watch some early episodes of Flashpoint on Netflix. Thanks to the Apple TV, I even could get the show in HD and 5.1 surround sound.


After cleaning my apartment (see, I can do other things), I decided to catch up on some podcasts, both a Cubs one featuring WGN’s Len Kasper and Bob Brenly and TWiT’s iPad Today. AirPlay put ’em up on the big screen from my iTunes library (I know I could play them directly from the Apple TV, but why wait for it to buffer?)

I then watched the Cubs/Cardinals game on Fox (it’s a shame extra innings didn’t pay off), went and got some groceries, and went back to Netflix. This time it was some Craig Ferguson standup followed by a couple of movies. If SNL had been new, I probably would’ve recorded it or watched it live.


Often, I record the VH1 Top 20 Countdown for the sheer purpose to see if music I like is getting popular, and to discover some new songs. Plus, I grew up in the age of MTV playing videos, so I still long for those days of a good music video. I usually record it so I can skip things or watch it later. Since I couldn’t, I looked to the VEVO app to AirPlay some music videos to get my fix. Although I was the VJ in that case, it worked pretty well. Even though many of these videos are on YouTube, they are unable to be played via an iOS device or the Apple TV, due to licensing purposes.

Lessons Learned

Could I go without cable? At this point, still no. I live in an area where my favorite baseball team would be blacked out on MLB.TV, so that, mixed with my wanting to watch a number of shows on cable that haven’t reached Netflix streaming yet (I’m talking a good chunk of USA shows), or regular current-events shows and sports (The Soup, The Daily Show, ESPN), I still watch a number of things regularly over the ol’ coax line.

I missed some things over the couple of days, but the bottom line is that even during the normal TV season, a good antenna, mixed with an Apple TV and Netflix can give you more entertainment options than you’d know what to do with, especially if you could care less about some original cable series or non-broadcast network sports. AirPlay is still pretty new, but shows a lot of promise, especially for loading up already-downloaded content, or streaming content not available on the Apple TV as a built-in “app”.

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