If you aren’t familiar with the ‘Year Without Cable’ series, be sure to read last week’s introductory post.

Over the past week, I’ve been listing out the shows I want access to. I use the term “access” because I’m not interested in owning  a copy of every single one; there are some that I’m just not going to go back and rewatch later, like a news program or an episode of Jeopardy. An over-the-air antenna will do just fine for Jeopardy on the local CBS affiliate, as I’m usually watching it on a whim (it’s not a carved-out half hour in my evening). But the “throwaway” nature of daily programs (and their lower production costs) means I feel less inclined to spend top dollar on them, and for shows that aren’t available OTA, that’s a problem.

But more on that later. First…

The List

24-season-passI’ve listed out every single show I want to be able to watch in some fashion. I’ve also listed the means I’ll be using to watch said show, and the cost (if applicable). Underneath this list, I’ll be going a bit more in-depth on some of the decisions I had to make both in terms of accessing a show and what I was willing to pay for it. A disclaimer: Not all shows run on the same schedule or have the same number of episodes, so where a solid season pass price wasn’t available, I had to use the price of a past season or estimate on my own. So the numbers may not be perfect, but I’m confident that they’re close.

Game of Thrones
Free (borrowing login info from friend)

$39.99 Season Pass (average: $3.33/month)

Once Upon a Time
$39.99 Season Pass (average: $3.33/month)

Over the air (not available on iTunes)

The Colbert Report
Comedy Central App

The Daily Show
Comedy Central App

Over the air

$39.99 Season Pass (estimate) (average: $3.33/month)

The Following
$24.99 Season Pass (average: $2.08/month)

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Modern Family
$49.99 Season Pass (average: $4.17/month)

The Americans
$33.99 Season Pass (average: $2.83/month)

$29.99 Season Pass (average: $2.50/month)

$25.99 Season Pass (average: $2.16/month)

24: Live Another Day
$31.99 Season Pass (average: $2.67/month)

The League
$34.99 Season Pass (average: $2.92/month)

American Horror Story
$33.99 Season Pass (average: $2.83/month)

The Walking Dead
$42.99 Season Pass (average: $3.58/month)

The Thought Process

Everything you see above (at least, everything with Season Pass price) adds up to $428.88 for the year. Averaged out over the year, it adds an additional $35.74 per month to what I’m paying for Internet access.

Now it’s quite obvious that I’m having to cheat in a few areas.

First, HBO GO. It’s no secret that you can’t subscribe to HBO without cable. As a Verizon FiOS customer, I can’t even pay for HBO GO without adding a fairly expensive TV package to my plan. So a friend is offering to lend his HBO GO credentials so that I don’t fall a season behind. If anyone at Verizon or HBO is listening, you’re missing out on easy money here.

Next, there are some things I need to use a digital antenna for. For some reason, Cosmos isn’t for sale on iTunes, so you’ll have to catch the live broadcast. Jeopardy isn’t available on iTunes, either, but I’m not sure I’d buy it anyway. And there are various sporting events — I’m looking at you, football — that I don’t have listed as shows, but I’ll still want access to. There are other uses for the antenna — local news, for example — but its main use will be for network programming I can’t get elsewhere, or for shows I just want to watch for the hell of it.

Lastly, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report both operate on what are called “Multi-Passes,” which charge $9.99 for 16 episodes. That works out to about $0.63 per episode of each show. Lets guesstimate (based on past seasons) that each show will do 150 episodes in a year. You’ll wind up paying $94.50 for the entire year of each show, or $189 for the pair. They’d be, by far, the most expensive shows on the list. Fortunately, full episodes are available for free on the Comedy Central iOS apps, and AirPlay is reportedly coming soon.

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Cutting TV out of my Verizon FiOS service meant I had about $660 leftover for the year, and my selections above are costing $428.88. That means I’m still $231.12 in the black, but…

Looking Ahead

I haven’t picked up a digital converter box or an antenna yet, and those will eat into that leftover money. Still, these are items I’ll get several years of use out of, so taking the hit in year one is fine.

I also don’t know what the future has in store. There could be a new TV show that makes the list and will wind up eating into that leftover money. Based on what’s been showing up the past few years in terms of quality (at least on the networks), I’m not too concerned, but you never know.

The above workings, at least at the start, do show that it’s possible to cut the cord and save some money while still being able to watch most of what you want. Do you get everything? No. Do you get the instant gratification of watching something as it airs for the first time? No. But a day isn’t all that long to wait. Not long at all.

I still believe that my biggest challenge will be football season; more specifically, games that are broadcast on ESPN and NFL Network. I don’t have a plan for those yet, but I’m working on it.

Have tips or tricks about cutting the cord? Be sure to share them below, and check back next week for the next installment of A Year Without Cable.

  • I know you said there are some shows you would prefer to own and I totally get that but have you looked into hulu plus and netflix? My husband and I cut the cord about 1 year ago and debated the season passes versus the viewing on subscriptions. We decided in the long run that the subscriptions offered more value and we can still afford to buy the season passes of the shows we miss to fill in the gaps.

    • Hi Cari,

      I do subscribe to Netflix, and I watch a good bit of content from it, but Hulu is another story. The selection always seems iffy, there are commercials, and you have to stream shows (so I can’t watch them in Wi-Fi-less locations).

  • Please keep this up. I’m stuck in a 2 year agreement until December. I eliminated one cable box and made a digital antennae for my bedroom. In December, I’m cutting the cord and my phone land line. There is collage football and NFL OTA on ABC,CBS,FOX, and NBC, I’m just hoping it will be games that I want to watch.

    • If you’re a big NFL fan, keep an eye out for what DirecTV does with Sunday Ticket this fall. The past few years, they’ve made it available as a streaming service online, though it’s been pricey. Still, if you want access to almost every game and don’t want to pay a hefty price for cable on top of that, it’s something to watch for.

  • Shawn, based on your show selections, it shows like you’d be a good candidate for the new DVR+ from Channel Master. A majority of the shows you want to watch come over the air, and the DVR+ allows you to record over the air without a monthly fee. The upfront cost is around $300, plus the price of a external hard-drive. However, just as with your old cable DVR, you get to watch TV on your schedule. Also, buying a DVR+ removes the need to purchase a converter box. Adding a device like the Slingbox also makes the content available on mobile devices. Since this is a year-long experiment, it’s well worth trying out.

    • I did look into the Channel Master, but it’s a pretty expensive investment to make. The process of getting items from that into iTunes (importing, adding metadata, etc.) would have added more work, as well. I want physical copies I can take on my iPad, so a streaming device like the Slingbox doesn’t appeal to me.

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