I've been a cable subscriber since I got my own place, and never really thought much of it. The big draw for me was mainly sports, which meant that I was paying for one of the more "premium packages", but since I could afford it I never really batted an eye. Of course, the gradual price increases seemed excessive, but what was I to do?

Last week I decided to give Sling TV a shot. It was an attractive prospect: $25 for all the ESPN channels is way cheaper than anything you'll find from a cable company. Plus there are no equipment rental fees for cable boxes - if I wanted to add Sling to a new room I just needed to grab a new Roku (or equivalent) for a reasonable one-time fee. Since I already have two Rokus, I was already in pretty good shape.

Since I was planning to start streaming most of my content anyway, I decided to also set up a Plex server for myself. It's pretty straightforward to configure, and gives a nice streaming interface for all of my digital media. It also supports a number of "channel" plug-ins that provide access to streaming video from websites like CBS.com, Food Network, etc. Like Sling, they provide a Roku app, which puts everything neatly into one device.

The Good

Obviously saving money is the big pro here. According to the TWC rep, cancelling my TV package would cut my bill by about $70. Even taking into account the cost of Sling ($25/month, plus tax) I come out way ahead.

Plex has also turned out to be pretty awesome now that I've had some time to get familiar with it. Having everything organized and available on all my devices is so convenient, I'm not sure why I didn't do this sooner. Some of the channels available allow me to watch videos from websites that don't support things like Chromecast or Roku, which is much easier than having to run an HDMI cable from my laptop to my TV (CBS is a big offender here; why no Roku app guys?).

Sling has been solid for me so far. It doesn't eat up a huge amount of bandwidth (4.7 Mbps on average, out of my 20 Mbps total), so I don't feel like my regular Internet usage is hampered. As time goes on I can always re-evaluate and maybe bump to a slightly faster Internet package, but still be coming out ahead compared to a cable TV package. The channels they provide cover a pretty good amount of what I normally watch: ESPN, TBS, and TNT are some of the big ones. One channel I do miss is USA, but the USA original shows I watched have all ended now, and reruns can be had on Netflix.

The Bad

One downside at the moment is deciding how to handle local stations. OTA antennas are not terribly expensive, of course, but I do need to get one for every room I plan to watch in. Granted, I would have needed multiple cable boxes for digital channels in every room, but I did at least have the ability to simply run a coax cable to the jack directly for the basic channels.

I'm considering the possibility of buying something like a Tablo to help mitigate this inconvenience a bit. It's a neat little box that provides the ability to stream OTA channels from an antenna to other devices (including Roku!) and you can even hook up a hard drive to DVR shows. The only downside is the price point: $200. That's a bit hefty when I could easily buy 3 antennas for half that, and cover all my televisions that way instead. They also charge a monthly fee if you want "the guide", but I could easily ignore that. It really comes down to the convenience factor and DVR capabilities, and how much they're worth to me. I'm not sure if $200 is the right number.

On the Whole

So far I'm glad to have cut my cable. I used to put things on in the background just to have "noise" while I was working, but now I find myself more inclined to play some music instead, or just let the silence be. I think I'm finding that I don't need all of that constant extraneous stimulation, since I never had any investment in it anyway. When something is on that I actually want to watch, then I stop what I'm doing and actually watch. Since Sling covers the majority of those broadcasts (sports) and the other stuff is available in various online places (Hulu), I'm pretty much set. I may have to time-shift my watching a little bit, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means.

It's been an enlightening experience so far, if for no other reason than just seeing how I behave without 300 channels of background noise. I'm glad I took the plunge.

Unrelated Update

Since my AWS free tier time had come to an end, I decided to shop around a bit for another VPS. Amazon is great, but the pricing is a bit higher than other companies that have entered the market. I was originally planning to go with Digital Ocean, since I've used them a bit already, but ended up finding RunAbove and deciding to give them a shot. Their prices are super competitive, and I've been pleased with the performance so far. If you want to give them a shot, you can use this referral link for some credit and give their service a test drive at no upfront cost.