BT Column 5/21: Adventures in Disconnection, A Cautionary Tale?

Here’s a link to my May 21, 2014 column in Bluffton Today.

Adventures in disconnection: A tale of love lost and cords cut


Tim Wood

It’s something I would have never imagined myself doing. Those who know me know it’s practically inconceivable.

Outside of my wife, my father, my sisters and my kids, there is no relationship that I have put more time into and have valued more than my DirecTV receiver.

Like any relationship, there have been ups and downs. Over the 15 years we’ve been together, it has brought me great joy (“The Sopranos”) and deep sorrow (the David Tyree Super Bowl catch against the Patriots).

Sure, I’ve threatened to break up. When it gave more attention and Sunday Ticket price breaks to the shiny new customers, I was furious and there were many phone fights. But in the end, three free months of Showtime or a free preview of MLB Extra Innings always healed the wounds.

And yes, we actually went through a trial separation. It was a brief dalliance with Dish, something that should have never happened. But DirecTV forgave me.

I’ve flirted with others. I mean, I’m committed but I’m not dead. My friends showed me their Roku, they talked about how they cut the cord and how different their lives were.

They looked happy. I was intrigued but too frightened of change.

Then it happened. A few weeks back, Nielsen released a study that said Americans get an average of 189 channels from their provider and watch only 17 of them regularly.

So I counted our family’s regular rotation. For as much as I love TV, we could only really count 14 channels.

That’s when the real doubt crept in. I remember a time when it was a simple relationship. We let too many things get in the middle — extra remotes, HD receivers, DVRs.

We can’t even communicate any more. I used to be able to read all your signals. Now, that picture goes dead at the mere threat of thunder. You know the hell you put me through when I can’t watch “Love It Or List It” and yet, it seemed like you blacked it out on purpose near the end.

Our love affair cost me too much. So I made the call.

We bought a couple Apple TVs ($99 each) to move around the house. We already subscribed to Netflix and added Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime to fill in the blanks. We’ve become what the satellite and cable industry fear the most — an informed and empowered consumer who only pays for what we really watch.

I bought an MLB.TV subscription so I can still watch my baseball live through Apple TV, my XBox or my iDevices.

All the networks we watch have their own apps with all the latest episodes and Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have all the past seasons in case we want to do some binge watching.

Are there moments of weakness? For sure. We can’t record 28 episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” to watch whenever we want. We have to sit through 4 or 5 commercials to watch the latest “NCIS”. Oh, the horror.

For the most part, it has been a rude awakening. I really don’t miss live TV as much as I thought I would.

The kids are outside more. I’m more inclined to read, write or exercise. Well, at least read and write. I wish I had some kind of miracle weight loss story to go with this tale, but maybe that will come in time.

We had already upgraded our Hargray Internet connection because of work needs — you’ll need one of the upper-tier packages if it’s something you’d consider. And Hargray has a $20-per-month local channels package if we find we can’t live without hearing about all the crime and murder in Savannah.

In the end, the online streaming is costing us about 15 percent of what we were paying with satellite.

Yes, that’s right, DirecTV. You’re just coaxial cable to me now.

We’re only two weeks into this. I know there will be tests of my courage come football season.

But I gain strength in knowing we’re not alone. There are a growing lot of us out there, the cord cutters. What once was a hippie notion is gaining momentum. Financial responsibility is winning out over complacency.

Who knows? The networks might soon figure out we’re winning and shut down all their apps. We’ll deal with that when it happens.

Before you go calling me a maverick, I should come clean.

I only suspended my DirecTV account for six months. We still have the receivers. If this experiment blows up, we’ll be reunited in minutes.

So, I’m a cord frayer. Cut me some slack. I’ve never been good with breakups.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at

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