Graham: I cut the cable cord and world kept spinning

Growing up, cable was everything, but in a changing digital landscape a monthly cable bill is no longer worth it

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

I cut the cord in January and I haven’t looked back.

I had wanted to cut cable out of my life for some time. Over the years I found myself watching less and less TV, to the point where I was just keeping “American Pickers” on in the background as white noise.

But it didn’t matter how much or how little I watched. Every month, the cost was the same: $130.

That cost included a DVR rental fee, internet service, taxes, and a few other line items Comcast would slip into my bill every month. And it was seemingly always fluctuating, tied to some nebulous “promo rate” designed to make me feel like my $130 monthly bill was some sort of great bargain I was lucky to receive.

I was fed up, so I cut the cord. Bye-bye cable, nice knowing you, don’t let the theme song from “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” hit you on the way out.

I’m not alone. Last year, about 2.1 million households dropped pay TV service, according to a study by Covergence Research Group, up from about 1.2 million in 2015. By the end of this year, around 25 percent of U.S. homes will not have cable service, according to Covergence.

The effect of cord-cutting was one of the factors behind this week’s massive layoffs at ESPN, which cut about 100 positions. The sports giant has lost 12 million subscribers in six years, according to Business Insider.

And as streaming continues to grow, cable will keep hemorrhaging customers. People are tired of paying for channels they’re not watching, especially when they can get HBO and the other networks they want a la carte through services like Roku without paying for Retroplex, ReelzChannel and STARZ Encore Westerns East.

I always figured I would be a cable subscriber for life. Cable was a necessity, I believed, and I was at the mercy of whatever they wanted to charge me for it. I was a prisoner of cable mentality.

And I was always a fan of cable. I’m old enough to remember not having it, and what a big deal it was when we finally got it in our house. Bruce Springsteen famously lamented “57 channels and nothing on” — things were quaint in 1992, back before there were 57 separate HBOs — but for someone brought up in the ’80s, cable TV was indispensable. Generation X could easily be tagged Generation Cable.

There were entire years of my life dedicated to watching blocks of music videos, and even today, I can probably do a shot-by-shot breakdown of Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love” video. (Directed by David Fincher, no less!)

When my parents finally yanked MTV from me in 1995 — “you’re watching ‘The Real World,’ but you’re not living in it!” is a famous quote from my teenage years — it was like having a friend move away to another state.

But over time, my necessity for cable drifted, even as Peak TV series like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” took over the tube. And that monthly bill was weighing on me.

Talk of cord-cutting among the masses became louder and louder in recent years, but I never thought I’d do it. And then one day I did. And the sun rose the following day.

I now have an HD antenna that gets me the local channels, along with some weirdo sub-channels that play oddball reruns from decades past. (It turns out “The Love Boat” was not a very good show.)

For streaming, I have Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. And when “Twin Peaks” starts next month, I’ll pick up Showtime Anytime, which will also allow me to catch up on the last season of “Homeland.” Until then, no spoilers, please.

Now my Comcast bill is much lower, although I still pay them $60 a month just for internet that doesn’t stretch to my bedroom. But I find myself watching less TV than ever, and most nights I don’t even turn it on. And things are fine.

Although, occasionally, I still wonder what’s happening on “American Pickers.”

(313) 222-2284