Fun Friday: Going Over The Top

Last night we got home from dinner and I wanted to watch some TV.

TV is not really my thing but I am trying to get more into it these days. I did not turn on the cable box. I went straight for Netfix, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, and NBA League Pass.

This morning I thought “do we really need that cable box anymore?” And then I thought that would make for a fun friday discussion.

I just tweeted out this poll:

Please take that poll and, because its fun friday, let’s talk about this in the comments too.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Joe Marchese

    Definitely planning on cutting the cord, but not yet. Plans are in early stages, and I’m expecting aggregating/bundling will fluctuate a lot as providers grab for share. Also hoping someone (AAPL?) will make it easier to search and deliver content. Don’t need yet another instance of tech sprawl.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      My understanding is the latest AppleTV model can search across streaming services for content using Siri.

    2. Chris O'Donnell

      Roku can search across some of it’s content partners. I’ve noticed my “feed” on Roku shows me which streaming provider is cheapest for the various movies and shows I’ve tagged.

  2. Supratim Dasgupta

    Mine is the reverse case. I went from watching Netflix exclusively to now adding Showtime on Demand. The internet company i newly subscribed to has TV bundled in and I chanced upon Showtime On demand and HBO on Demand. I was able to watch Mad Max Fury which is not on Netflix yet.

  3. Matt Zagaja

    We did not initially plan to purchase cable TV but the teaser deal Comcast gave us when we moved into the apartment made getting the “millennial” basic cable + HBO package with faster Internet (75Mbps v. 25Mbps) cheaper than getting the faster Internet alone. Other than HBO we do not use it a lot, but it is nice to have CNN once in a while.

    1. Supratim Dasgupta

      Ditto case here. Except for TWC

    2. fredwilson

      same happened with my daughter emily when she got out of college last year. the cable provider made TV almost free with the internet bundle. so they have it.

      1. Richard

        Been without cable for 8 years. The cable company would litteraly have to pay me no less than 250/month to get into my place.

      2. ShanaC

        we didn’t go for it, and I am still angry with cablevision over them not letting them using my modem #needtoyellatthem

    3. ShanaC

      how much was the deal difference?

      1. Matt Zagaja

        About $10 month cheaper on the teaser.

  4. Chris O'Donnell

    Verizon makes it stupid cheap with their bundled plans to have cable along with Internet, and it’s really my only option to get the Big Ten Network. So I’ve got the cheapest package that gets me Big Ten Network, plus a Roku, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and’d drop cable if I could get Premier League games and college sports without it.Yes, I know about VPNs. Verizon makes cable pretty cheap as part of a bundle, probably a strategy to artificially prop up subscriber numbers.

    1. David Singer

      I’m in the same boat. The amount Verizon charges for TV is so minimal that the “cord cutting” would just be a formality, and a pain to replace it for sports, even when it’s doable.

  5. kenberger

    It’s a total cord-cutter’s world these days. I see almost no use for cable for about 5 years now, unless you’re a total sports addict to a team or 2.I brought home a Samsung Oculus Gear VR, and as “over the top” as that device looks and other terrible anti-social qualities about it, it works super well today to pop in your phone and watch endless Netflix et al as if you have a huge cinema screen. *I* have actually yet to use it, since the wife claims it every single night.

  6. LIAD

    Finished refurb of our home last year complete with network cables everywhere, Smart TVs etc.Netflix, Amazon Prime worked a treat. Family collectively spending less and less time watching cable.Cable contract ending. Called to cancel. Not as a ploy to get better price. Just didn’t need it anymore.Was paying around £40 p/m.Call agent, “what would we have to do to keep you Sir?”Me: “not interested. Not about the money. Even if was only £5 p/m Id still be cancelling.Call Agent: ” pls hold a second….How about a new HD set top box free and a reduced subscription of £5.99 p/m”- when a service provider offers you stuff you haven’t asked for and a 85% subscription discount – you know they’re running scared.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Simone

        UK is a complicated, place, for one Liad, you get thousands who pay 500% margin. There is such chronic overpaying in UK for everything, there must be a lot of slack in the market. So I would be a cautious wow

        1. RichardF

          I think there is a real shift happening and the economic climate is going to accelerate it.

          1. Simone

            I really hope so, I think the same but it is hard to know how long it would take

    2. Matt Zagaja

      Sounds like the Magazine subscription model. Conde Nast still sends me WIRED for free and I stopped paying for it a year ago.

      1. David Semeria

        Slightly different: Conde Nast do that to boost their readership figures which directly impacts their advertising revenue.

        1. LE

          Agree in part deny in part (as they say).I have cable (Comcast) at the office and they give you a discount [1] if you get TV service in addition to phone and internet. The reason almost certainly is that they are able to sell local advertising [2] so the number of subscribers matters in terms of what they can charge.[1] So Internet, TV, Phone is priced less than just Internet and Phone. It’s labeled bill wise in a way that they can claim the subscribers is paying.[2] I don’t use the TV at the office (don’t even have one) but at home many cable shows are filled with ads for local or area companies.

          1. PhilipSugar

            I agree. Especially on the sports channels. I don’t know what it’s like for the cities, but outside the cities broadband has increased the reason to keep Cable TV. As you point out, there really is no charge for the TV and if you want fast internet you only have one choice. We are not wired for FIOS so you can get cable or DSL.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          My guess is the same for a cable company wanted people to keep TV.

      2. ShanaC

        i want a free wired, and free wsj and nytimes, damned

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I think I need to call Verizon and threaten to leave. Time to renegotiate our 7 year old plan.

      1. ShanaC


    4. RichardF

      Yup agree sky emailed me to offer me a no strings attached free new box. My 8 year old doesn’t watch TV now, YouTube has completely replaced it.

    5. sigmaalgebra

      Here in the US 70 miles northof Wall Street, I have cable with TV, phone, and Internet with e-mail.I really don’t want to watch TV so called the company to keep phone and Internet and cancel TV. Their response: Would save only about $4 a month on a bill of about $100 a month. But they increased my Internet download speed to 45 Mbps or so for free.

    6. ShanaC

      wow. omg

  7. Eric Satz

    Need all of the european soccer channels so can’t drop.

    1. Toby Bryce

      Same, and I pay extra to get Beinsports — my cable use is almost exclusively watching soccer and there are not yet OTT / digital subscription alternatives.

      1. Eric Satz

        Yep. Beinsports a must.

  8. John

    What’s a cable box?Joking aside, when we go on vacation my kids get to enjoy this unique thing in hotels called cable. Ironically, I think they enjoy the commercials on cable kids networks as much or more than they enjoy the shows. It’s like going to Disneyland for them. Then, we head back home and they just watch YouTube, Netflix, etc which doesn’t have those commercials.

  9. John Pepper

    still have both. it’s about 80% non-Comcast use to 20% Comcast use. Getting closer and closer to 100/0 with each passing day.

  10. Salt Shaker

    ESPN has somewhat plateaued w/ rising rights fees. While sports is the anchor for most cable bundles, at what point does ESPN explore or go OTT? The network garners the highest affiliate comp of any cable network, by a wide margin, so it’s hard to walk away from a model that’s been so enormously successful, but with the escalation of cord cutting at some point they’ll have to explore, in addition to traditional distribution, which could be an MSO killer.

  11. markbarrington

    Been thinking about dropping Cable for a couple of years but can’t get the sports I want without it. Mainly need Premier League and tennis.

    1. bobmonsour

      Tennis is a huge problem. While there’s tennistv and the tennis channel’s tennisanywhere, they don’t cover the majors…and you gotta have the majors.

  12. David Semeria

    Dumped cable / sat and went all in on Chromecast.The only problem is that you can’t configure a VPN on Chromecast.Solved that by installing dd-WRT on a decent quality router and now have router-based point-to-point VPN with UK ($5/month). Chromecast connects via wifi to the router so it’s automatically on the VPN.

  13. Michael Jordan

    Our family shares a single cable account that gives all of us mobile access to the core cable channels (ESPN, FX, AMC, Comedy Central, etc…). It wasn’t planned this way, but naturally happened as the kids left the home after college and used our parent’s home cable account for mobile access. One family cable account essentially gives us all cable accounts with our smart TVs, ipads and Chromecasts. I’m not suggesting this will be the common arrangement, but most young people I know in NYC without cable use their family or friend’s cable log-ins.

  14. Caleb Kemere

    We use cable ($80/mo, with little leverage b/c Houston is essentially a Comcast monopoly) *only* for sports. Prime, etc., for everything else. Big disappointment with NBA League Pass (missing the best games) and Fox Soccer2Go (used to be great until they lost rights to Premier League). WatchESPN and NBCSportsLive are great but check for cable subscription. I loved Aereo’s model – I’d happily pay for a cable subscription in a cheaper market just for the login credentials.The Premier League is an interesting case – NBCSportsLive has made the interesting decision to give free Premier League streams to cable subscribers of their channel. I have to pay an extra $7 / month for the channel, but I’d just as soon pay those $$ direct to NBC if I could drop the rest of the cable channels.

  15. Susan Rubinsky

    I dumped cable the second Chromecast was available. Haven’t looked back since. But I’m not a big TV person. I know several people who use cable only because there is no other resource for sports. Whomever cracks the sports distribution code will win big.

  16. William Mougayar

    Netflix, external antenna (7 channels only) and Pirate Bay in a pinch.

  17. Tracey Jackson

    Can’t drop. I agree Verizon makes it super cheap and I can use to hook up Apple TV’s in our other house. And there are times when the we lose the signals in our apt. It happened las night, we had to move from CNNTOGO to regular CNN. If any of you techies know why this happens. Apple was fine for two hours with Netflix then went to CNNtoGO and the signal kept dropping.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      The source of the issue is either your WiFi or could be the Internet connection itself or could be the content provider. Diagnosing network connection problems is a project. Best strategy is to isolate and troubleshoot each part of the stack. Good luck, it isn’t fun.

      1. LE

        Diagnosing network connection problems is a projectI often wonder how these companies deal with totally clueless people some times (not referring to Tracey here). Meaning people who can’t even fix a simple problem and end up either spending hours on the phone or require a person to come to the house to get “diagnose” and get things working. It must be scary to be that helpless.

        1. Tracey Jackson

          Thank you guys. I do think it’s the CNN feed. As I’ve never had it happen on Netflix, Showtime or in fact any of the channels we stream.

  18. bobmonsour

    We moved to Bellevue, WA about 8 months ago and got a decent deal with Comcast, $120 for their largest bundle, including 175Mbps internet (which only operates at 175Mbps right after resetting the modem…normal use, it seems that speedtest says it’s more like 30-50 and sometimes 75). As with all their “new” customers, they throw in all the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.). It’s locked in for 2 years. Not sure what we’ll do after that, as in 2 years the landscape may have changed quite a bit. With all that, we mostly watch Netflix. It’s about a 95% to 5% split of Netflix to cable shows. We’ve got a Sony TV with a big white Netflix button on it that turns on the TV and takes you right to Netflix.All of the cable shows we watch are via DVR, so we can watch when we want and can FFW through commercials. We watch about 2 hours a night, before I start to fall asleep on the couch.

    1. bobmonsour

      I failed to note that the main reason we have cable at all is my tennis watching addiction/affliction. There are a couple of OTT offers out there for tennis, but they are unable to carry the Grand Slam events, which is where it all gets serious….4 times a year.

  19. Aashay Mody

    The only reason I still have cable is because I need access to NBC Sports Live Extra to get my weekly dose of English football and the only way to get that (that I know of) is with a cable subscription. If someone has a better way to access what I want, please share!

  20. Chris Hubbell

    An issue for cord cutting and sports fans, national blackouts. Doesn’t happen all the time, but still a pain when it does.

  21. kidmercury

    playoffs and finals are not on league pass; you’ll need the sling app for that. so annoying.

  22. Tommaso Trionfi

    we moved to SF in 2014 from NYC, stopped Cable, and phone. Ooma for phone, and Netflix, chrome cast etc. Never looked back. Interesting my kids never asked for TV.

  23. Phil Chacko

    We literally cancelled our cable yesterday. However we’ve got Netflix, Amazon Prime, and will be signing up for HBO Now.And I’ll be hitting the bars for Jets games.

    1. Paul Sanwald

      The brooklyn nets is the sole reason we still have cable. We’re also moving across the country, and since league pass will then cover NYC basketball, we should be able to cut the cord!

      1. kidmercury

        how about that nets win last night! pretty good!

        1. Paul Sanwald

          at this point I’ll take anything! was a nice win.

  24. Vanderlyn

    When I renovated our apartment, I installed a ceiling-mounted projector connected to a Roku. This is how we watch everything – including Time Warner Cable, which has a great Roku app – and it’s working out well. No cords at all, instant access to Amazon, Netflix, cable programming, etc. One annoyance is not having a DVR, but it seems that the expansion of on-demand options will soon make that problem irrelevant – it already has to some degree.The biggest downside, though, is the fact that I’m renting a cable box and letting it collect dust it in my basement storage unit. TWC refuses to let subscribers access programming through third-party devices/wi-fi unless they rent the physical cable box, which is such dinosaur thinking. If they offered a device-only television package for a few dollars less (or even better – a la carte programming), I think you’d see much more wide-scale adoption.

  25. zakumanoff

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I replaced cable with a Roku and an old school antenna. A lot of people forget that all local channels are broadcast, over the air, in HD, for free! That helps alleviate the issue with sports- I still get Giants games on the weekends, and most of the big sporting events. So break out those rabbit ears, people… 🙂

  26. Kirsten Lambertsen

    We still have cable because I’d have to do a bunch of research to figure out if there would be over the top ways of viewing things like rugby and college wrestling (for Mr. Kirsten). Anything that takes a bunch of research on my part tends to get done only when absolutely necessary ;-)I think I might be really old skool here, but one thing I always think about with the Fios package is the “land” line (which it isn’t *exactly* now, but still more so than a cell phone). I’ve been in enough power outages and disasters to experience not being able to get a cell out to make a call. It’s probably not worth keeping the landline for, but I still tell myself that’s why we have it, heh. We’re in hurricane territory.

    1. LE

      Anything that takes a bunch of research on my part tends to get done only when absolutely necessaryIt’s a prison, isn’t it!! (I am the same way.) Nothing is on a whim. Everything takes research and thought. I think we both realize though that the majority of the world is not the same way and acts more impulsively. And it’s really annoying when that lack of attention gets them in the right place and saves them time. (That said I stick with what has worked for me over time..)I think I might be really old skool here, but one thing I always think about with the Fios package is the “land” lineI think that’s old school smart, not old school luddite. Safety wise it’s something that I’ve considered but haven’t done mainly because the land line is delivered over fiber (same as internet) and not the old pots copper system. So I see it as nominal value. Plus I don’t want a house phone because it would be annoying (and even the kids each have cells).Back when I was growing up we had two lines, one was solely for the kids. After we all moved out (long long time ago) my parents kept the second line just to be able to give it to anyone not important that needed to call the house.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Our phone is on fiber, too. But it came with a big battery that will run it for something like 7 days in a power outage. The house phone IS annoying in some ways. We use it for exactly what your parents used your old dedicated line. We almost never answer it.My avoidance of research is probably tied to my obsession with research, ha! It takes me a whole day to buy a plane ticket b/c I’m so determined to find the best seat (primary) at the best price at the best time of day. Clearly I have a problem, ha! And to your point: it still doesn’t rule out just dumb luck!

        1. LE

          It takes me a whole day to buy a plane ticketI’ve got that down to a half a day!! Ditto for making restaurant reservations in a city with a great deal of choices! (Miami Beach recently). My trick for that (rather than reading reviews) was to do a search for a typical Saturday night a few days before Saturday night and see what was sold out. (Then figure those had to be the popular places. Unfortunately to me the food comes 2nd to the atmosphere so that deprecates the method a bit since people generally go for food I think over atmosphere.)

  27. FlavioGomes

    Dropped cable several months ago…for me it wasn’t really the cost but rather i was getting better quality and on demand content elsewhere.

  28. pointsnfigures

    My building has SAT. It’s okay. Goes out when it rains and snows. Didn’t really LOVE Comcast Cable either. Next place, I may go over the top. But right now, you can’t buy NCAA Hoops Tourney Package, or Super Bowl on a one off basis. Soon though, soon.

  29. mike

    Have to keep DirecTV strictly for live sports. Oregon game last night on TNT, Giants/Warriors on bay area regional sports affiliate, hockey playoffs on NBC Sports, Thursday night football on NFL Network, college sports on ESPN U, Tennis majors and golf on random channels/ premier league soccer etc.. Of course nobody watches all of these, but there are enough sports to touch a dozen different channels that you have to keep the bundled package. Buying the premium MLB/NBA packages and the cost starts to come in-line with the bundled directv package as it is. LIVE SPORTS is the main thing keeping the cable/satelite providers in business. CBS/Time Warner paid mega money for the March Madness rights, you better believe those channels are going to stick in the cable packages for the ever-important subscriber fees and you won’t necessarily be able to buy them stand-alone. They can’t make all their money strictly on advertising. ESPN alone accounts for probably half of the subscriber fees. For a great book on this, read the ESPN documentary “Those Guys Have all the Fund”

  30. LE

    Other than a few things almost never watch live TV. But do watch things that are DVR’d off of live TV. For the things that we watch that works well and there is no reason to do anything differently given the reasonable cost.

  31. jason wright

    i don’t know how it works in the US or elsewhere but here in the UK broadband comes in through the telephone line from the street. even if one has an independent broadband provider the telephone company still gets to charge their line rental fee, which is very inflexible for those wanting to go exclusively mobile for voice. so now the proposal is to scrap the line rental ‘scam’ entirely. seems like progress, but as ever in the UK there’s probably an ‘angle’ we the public haven’t been made aware of that will result in ever more profits for providers. net result, we pay more in the round? probably.telly/ the goggle box is bad for mental dexterity.

    1. Simone

      ‘angle’ 🙂

  32. Guesty McGuesterson

    I do not have cable tv and you should not have it either.Buying content from the cable companies just encourages them to stay in the business of delivering content. If everybody bought only internet service from them, and did not bundle it with other things, they would be in the business of only delivering internet service and not messing around with these ‘bundling’ options which are anti-competitive.

  33. Ana Milicevic

    Cut the cord in ’09. Haven’t missed it. Here’s the math I did back then:”I get internet from Time Warner for $40 per month. If I had cable on top of that, I’d likely get a bundle of some kind and from what I can see, that would lift the monthly bill to the $120 range. So with my current set-up, that leaves $80 to spend on other stuff, and when you subtract my Netflix subscription ($18 — I still have the DVD-by-mail plan but I’ll likely discontinue it), that still leaves $62 per month (or about 12 iTunes HD movie rentals). I really don’t miss cable.”A lot of things have changed since (internet provider, Netflix streaming-only, Hulu, Hola + iPlayer, etc) but the biggest change has been in how I think about media consumption. For live events (mainly of the sports kind) I get by with a little help from my friends. Would happily pay premium subs for sports I care about (F1, tennis, marquee events like RWC etc) but no such option exists yet.

  34. Stephen Voris

    While I believe the house I live in has cable (and that the older couple who owns it make use of it regularly), my recreational habits are more or less entirely confined to computer screens and books, a situation I can trace back to roughly age ten – I’d heard somewhere that TV was “bad for you because you just sat there and watched”, and the resulting prejudice has never really lifted. Not that I’ll stop other people from watching, mind.

  35. Brian Levine

    Fred, what about Knicks? As a fellow Knick fanatic, we both know once League Pass stops blacking out the games, we can ditch the cable box. Only reason I have mine!

  36. NS

    Use FIOS Internet only (since 2012):- Netflix + Amazon Prime – Colbert, John Oliver episodes streamed from, youtube to TV from macUse $100 Leaf indoor antenna (now $30) to catch any live TV episodes / games.Mostly watch above on our 50″ plasma TV.Only miss soccer games as you need to get a cable bundle + landline phone (???) to see. will wait till it can be streamed.

  37. matt restivo

    I recently cut the cord and purchased one of the best antennas I could find on prime. I live in NYC and my problem now is that because my windows are in an alley on the 3rd/5th floor, I get shaky CBS reception and no NBC at all.Anybody in an urban environment solve the problem of getting your local stations??

  38. Jake Lewis

    Amazon Prime, Hulu++, Netflix, Showtime, YouTube, HBO Now on and off. Get_iplayer for offline BBC.I’m using Chromecast more and more, rather than Roku, but what I need is an (Android) app that links to just my favorite shows so I don’t have to remember which service carries which show, then have to wade through all the menus to get to it.Universal search would be great too.

  39. Kirsten Lambertsen

    “TV is not really my thing but I am trying to get more into it these days.”I’m terribly curious to know why you’re trying to get *more* into TV these days 🙂

    1. Russell

      You beat me to it. @fredwilson:disqus wondering what is behind the conscious decision to watch more TV?

      1. JJ Donovan

        Another reason why Fred Wilson never ceases to amaze me. With all he has going on he has time for TV as well. I barely have time to eat let alone watch more TV

  40. Paul M

    I’m sticking around because I watch my local NHL and MLB teams all the time, and thus far the leagues have not yet created a way to get the games online in-market. They will, and when they do things will get more interesting. I would happily pay $100/season to get all my Nationals baseball or Capitals hockey streamed to me in HD (or UHD!!) and get rid of the 200 channels I never watch and don’t want. Give me a subscription service for the teams I like and some reasonable a la carte option for everything else and I would be a satisfied customer.

  41. Michael Sher

    Was having an issue with my bedroom cable box so removed it and added Apple TV as sole entertainment. Voice commands work great but how does Apple release a new remote with with no backlight? Amazing.We stream CBS News Live (commercials are annoying) and having to login to activate Showtime, HBO Go, ESPN, etc. is a drag – then relog back in after a certain period of time. Other than that, really don’t need cable. Have iPads by the bed to stream local news channels. Evolving weekly but at least we are moving more and more away from bulky boxes and onto more convenient on demand alternatives.

  42. LaMarEstaba

    A Verizon FiOS guy knocked on my door today to try to lure me into their clutches, but he was trying to specifically sell me Internet, and the cheapest price that they offered was 2.5x what I currently pay for Internet.

  43. Ludwig

    In Germany we have to pay for public TV and Radio, even if you don’t have a TV… No need for cable though, you can get everything over the Internet.

  44. Guy Hargreaves

    Cut my cable in Hong Kong five years ago. It was rubbish anyway. Since then have had 100-300M broadband deploying a variety of channels to the content I like. Currently paying USD12/m equivalent for 200M broadband. The joys of density.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      12 bucks a month for 200M, nice!In Santiago you can get 160M down / 8M up for 50 bucks.

  45. Donna Brewington White

    I am soooo over the top.Our kids have never lived in a house with cable.

  46. Gareth Kavanagh

    since my wife and I moved to Germany in July 2014 we’ve watched netflix and amazon prime almost exclusively. The only thing keeping me using the cablebox is formula 1. I can imagine the situation is the same for a lot of people out there who enjoy sport of some kind.

  47. JJ Donovan

    I applaud those that have been able to cut the cord. One would think that my lack of interest in any sports channels or movie channels would allow me to cut the cord as well, but alas, I am tied to the cord due to the news channels: MSNBC, CNN and if I could get it, CNBC are all that I watch. I have not figured out how to watch them without the cord. For those of you that have cut the cord, I applaud you and hope to join you someday!

  48. ShanaC

    scarily, we have nothing. I have an ex that let’s me use his Netflix occasionally, I happen to have amazon prime, but I almost never use it for streaming. We don’t even own a tv.We seriously spend more time streaming music off of of youtube than anything else. I remember on moving in that I told shawn that we wouldn’t need Co-ax and he wouldn’t believe me – the apartment already had plenty, and we actually were already cutting down on streaming before that. He didn’t believe me, and we ended up throwing out/giving away a lot of cableYeah…. we’re extreme?

  49. llonyort

    Ditched the cable box AND television in 2008. It’s been liberating. Love sports and scary at first, but crazy thing happened, we spent more time outside, talking to each other (wife) and reading. We consume video through the typical over-the-top sources on laptop/tablets, but we have to go out of way to do so and we do not watch for long periods. Use the neighbors for movies. Television is a crutch…ditch it.