How to Cancel Your Cable When You’re Addicted to a Show

woman with remoteI have observed two kinds of cable subscribers.  Some cable subscribers love TV and watch many channels many hours of the day and feel they are getting great value out of their packages.  Other cable subscribers hate their high bills and don’t think that they are getting a good value on the programming they consume, but they refuse to cut the cord because they are addicted to one or more individual shows.  It may be compelling reality TV, cliffhanger storylines, or movie-quality filming – whatever the case, HBO/TNT/AMC/A&E/PBS has them by the throat!  (Of course, sports programming is its own issue – more on that next week!)


This post provides several different approaches for getting that addicted subscriber to finally let go and keep more money in his pocket without feeling too deprived.  That is, if he really wants to change!  And isn’t it always better to feel that you can take or leave a product – whether it’s entertainment, alcohol, food, behaviors, etc. – and not be a slave to your impulses?


1) Damage Control: Don’t Add Any New Shows


If you truly want to wean yourself off of cable, start by watching it less.  Limit yourself only to the show(s) that are the reason you still have your subscription.  Don’t get involved with any new characters or plotlines.  Eventually, the show(s) you’re addicted to will end.  If by that point you have not generated any new addictions, you will be able to cancel without remorse.  I really recommend not using cable except to watch those certain shows because you never know what will suck you in.


2) Cycling: Cancel in the Off-Season


Virtually all shows have an off-season for at least a few months.  Take the plunge and cancel your cable as soon as your preferred show has aired it season finale.  Reassure yourself that you will add cable back just before the next season’s premiere.  You never know – perhaps your feelings toward the show will change when you take a break from your TV-watching routine and limit your exposure to advertising.  The worst case scenario here is that you still must watch your show and you add cable back, but you’ll likely still be a few hundred bucks richer for trying.  Best case scenario is that your life becomes so vibrant during the off season that you don’t want to redirect your money and time to that show.  (Of course you will want to check that any additional fees you might incur with adding and subtracting services will amount to less than what you would have paid for cable through the off-season.)


3) Hold Your Breath: Wait for Lower-Cost Options


There are so many ways to watch TV now other than cable and satellite.  If you are willing to wait, you can get shows through a variety of other pay providers for a fraction of the cost of cable.  Amazon Instant (affiliate link – thanks for using!) and Hulu (Plus) will have new episodes posted within hours to a week of the initial airing.  Netflix allows you to binge-watch a whole season at once after the finale.  Unless you are addicted to a bunch of shows that you want to buy a la carte, any of these would be lower-cost alternatives to cable – if you’re just willing to wait a tiny bit!


4) Do Some Math: Calculate the Value


If you are truly holding on to your cable just for one show or a small number of shows, it may be worthwhile to calculate how much you’re spending to have access to that show.  Really what you’re paying for is the-moment-it-airs access in the comfort of your own home.  (Are you even watching the show the moment it airs?  Do you get to it before the episode becomes available on Hulu or Amazon?)  Take your year-round cable bill and divide it by the number of episodes your show airs.  What are you paying per episode?  How about per minute?  How much more are you paying that you would by pursuing suggestion 3?  With the numbers right in front of you, do you still think it’s worth it?


5) Feel Too Full: Consume Other Content


This may seem counter-intuitive, but if you don’t already subscribe to Netflix streaming or Hulu Plus, you could try adding one of those streaming services while you’re still subscribing to cable.  It’s really an insignificant fraction of your cost of cable, anyway.  You know what’s available through those services?  Tons of amazing shows and movies that have stood the test of time and that you can sort through to find the ones that will fit you best.  Perhaps you will find something you love enough to let it supplant your cable-only show – and at that point, get rid of the cable!  (If you want to support this blog and are interested in checking out Netflix for free you can use our affiliate link – thanks!: Start your Netflix FREE trial today!)


6) Make a Friend: Attend Watch Parties


What’s wrong with watching a TV show being a social event?  And what’s the point of watching an episode the second it comes on if you aren’t going to discuss it with your friends, anyway?  If you aren’t willing to pay for a cable subscription for access to one show only, find another fan of the show who is that first type of cable subscriber – happy to pay for lots of programming.  Get a group together to watch the show together every time it airs and bring a snack to share to make it a symbiotic relationship.  Perhaps your host will even be relieved that she’s getting more “use” out of her expensive subscription!


Of all these suggestions, my favorite is the watch party.  I think it would be way more fun to watch a show you’re totally hyped about with other hyped fans rather than alone in your house late at night.  We do this frequently for sporting events, and I remember that my female friends used to do it for Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy.  I think your experience will only be enhanced (and your wallet fattened) by going to a friend’s house to watch, if you can find a willing host!


I admit that I recently became addicted to one show – Downton Abbey.  However, I didn’t discover it until after the first couple seasons were already available on Netflix, and I don’t mind waiting until after the next season airs to get it from Netflix or Amazon Instant.  We’re sure it’s not worth subscribing to cable just for faster access to that one show!


On illegal streaming/downloading:  All of us know that it’s possible to watch Game of Thrones and other popular shows immediately and for free, and most of us even know where to go to get them.  I feel strongly that when you get an episode from a non-authorized provider, you are taking money out of someone’s pocket.  Even if the producer doesn’t care, the cable companies sure are missing the dollars your subscription would have brought in.  Just after Kyle and I cancelled our cable, we used to download Psych illegally because we really wanted to continue watching it, but we have since reconsidered and no longer illegally stream or download any shows (or other content).  When you choose to get a show for free that you should be paying for, you have put a price on your integrity.  The price might be the cost of your cable subscription or just the $2 Amazon Instant would have charged you, but in either case I believe your integrity (and mine) is worth much, much more than those trivial amounts.


Are you or have you been addicted to any cable shows?  How do you watch without subscribing or how did you move past your addiction?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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26 Responses to "How to Cancel Your Cable When You’re Addicted to a Show"

  1. pauline says:

    I try not to add new shows, and stream the ones I like. I don’t start watching a season if I am busy so unless it is a slow period and I can have a 2-3 days marathon I limit my watching.
    pauline recently posted..Investing in Commercial Property

    1. Emily says:

      I prefer to binge-watch too and not have my viewing schedule dictated by anyone else!

  2. Kelly says:

    Yay for Downton Abbey! I have been thinking about having watch parties when Season 4 starts in Jan. I’ll have to remember to invite you when the time comes 🙂 I don’t have cable, but over the air works just fine unless there is a crazy storm or something.


    1. Emily says:

      Sweet, yeah! I don’t know if we’ll be able to get PBS over the air after we move but we’ll certainly try.

  3. When I watch tv shows, I binge on them. I watch marathons rather than one show a week. As a result it tends to be far into a season or series before I watch them. We have NetFlix, but no cable – we went cold turkey. It was a rough transition but we realized we watched so much crap in the background or because we don’t have anything else to do.
    Alicia @ Finncial Diffraction recently posted..snowball versus ladder.

    1. Emily says:

      I agree. Canceling cable eliminated a lot of the junk (read: reality) programming from our lives, so now even though we binge-watch it’s usually stuff we really like.

  4. Michelle says:

    We’re addicted to a lot of HBO shows. We have been thinking about cutting our cable but it is hard! 🙂
    Michelle recently posted..August Goals and Life – Wedding Dress Picture Too!

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve never gotten into any of the recent HBO shows, even after they’re on Netflix. I’m not too broken up about it!

  5. We’re so far behind on everything that we just watch via Netflix or DVD.

    And that’s nice because we never get a show canceled on us without warning. 🙂
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..September Mortgage Update and I hate budgeting

    1. Emily says:

      That’s true. You also know if a show jumps the shark at some point or the quality just slides. Not watching stuff right when it comes out leaves room to be selective and keep expectations low if necessary.


    Let’s see. Over the course of the year (obviously not all shows are on at the same time of year), True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Beauty & the Beast, Glee, Hell’s Kitchen, Falling Skies, Being Human, and Lost Girl. My wife also watches Game of Thrones. Plus there are shows that I watch in syndication/reruns when they are on: NCIS, Chopped, Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Kitchen Cousins, Property Brothers, Love It or List It, Star Trek: Next Generation, Family Guy, South Park, Futurama, and probably some others that I’m forgetting. Then, there are a handful of shows that our roommates like to watch (and the cable bill is built into their rent, although if they want it in their rooms, it’s extra).
    I ran the numbers once, and figured out that having cable is actually cheaper for me than cutting the cord and buying all those shows!
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Net Worth Update: August 2013

    1. Emily says:

      Hmm, apparently the WordPress app on my phone can’t be trusted to update my posts properly!

      If you’ve run the numbers (accounting for only the shows you can’t get over the air) and it comes out cheaper than buying a la carte, then you should be satisfied with the value of your package! Especially if you are splitting the cost among roommates.

  7. SarahN says:

    I’m interested about your thought on piracy. We don’t have hulu in Australia and only by geo blocking can we access it (which is also probably illegal in some senses too). We also pay a lot more for movies/cable etc. So there’s a very high level of piracy in Australia for this reason – at the end of the day, I think the costs need to be reasonable, and I don’t think they always are. I know that people need to be paid, but it’s a balance between payment and profiteering. I don’t (personally) illegally download – it’s too hard, and I hate getting the ‘cease and desist’ letters than the movie companies can send to your ISP who forwards them onto you. That being said, I find it hard to “hate” on those who do it. Not only is the cost more, we often have to wait, previously up to years, then months. Now we’re down to about 24 hours (after the US) for the most liked shows, like Dexter and Breaking Bad. I can’t help thinking that they are bringing them to cable faster now, to compete with illegal downloading.
    SarahN recently posted..What’s the best way with money?

    1. Emily says:

      There’s no “right” to be entertained, you know? We’re not talking about food or medical care here, just TV. The market should dictate the prices and availability. I totally think that there should be more a la carte options for buying programming that you want (in a timely manner) and not what you don’t want, but that’s not always available right now. I hope we’re in a time of transition and that people canceling cable and turning to illegal streaming/downloading will signal that change is needed. I totally get why people download and it feels pretty victimless, but I’d just rather have a clear conscience. A lot of people I talk to who do it don’t seem to even think of it as out-of-bounds so I wanted to point out that to me that is not an option.

  8. Lucas says:

    Illegal downloading boils down to one key point – the content is not yours (someone else paid for and spent a lot of time producing it) and you have two choices – either pay what is “required” to gain access or just not watch it. It isn’t like your life won’t be complete if you don’t watch vampire diaries. Of course it would be nice if the companies actually offered stuff for a reasonable price in the format consumers wanted (there is probably a lot of illegal collusion going on here behind the scenes), but I agree with your comment that this isn’t a fundamental right like food or shelter.

    In fact I would argue that there is a direct correlation between more TV watched and less life satisfaction. Commercials are probably the biggest part of this, but even hulu now has lots of commercials. Free content on Amazon prime even has “stealth commercials” by putting trailers at the end of kids shows and such for “non-free” content.

    I guess i feel much less strongly about content format restrictions (ie having a CD and converting it to MP3s (which is legal), or backing up a DVD (which is legal, but breaking the copy protection put in place to prevent you from doing that is not??) That seems like a very arbitrary restriction.

    1. Emily says:

      I agree that exposure to TV (and the explicit and implicit advertising) correlates with lower life satisfaction. We shouldn’t be so sold on our need to consume this content as to think it’s on par with eating! I don’t really think about content format restrictions for my personal use as it doesn’t come up (I don’t ever buy stuff…), but if you’re still keeping it for just your own personal use I don’t think it should matter much which format you convert to.

  9. CashRebel says:

    Canceling in the off-season is a good idea. I would absolutely do that if I lived alone. I wouldn’t have cable from February through August, and then get it back for the start of the NFL. Unfortunately, my roommate loves hockey which has the opposite season, haha.
    CashRebel recently posted..Friends and adventure are the spice of life

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, yeah that puts you in a tight spot. At least you have someone to split the cost with, though.

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  13. I usually like waiting for DVDs to come out (marathon watching session), or to watch on Hulu. Otherwise….
    mochimac @ save. spend. splurge. recently posted..Stay at home parents, DO NOT call yourselves “Household Engineers”!!

    1. Emily says:

      I like to binge-watch, too. Do you buy those DVDs or rent?

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