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Hidden costs of entertainment

By August 12, 201317 Comments2 min read

I had to go into my local Comcast office last week to swap out my modem, as they were upgrading speeds in my neighborhood (yay!), and I decided to swap my DVR as well. I have had this DVR for at least 6 years, it still works fine, but capacity was limited and it never synced with my Samsung TVs remote. I figured I’m already going in, might as well swap it, save me a trip in the future.

I started thinking about it though, and realized something shocking. I’ve been spending $15/month for 6 years for HD-DVR service. That means in 6 years I’ve spent over $1000 on this device!

A grand. This box, made by Motorola, couldn’t have cost Comcast more than $150 in parts since they are buying them wholesale by the millions. If I had to guess the current components to build these boxes are below $100/ unit. Let that sink in for a bit.

This got me thinking even more, can I buy a DVR outright? Can I bring my own cable box? Time Warner a few years back had started supporting the CableCARD standard, which in theory would let you bring your own compatible device and get the card from them. However, I live in a non TW area, so that discussion is moot; furthermore where are you even going to buy a cable box? Maybe Tivo supports it, but then you’re paying TiVo for the monthly subscription as well as the $250+ initial cost of the box (not really a win). This also reminds me I need to cancel my Xbox Live subscription, seriously $5/month for the privilege of streaming to my 8 year old xbox360 (I never play games on it anymore purely use it to watch DVDs or stream Netflix/hulu)!

Is this all a pointless conversation if “the goal” is to shift to streaming only services and abandon cable altogether? If everything goes streaming entirely anyway, then a $35 one time fee for a google chromecast device might negate this whole issue and pose a huge threat to Comcast et al.

So if I buy a roku, or AppleTV, and ditch cable tv subscription, I’d save like $1100 a year. Maybe I should do it and use that $ to go somewhere… Have you cut the cable cord yet?


  • Teresa Estefan says:

    I cut the TV cable cord about 5 years ago, first out of necessity due to the failing economy. Once I was back on my feet I found no need for it. Streaming everything through either my computer or the XBox 360, I never found the need. I think the minimal $35 investment for a Google Chromecast device is worth it and definitely poses a serious threat.

    • Teresa, yeah, I am on the verge of doing it too. I think this would force me to spend more time reading, which let’s face it, is probably better for me.

  • mkohpotts says:

    Well, you could have had a Tivo! I bought the lifetime subscription years ago for my box. Of course, it eventually died, but it was totally worth it. Right now, for example, TiVo product lifetime service is $499 right now, so you would have saved money overall ($250+499, although they have different levels of machines) for a better user experience… but only if your TiVo actually lived the full time period. That is the biggest question since I had several boxes breakdown while I was still using DVRs.

    These days I have both a Roku and an AppleTV. I stream Netflix and Amazon Prime. And I budget myself money to use for additional movies and season passes for TV shows I want. I *definitely* save money over having a full cable TV subscription. The only desperation I am left with is searching for someone who has HBO GO.

  • morewillie says:

    There is a great subreddit on cordcutting:

    I’ve been using the Chromecast quite a bit lately and it’s pretty sweet. If you get a connected TV though, most come with all the big services preloaded. PS3 has nice apps for that stuff as well. XBox too, but the apps are more proprietary because Microsoft is a bit stricter on template usage. Use Amazon Instant Video and give me any feedback you have…the advantage is that you get the subscription service with Prime, but you also get transactional content like you would through iTunes.

  • How do you watch live sports without cable?

    • morewillie says:

      Get the Leaf…it’s an HD antenna that works great and it’s inexpensive!

      • i do live across the street from a bar… also my condo association includes basic cable in the rent. so if its not a premium channel i could still get it assuming i keep the dvr ($18/month)

  • I am about to move from DirectV to Comcast. Mainly for the internet. I use Clear 4G internet. It’s piece of a crap. The transfer rate is really bad. Directv is cheap though. I even have HBO and cinemax and all those movie channels and not paying much for them. The reality is that I only watch TV for those channels and for nothing else. I don’t see why I would use a DVR. The other channels we see are Disney JR. And that one with all the reality shows about wives blabla…(I don’t watch this though. Just saying that it is watched). I only watch movies. I don’t watch that silly vampire series or the one with breaking back. Why would they break their back though? silly.
    Honestly I don’t need HBO. I could find those movies online and just plug the laptop. But it’s not easy holding a baby and hooking up your computer. My ideal device could be the Google one. Is it google? Just don’t have any cable at all, just warp speed internet and stream anything from my phone or ipad

  • Jane Muir says:

    I tried! I got Netflix for $10/ mo, Hulu Plus for $10/ mo, and an Apple TV, everything is ready to go, but I can’t give up my HBO and Showtime and I just really like the DVR. The interface for Apple TV isn’t great. Even when you use the iPad as the remote, it’s not as convenient as Cable. So, I am still paying the crazy bill. 🙁 Good luck on cutting the Cable Cord!

  • Fernando Alvarez says:

    I haven’t cut the cable cord but I do have to xfinity $50/month cable and internet service plan. I feel that with that and all the internet sources for streaming I don’t need more. Use my windows media center for all the free recorded shows I want without Tivo or Xfinity DVR service.

    • Fernando Alvarez says:

      BTW, Amazon says I should receive my Chromecast by the end of the month, though I have received a few emails pushing it back then forward then back again….

    • My xfinity internet is $70/month alone though. that I see as being worth it since I use it for work.