My DVR is full and I don’t care

My DVR has been about 96% full all summer. I recorded the last two weeks of Letterman shows, and the first week of Colberts (plus the Tim Cook interview), and set them to never auto-delete. Verizon, bless its heart, sends me an email with my monthly statement that says “We know you’re suffering and we wanted to reach out our helping hand, in the form of a DVR upgrade.”

The thing is that I haven’t really noticed a problem. Just a few years ago, zero free space would have required immediate attention (like that spot on the housing of my toaster oven that gets a little meltier every time I use it; thanks for reminding me, I’ll put that on the list as well). Having to do without it has illustrated that I don’t really need it any more.

The difference at this point in 2015 is that the final few holdout shows that I watch have become available on-demand…and I can watch everything on the screen of my choice. I’m watching last night’s “Project Runway” (the kid’s edition) (look, any version of PR hosted by Tim Gunn is worth watching) (seriously) on the good TV in the living room, via the Lifetime app. PBS has upgraded its streaming app. I still watch “Antiques Roadshow” on Monday nights because that’s my habit, but I’m not even aware when anything else airs. “South Park,” “The Simpsons,” and “Bob’s Burgers” have been on Hulu forever.

CBS (“Late Show,” “Big Bang Theory,” “The Amazing Race,” “Mom”) was the only real problem. Full episodes were available if you visited from a browser, which wasn’t great for casual sofa viewing. Then CBS All Access appeared. Should I spend six bucks a month for it? Maybe, given that it’ll serve about thirty hours of monthly programming that I look forward to every week. Even if I cheapskate out on that, the CBS channel on Roku offers those shows for free…and without commercials, even.

It’s a little miraculous. I spent a week in LA recently. Ten years ago, I would have spent my last night at home playing a six-dimensional game of “Sophie’s Choice,” deciding which shows I’d forego recording to ensure that there’d be space for others. Then I set up a Slingbox, and could watch this stuff from my hotel room.

This year, though, the thought of missing out on TV didn’t even enter my mind. I was looking forward to the final episode of the terrific “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” on PBS, set to air on the Monday night of my trip. Yup, I watched it via streaming on Tuesday. And if I’d missed it, PBS would have been happy to spool it for me after I got home.

So what keeps me subscribing to cable? Nostalgia?

I used to say “Well, ‘Turner Classic Movies’.” But I can get that from a subscription.

Even my desire for cable programming is hanging by a thread. If I went cold turkey — no TCM, no Lifetime, no Food Network — I’d miss seeing some of my favorite shows, for sure, but the original programming on Netflix et al is outstanding. To say nothing of how much I look forward to new YouTube videos posted by Tested or Ben Heck

Sometimes, when we decide to make even a minor lifestyle adjustment, we try to engineer a “nothing but upside” solution. That can prevent us from considering options that are overall positive, but require a cut or two. I changed my cable lineup a few years ago and was miffed when I discovered that the new, less-expensive package did not include BBC America, despite what the customer service rep assured me. But by the time I got around to getting it straightened out, I’d gotten over not seeing Graham Norton or Top Gear.

(I like “Doctor Who.” I’ve only been an intermittent viewer, though. I generally just buy the Christmas episodes.)

I think I’ll be keeping my basic subscription, if only to retain access to streaming apps (which require verification of a cable package). But I’m going to take a good look at my cable package again. And, as profoundly weird as this might seem…I might return all of my cable boxes.

10 thoughts on “My DVR is full and I don’t care

  1. Isaac Church

    I know how you feel, although I’m a Tivo user, so it’s a bit different. I’ve found that with Tivo I could use just one main DVR and Tivo Minis to save LOTS of money over a bunch of cable boxes, and it has slingbox features to boot. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Plex are all native apps. Instead of dropping your cable subscription all-together, you might want to check out the latest Tivos as a way of saving you money.

  2. Bill A

    You mentioned Food Network as one of the channels you’d miss. They have a pretty good iOS app (perfect for your new iPad Pro). It shows the last few episodes of their popular shows, plus can stream live tv. If you watch HGTV or DIY, they have similar apps that are of good quality. The only problem I found is that you can’t airplay them to the apple tv.

  3. Denman

    I hear ya’ Andy. I try not to feel like I have to watch everything I recorded. I kind of a cornucopia (Thanksgiving releated term LOL) from which I can choose programs depending on my mood. I wind up deleting a lot of them. I’m glad to hear that TCM is on Sling, as that is one of the main networks I would miss if I cut the cord. I like Colbert, but you can stream most, if not all of that the next day anyway. I think it’s the same with the Daily Show. I’m getting closer everyday. BTW, I have Comcast and recently switched out from a hard DVR to a cloud based version, with gobs more storage, undelete, built in streaming etc. etc. Works great, but I don’t know if I really need it.

  4. Steve

    I went through the same analysis myself. I discovered that, looking at everything I watch (with Discovery/History/NatGeo and the like at the top of the list) I could cut the cord and get everything I wanted OTT – as long as I kept my Time Warner subscription to give me a login to access my favorite cord-cutting channels. And, now TWC supports Roku (you don’t need a cable box anymore – although I still have a TiVo) with an app that’s as good as any out there and includes On Demand if I forget to TiVo something. When I do the math, the cheaper option for me is to keep the incremental cost of my cable subscription rather than subscribe a-la-carte to Sling, Hulu, HBO, etc.

  5. Ihnatko Post author

    Yeah! But you still need that local cable subscription.

    I wonder if the nature of cable companies will shift, the same way the phone company shifted after it was split up. Instead of customers using the company’s access devices, they’re just buying access to a network, and using whatever software and hardware they choose. A cable box might become, like magazines on a coffee table, a sign that the people in this house are over 60.

  6. Steve

    I think this is what TWC is thinking. They support Roku, iOS, Android and desktop with a better experience than the set top. Except maybe for quality. But kids today don’t seem to give a crap about that anyway.

  7. Robert

    The reason I love reading your blog is the details you add! I’d not heard of “I’ll Have What Phil Is Having.” I just emerged from a binge watching marathon to say thank you.

    We still have a cable subscription – I made the mistake of buying a new TiVo Roamio last year. I love it, but truth is we stream most things now. We don’t TiVo nearly as much as we once did (same as you) and I don’t see that changing.

  8. Ihnatko Post author

    I happened to be in LA the week that his LA episode aired. It was so tempting to ditch the conference I was speaking at to hit all of those restaurants.

    The flexibility of streaming is so beguiling. Right now, I’m replying to your comment on the iPad Pro, while watching Food Network on the 24″ screen of my Mac Mini via the Sling service.

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