Frugal Friday: Taking Aim at Cable Companies

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cat nap

Happy Friday everyone! I was reading an article that I found on the Washington Post earlier this week and wanted to pass along some of the info. to my readers. The article is related to the costs associated with having either Cable TV or Satellite TV. My desire is to not start a debate on the sense of paying for cable TV as it can be divisive in the PF blogosphere. Mrs. Frugal Rules and I have DirecTV and are not at the point of canceling it. Our bill is fairly low, on average, and there is no other way…right now to get the sports we like to watch without having some sort of TV package. We run a very tight ship otherwise and feel that it’s ok to have something you spend money on that you enjoy. That said, if we were to find someone that would offer us the ability to watch the sports we want without the cost of cable, we would definitely listen. Ok, end discussion on that as that’s not the purpose or intent of this post. The intent of today’s post is our rights as consumers and what we should have be able to access.

The new company featured in this article caught my attention. The article highlights a fairly new company, called Aereo, that’s aiming to further dilute the landscape of the television broadcasting industry. Aereo has been around for two years and is expanding their service to Washington DC and 21 other metro areas this summer. What they do is use antennas to capture the public airwaves and then deliver it into homes that have internet connections. Mind you, these are public airwaves that anyone with an antenna can try to capture. They are simply doing it on a grander scale and capturing broadcasts of all the major networks plus two dozen other channels. What they’re focusing on is local news and sporting events. Sporting events, from what I have seen, are one of the top reasons why many do not give up their cable packages, so this caught my eye right away. How much are they charging for all of this you say…packages start at a measly $10 per month! Not only is their pricing plan awesome, but they also give the capability to record programming and pause live action TV. The article goes on to state that Aereo’s vision is to develop a product that’ll allow consumers to pay for only what they want to watch…novel idea, I know! I read an article like this and I think to myself that if a company like this can take their idea to the greater marketplace it can be a win-win for the consumer…but does everyone think this way?

I think that many would champion a company like Aereo. They’re a startup that wants to bring a product to the masses and do it in a fairly frugal manner so all can win. Sadly, not all view it this way. What Aereo is running into is the massive television programming and distribution industry that is seeing a growing decline in people using its services. Ultimately, Aereo and companies like it make the fat cats in major media firms a little less fat. They have been sued by the likes of News Corp (the parent company of Fox) and others as being a content thief. This makes me, as a consumer, just shake my head. What Aereo is doing is simply bringing what’s already available on the public airwaves and giving the availability to deliver it to any home with an internet connection. I can understand, to a certain extent, media firms’ ire that they’ll be losing money. However, they should have adapted years ago in order to offer a better product. They see the growing popularity of services like Netflix or Hulu and see someone else come in on their turf and want it to stop. While the fat cats worry about losing more customers to further pad their bottom lines, we as consumers lose out when there are fewer options. Thankfully, several courts have seen the ridiculousness of the lawsuits and have found in Aereo’s favor. However the big boys have not stopped their dogged pursuit of  Aereo. There is now banter that they might seek Congressional support, or simply become pay channels. At the end of the day, I see this as an issue bigger than if you should pay for cable TV or not. I view this as a consumer issue that we all should be concerned about, because if media firms can get Congressional aid/protection then we all have bigger issues.

Ok, on to more important things. There were some great blog posts this week. I always hate narrowing them down, but it has to be done. We had a crazy busy week so I did not get to as many blog posts as I would’ve liked, but was able to find some good ones out of what I read.

Blog Post of the Week

Time is Money – What Are You Sacrificing for Money? on Monster Piggy Bank

I absolutely loved this post by Glen. To quote Glen, “As I am getting older, it is becoming more and more apparent that my time is a valuable thing, it isn’t something that I can get a refund on if it doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it to – once it’s spent, it’s spent.” As I get older and experience more of life, I see myself thinking the same basic thing. You can almost always find more ways to either make or save money, but you can’t really make more time. By putting things off to “later in life” have you really considered when that will be or how it will look? If not, I encourage you to read Glen’s post.

Other Blog Posts That Ruled

How a 17 Year Old Prepares for Her Financial Future on Reach Financial Independence

Life, Money and Retirement: Skype Doesn’t Reach Heaven on Canadian Budget Binder

Proposal to Limit Retirement Account Balances: Good or Bad? on Money Life and More

What Apple Inc. Can Do With Its Cash Flow Problem on Critical Finance

Just Say Thank You! A Guide to Accepting Compliments on Student Debt Survivor

Face Retirement Head On on Retire By Forty

Odd Search Terms

Are penny stocks worth investing in? No, scratch off tickets offer much better return!

Best ways to sue a company and get rich…Pour hot coffee on yourself!

Can we buy fruit by the box at Wal-Mart…I wouldn’t advise it!

Cheap low cost frugal inexpensive bargain budget marked down savings thrifty…Apparently you’re not frugal with words!

How to console oneself after a stock market loss…Go spend a bunch of money (I kid, I kid)

I have $20,000 in savings and $5,000 cc debt…Pay that sucker off!

Why get rich quick…Because it’s so easy!

I’m trying to save money…Great! Now turn that trying into doing!

When does Wal-Mart deli stop selling chicken…I wasn’t aware that was ACTUALLY chicken!

What are your thoughts? Would you try out a company like Aereo if it were available in your area? Do you think they’re content thieves? Have a great weekend everyone!


Photo courtesy of: Popitz

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • pauline says:

    Catch the waves, isn’t that what satellites do anyway? I don’t watch normal TV, all the commercials annoy me and I don’t even know if we could get more than the public channels here. For me the future is more with Apple TV or Netflix on demand broadcasting TV programs and news on top of movies and shows. Thanks for the mention!

    • John says:

      I am not certain about satellite, but I would imagine that they do. The issue is that they’re not paying to do this, though they are public airwaves.

  • I basically have cable for the sports as well. I read about this new service but my problem is that in my area, Comcast has it’s own local cable channel and they run 99% of all of the local baseball, hockey and basketball games, so getting this new service does me no good. I do like the direction we are heading however. Maybe one day we will get a la carte cable.

    • John says:

      That’s is what I am really hoping for Jon as 98% of the channels are just junk. There are just too many sports not available without cable that we’ll be sticking for the time being. I do agree that the direction they’re going is a good one.

  • Sports is a big reason we keep our subscription as well. Gotta have our Gopher Basketball, Football, and Hockey 😉 Not to mention Twins baseball is nice to have on in the background every now and then. Hope you have a great weekend!

    • John says:

      Same here DC! It really benefits the consumer, which is why I think the media companies are up in arms. You have a great weekend as well sir!

  • Margaret Polino Nicholas says:

    I wish I could get ala carte. So much fairer. I have hundreds of channels & watch maybe 5 shows I love. Sports plays no part for us.

    • John says:

      I completely agree Margaret. There are only a handful of ones we watch not including sports. A la carte would be much more beneficial to the consumer, which is why I think the big boys are not happy.

  • we have had our issues with the cable company over the years, and plan on exploring all of our options in our new home when we move next month.. of course, an a la carte option would be ideal, but i doubt that will be available any time soon.

    • John says:

      I agree Jefferson, I don’t think a la carte will available any time soon…especially if the Fox’s of the world have anything to say about it.

  • Jason B says:

    I also have cable for the sports as well. I would love to see Aereo take off. My Dish contract will be up by September. Hopefully the option to make the switch presents itself.

  • We would likely just on a service like the one Aereo is providing. Part of the reason we don’t do cable (aside from the fact that we can’t afford it right now. 🙂 ) is that there’s so much garbage to be found. If we could pick and choose what channels we get, and only pay for those channels, that would be ideal!!

    Thanks for the entertaining and informative info, John , and have a great weekend!

    • John says:

      I agree Laurie, 98% of the channels are just garbage. If it were not for the sports we (meaning mainly me 😉 ) watch we would get rid of it all together. That said, I think there needs to be someone supporting the consumer in this and hopefully someone will get their act together on it.

  • Cable kind of reminds me of the music industry when digital downloads started to become available. Instead of trying to embrace the technology and make it work, record companies just started suing people. Change will come, whether we like it or not. Might as well join instead of fight. Have a great weekend!

    • John says:

      That’s a great analogy Kim! I completely agree and hope that someone will step up to defend us as the consumer. The big boys have enough money in my opinion. You have a great weekend as well Kim! 🙂

  • Nice post John. I read about this company as well, but then I dug into it further. The biggest issue I have with Aereo is that they can’t provide you with TV from areas that you can’t already receive. If you live in NYC, then you can only get stations that are available in NYC. While you may not be able to get a clear picture from all of the broadcasts around NYC with a purchased antenna, you can still get most. You are just paying Aereo in order to get all of the available in your area to stream to your TV. I think it is an OK idea, especially for travelers, but the concept as a whole is just taking something that is free and charging people money to use it. I liked it when I first read about it, but then when I dug more into their service, I disliked it.

    That being said, I think the cable companies are crooked. They will sue just about anyone they can in order to keep all the dirty money they receive.

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson. I have seen a few more articles on them since I read this, but have not been able to read them yet. I agree that there are some limitations as to what they can offer. Though I do like that they allow you to record shows as well as pause them which I believe you can’t do with an antenna…though I could be wrong. It also allows you to access it on your computer, which is nice.

      My larger point was that I see this as a consumer issue. The media companies have a chokehold and are fat and happy with their racket. 98% of the channels they charge for are just garbage and we’re forced to take it if we choose to go with cable/satellite. The joke, in my opinion, is that they’re suing to stop it. They need to adapt and give us what consumers are asking for as the digital age is only going this way in the long run.

  • Cable companies in Canada charge a bit of money here but somehow we tend to get a promo price every year. I know we have thought about cancelling it but we hardly spend any money on other entertainment so this is hardly anything in the grand scheme of things. I did say to the wife that it would be nice if we could only pay for what we watch because for what we get for our VIP pkg we don’t need it all but they scam you if you go down a package because they start charging for outlets in the house at 7.99 each where it’s incl in the VIP but you have the option to add the BBC for $2.97 channel though. The BBC is also already incl in the VIP. That makes no bloody sense though as it will all cost just as much as getting the VIP package. They make it difficult and if a company came round and suggests what Aereo is I think that may take off in the eyes of some who are interested in getting more bang for the buck but not all the BS the cable companies are leaving behind for the consumers. That was a great post from Glen, I told him we must have been on the same page thinking that day since we both posted the “life” post with virtually the same meaning. Happy Friday Mate! Mr.CBB

    • John says:

      We tend to get the promo rates as well, or at the very least a nice discount for the large majority of the time. The trick is to ask nicely. I would love to be able to pay for only what we watch and would be much better for the consumer as a whole. I loved both of the posts and debated as to which one to choose as the top one. At the very least, both made me think.

  • Thanks for the honor of being your post of the week John – That has made my day 🙂

    As for the big media companies – you guys have it so much better than we do over here in Aus. We have 1 cable TV provider and have only a fraction of the free to air channels that most countries have. We also get no access to great streaming services like Netflix or Hulu and instead get a service by a company called Telstra that gives up movies and shows that are close to 1-2 years old. It’s pathetic! No wonder people pirate so much.

    • John says:

      Glad I could make your day Glen, it was a great read.

      That’s a shame about the offerings in Australia, I can certainly understand why people would pirate stuff, not that I would condone that though.

  • We haven’t had any sort of cable television in a few years now and I don’t miss it at all…BUT we aren’t sports people. It probably wouldn’t work well for anyone who liked to watch sports!

    Have a great weekend!

  • Very interesting, I’d never heard of Aereo until you brought it to my attention. I’d love to have a cheaper alternative for TV. Bf pays for the cable, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to have it. While I do enjoy some of the cable shows and networks (TLC, history channel etc.), we don’t watch most of them so it’s really not worth the money in my opinion. Bf feels otherwise obviously. Thanks for the mention. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • John says:

      I had not either KK, but it does sound intriguing. I think the large majority of channels are just junk and if it were not for the sports we like we’d g et rid of it altogether.

  • krantcents says:

    The more competition companies have the better the service and pricing. I hope more companies come to compete.

  • anna says:

    That would be very bothersome if they received Congressional support when they should be focusing on fixing the country rather than backing corporate greed (but I suppose that’s another topic altogether!). We have satellite and enjoy a lot of the channels (Comedy Central, History, etc.), though I do miss some of the channels that cable used to provide. However, it’s made me more productive and watched TV less, so I suppose it’s not a bad thing to not have it!

    • John says:

      Great point Anna, I think there are much bigger fish to fry and the focus should be on other issues. However we all know that the ones with the big money are the ones that get heard. I am just glad that the courts have backed Aereo in this.

  • I’d love an a la carte plan for cable TV. So, of course, the company trying to do something similar is getting sued. 🙂 It reminds me of when Amazon introduced the Kindle or Apple the iPod. The publishing industry and music industry flipped out. They should have been red with embarrassment that a book retailer and computer company were the ones who revolutionized their product instead of them.

    Some great reads. Glen’s post was great. Lots of contemplative posts this week and I always enjoy those! Have a great weekend, John!

    • John says:

      I agree Shannon. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the consumer is the one getting the short end of the stick. We should be able to pay for what we want as opposed to so much junk.

      I agree, Glen’s was a very good post. I love contemplative…they make my mind work. 🙂 You have a good one as well Shannon!

  • They have a monopoly where we live. The HOA has a contract with Verizon so our cable is “free” yet it’s incorporated into our monthly HOA bill. So any other cable additions we make is basically double tapping. I applaud this new company though, that’s what capitalism is, meeting demand as cheaply as possible.

    • John says:

      That’s a shame Marvin. I hate to hear thinks like that. I agree that this is what capitalism is about, though I hate seeing the consumer get screwed over time and again.

  • Mackenzie says:

    I’m with you John; one of the biggest reasons we don’t get rid of cable is because we are HUGE sports fans. If I didn’t have my hockey and football, I shudder to think what would happen 😉 And we don’t spend money on any other forms of entertainment, so I think it works out. You have to get some joy outta life right?

    Have a good weekend!

    • John says:

      That’s exactly what it is for us Mackenzie! If I could not get my football or basketball (at times) I don’t know what I do. We bust our humps enough and keep a very tight ship, so there is nothing wrong at all with having something to enjoy. You have a great weekend as well Mackenzie! 🙂

  • Cancel that sucker John! Have a great weekend!

    • BTW, online streaming is an option for sports. Check out my article on it.

      • John says:

        While it is to a certain extent Jacob, the reliability is not there from my experience. That’s the most important thing to me and I am willing to spend for it. We work hard and run a very tight ship otherwise, and I think you need to have something to enjoy, right? We’ll just have to agree to disagree. 🙂

  • John says:

    That is a very attractive option Jenny and one that we would pursue if it were not for the sports we want to watch. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Don’t even get me started on cable/internet charges. We do not even get the sports stuff and our avg price last year was roughly $150. I call it rape. I have wanted a concept like this for a long where all we pay for is what we want to watch. Not just that, but also pay for how much we watch. Why should I pay for service when I am not even using it. If I leave the water off, it is not like the water company charges me money. Well maybe they do for the hook up which would be acceptable for the cable companies too. But what they charge is just insane. $10/mo is more doable for me 🙂

    • John says:

      The prices can be steep to say the least. We’re not anywhere near $150/mo, but it’s still a decent sized bill. I love seeing things like this because someone need to bust this racket the cable companies have. If you could just pay for what you actually want then I would be fine with it.

  • John says:

    It would be sooooo nice to be able to catch local sports broadcasts from all around the country!

  • What ever happened to basic cable? Remember when you could pay for basic cable and get about 30 cable channels, plus the networks. Now, Comcast calls receiving the networks via cable to be “basic cable.” What use is a 200 channel line-up when the average person watches about 10 of them?

    • John says:

      Great point Edward! I’ve thought the same thing myself. It would be much nicer not to have to pay for 150+ channels that are hawking crap from male enhancements drugs to goofball diets to us morning noon and night.

  • I’m actually on the verge of calling my cable company and giving them the cancel call. They’ve been jacking the rates up lately but the only thing I can say is their services has been great. I hardly ever have a problem with my internet, or cable. However, when I look at similar providers I know I can get a much better deal.

    • John says:

      I hate when they jack up the rates for no reason. We had the same thing with our internet provider who jacked them up by $11 over the last year. We called a few weeks ago to complain and they wiped that out plus an additional $10 with a rate guarantee for the next two years.

  • Jim says:

    Great Post John, and thank you for the mention! I had never heard of Aereo before, but I saw a commercial for Amtrak and I thought that when they showed the train rolling down the tracks, the side of the train had the Aereo logo on it. I may be mistaken but it stood out, because I had never heard of it? Maybe its getting ready for more media attention? Thanks again!

    • John says:

      Thanks Jim & no problem. I think they are getting more media attention, largely due to the big media firms trying to sue them. Thankfully the courts have sided for Aereo and I ultimately think this comes down to a consumer rights issue.

  • Justin says:

    The cable companies have had a monopoly for years and too few people are fighting it. I think it’s ridiculous that you pay for cable, but still have to watch ads. Mini rant off.
    I loved that post written by Glen. It’s hard to find a good solid balance between making money and having free time. A good place to start is by looking at your financial situation and plan for independence so that you can do what you want.
    have a great weekend John.

    • John says:

      I would tend to agree Justin and think far too few are fighting back about it. I remember a few year ago Congress passed that cable bills had to be easier to understand…what a joke, it did nothing. We as consumers should be able to have the ability to pay for what channels we want to watch and not be forced to pay for 98% of crap. *Rant over* I really enjoyed Glen’s post as well and think your suggestion is a great place to start. Have a great weekend sir!

  • cashrebel says:

    Its really sick how instead of offering a service people want and are willing to pay for (sports only packages), the cable companies are trying to make competition illegal. It will be so satisfying to see them crumble when it eventually happens!

    • John says:

      I agree CR! It would make much more sense to just offer it to people the way they want it as opposed to making them pay for 98% of crap.

  • Julie says:

    I have to admit that I am a TV junkie. Most week’s I’m scared to calculate the amount of time I sit in front of the boob tube. Although I am mostly multi-tasking (work, blogging, wedding planning most recently) I am sure I’d be more productive with it off. Now even with all the time I spend in front of it, I would rather not pay for channels/services that I don’t even use. When will we get to a point that we are truly only paying for what it is that we want… customized plans are somewhat there but not nearly where it needs to be… I like the itunes way of doing things, or something similar!

    • John says:

      We have ours on a bit as well, but it’s usually at the end of the day and are wrapping up on work. I would love to be able to pay for what we actually watch and enjoy as opposed to the other drivel they force on us.

  • I am not going to be able to cut the cable cord until I convince my wife we are better off without it. It might take a few months but I have a plan to carefully lay out what we could be doing with the money we are saving. I think it will sink in eventually and we will be better off without it.

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