Carroll County Times

Blubaugh: It was a great run, but it's time to cut the cord

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I’m in the process of ending an 18-year relationship.

Decisions like this are never easy. It’s going to be a major change. The house is going to feel a bit empty. I know I’m going to say or do some things out of habit before remembering. The process will be painful at times, but I’m convinced it’s for the best and everyone will be better off.


Yes, after 18 faithful years as a customer, I’m breaking up with DirecTV. I’m cutting the cord.

This doesn’t make me unique. Some 33 million Americans have left pay-TV behind, eschewing cable or satellite television in favor of streaming services. It is estimated that 6 million customers cut the cord last year and that even more will do so this year.


According to, nearly all Americans aged 25-34 access some TV content through the internet and 90 percent of young people say they prefer consuming TV this way than via cable or satellite packages.

This demographic, of course, never knew what it was like to grow up with just three channels.

OK, so maybe that’s not quite the hardship previous generations who grew up during the Depression or war-time faced. Still, I vividly remember when the cable finally made its way out to our neighborhood. It was like a special birthday. Or Christmas morning.

Suddenly we had 10 times as many channels. MTV with its seemingly endless Michael Jackson videos. ESPN with all those highlights plus Canadian and Australian Rules football. HBO with hundreds of movies I’d never seen of all genres and ratings.

It. Was. Incredible.

Over the years, the number of channels just continued to increase. From 30 to 60 to 100 to several hundred. There’s virtually nothing you can’t find today with the programming guide filled with niche channels devoted to just about every area of interest. You can’t possibly watch them all.

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And that’s the problem. If anyone was really actively watching 150 channels, then paying about a dollar per wouldn’t be a huge issue. But when you spend 95 percent of your time on 10 or 15 channels, the value proposition changes. Why pay for dozens and dozens of channels you never watch?

Obviously, this cord-cutting revolution was fueled by the same a la carte generation that decided they weren’t going to pay for an album of 12 songs when they only really wanted to listen to one or two of them. But while streaming has significantly hurt the music industry, television has never been better with the networks fighting to keep up not only with premium cable channels but all of the streaming services now producing original content.


I’d been threatening to cut the cord for at least two years, but you don’t end an 18-year relationship without careful consideration. So after looking at all the options, comparing, contrasting, considering every possibility, our family formulated a plan that will make our monthly TV bill about 33 percent less expensive without losing any channels we currently watch.

Except one. MASN. The Baltimore Orioles, using the type of wisdom that helped them to 115 losses last season, are one of only a handful of MLB holdouts who don’t allow their games to be streamed. They’re foolishly missing an opportunity to connect with potential young fans, but it is what it is. I guess I’ll go to bed each night not knowing what Chris Davis did at the plate. (Well, having a pretty good idea.)

So the cord has been cut and the new services are zooming through the internet, streaming local channels, live sports, movies and everything else I could want to our myriad phones, tablets and TVs.

All it took to replace DirecTV was YouTube TV. And Netflix. And Amazon Prime. And HBO Now. And Hulu. A few extra remotes. A bunch of apps.

Actually, that all seems sort of complicated. Yikes. Maybe someday they’ll figure out a way for consumers to access all of that content in one place.