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(Ron Chapple/© 2004 Thinkstock LLC)
(Ron Chapple/© 2004 Thinkstock LLC)

Home Cents

Pulling the plug on pricey TV bills Add to ...

My satellite TV providers don't know it yet, but this may be the year my husband and I stop sending them their monthly cheque. We've agreed that when our favourite shows wrap up this spring, we're pulling the plug. And if we don't miss it, we may never go back.

Going satellite-free should be painless for the first few months. The weather will be nice, our favourite shows will be in reruns, and come fall, most of the new shows will be available for free viewing on the major networks' websites.

Also, we recently signed up for Netflix, which offers more than enough older shows and movies to keep us distracted. With two small children at home, I haven't seen many shows or movies in recent years, so it's been nice to be able to catch up on what I've missed. And I like the fact that I can put on a commercial-free show for the kids once in a while. Netflix offers a free one-month trial to new users, as does Zip.ca, a movie rental service we've tried.

According to a recent report by Toronto-based Convergence Consulting Group, 1 per cent of Canadians will cancel their cable or satellite subscriptions by the end of 2012. The report says the threat of alternative viewing on such services as Netflix may be growing. I say, "Be afraid, cable companies."

For the past few years, I've listened to my husband complain about the fact that the big telecom companies will offer discounts to the customers who jump through hoops to get them. You can threaten to take your business to a rival company and they will lower your bill. Or you can be a loyal customer and lose out on the deals they offer new subscribers.

Recently, fellow Home Cents blogger Shelley White wrote about her success in talking Rogers into lowering her cable bill. We, too, have managed to convince Bell to drop the $20 monthly charge for our PVR rental, but it makes you wonder, why do we even have to ask? Do telecom giants bank on the fact that some customers will pay more for a service, which will offset the discounts they offer to the squeaky wheels? It's enough to make you want to just walk away, isn't it?

The one thing I will miss about our TV subscription is watching the local news, but we have a solution for that as well. For years, my neighbour has picked up local stations for free on her old-fashioned antenna. We had one too until last year, when my husband, tired of chasing raccoons off our roof in the middle of the night, ripped ours down. (Somehow, the raccoon is still getting up on the roof.) I've made him promise to look into getting a smaller roof-mounted antenna so I can still catch the traffic and weather any time I want.

Failing that, maybe I could rig up a raccoon with bunny ears, like Squawkfox blogger Kerry Taylor did with her dog, Pivo, when she was trying to trim her own cable bill. A raccoon that brings in TV signals might ease my husband's anger toward nocturnal scavengers and TV providers alike.

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