Galit Rodan photo for the Toronto Star
David Kruger and Jodi Rice and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Norah are disconnecting their cable in favour of an HD antenna, which protrudes straight up from their roof.
Three years ago when teachers David Kruger and Jodi Rice bought their house in Toronto, they opted for two cell phones instead of a landline. This month they cancelled their cable TV service in favour of an over-the-air antenna.
Kruger says the main reason they decided to stop spending $120 a month with Rogers cable was because their neighbour did it a year ago and is happy with his choice.
“He laid out what he did, what it cost and what he gets. Knowing he is happy means we were comfortable going the same route.”
Kruger and Rice are among a growing number of Canadians who have “cut the cord” with their cable or satellite company and are relying on a combination of over-the-air signals and Internet streaming via services like Netflix and Apple TV to get at their favourite television programs.
Kruger paid $700 for his set-up and while much cheaper antennas are available, he decided on a chimney-mounted unit with a 3-metre mast. He gets 20 HDTV channels including the major Canadian and US networks. The installation also gives him up to six TV outlets and meets the City of Toronto building code and bylaw requirements.
There are some sporting events or children’s programs he can’t get via antenna or Netflix, but he’s not worried. He can buy the DVDs for programs his kids enjoy.
“I’d rather pay for something because I want it, instead of paying for a bundle I’m never going to watch.”
A survey by Canadian media technology benchmarking company Media Technology Monitor (MTM) found that Kruger and Rice are part a generation who watch less TV and are also far more likely to have already rejected landline telephone services.
According to MTM nearly 10 per cent of English-speaking Canadians do not have cable or satellite television service and the number of “tuned out” households has doubled over the last three years.
But not everyone who cancels their cable or satellite service is happy with the alternatives. Lawyer Sultana Bennett and her sales executive husband Josh have reconnected their cable after a year without it.
“We like TV too much to live without it,” she says. “We couldn’t watch shows on the day they first aired and we ended up spending a lot of money on Apple TV and blowing through our internet usage cap every month because of Netflix streaming.”
Like Kruger, Sultana resents “bundling” that forces her to pay for channels she doesn’t want to get the channels she does.
“Service from cable companies can be really frustrating but ultimately if you want variety and convenience you are stuck with them,” shed says. We’re also willing to support the programs we like.”
The big telecom companies have been closely monitoring changes in customer behaviour. Rogers’ senior vice president Dave Purdy sees this evolution as a challenge and an opportunity. “If you look at our broadband business, the demand for faster, more reliable internet has never been higher,” he says.
He says Rogers has broadened its cable service to be a “TV anywhere service” with more live channels and on demand content available on any connected or mobile device.
Nevertheless, he recognizes that when it comes to bundling channels there may be room for a different approach, noting that they did a trial in London, Ontario where customers were given more flexibility selecting content.
“We hope to build on what we learned to develop more ‘customer-centric’ packaging in the marketplace.”
Cable disconnection pointers
Location: The higher up the better. If you’re house is at the top of a hill or has a clear line of site to the CN Tower and Grand Island, NY, that’s best
Picture quality: You’ll be amazed by the picture quality. It’s as good or better than digital cable. But be warned that during a heavy snowfall or rain storm, some U.S. stations can be dicey
Antenna size: In general, bigger is better. If you’re only interested in the Canadian channels, you will need a smaller antenna than if you also want to pick up U.S. signals as well. But a good antenna won’t need to be more than a couple square feet in surface area.
Good cable: Use coaxial, the same stuff the cable guys use. Good quality cable will be well shielded, so other signals won’t interfere with your reception.
Ground the cable: An antenna should be grounded in case of a lightning strike. A professional installer should take care of this, but for home installers your hardware store should have a grounding block,