I hate paying $100 a month for cable TV, but it's probably worth it

Hand aiming remote at TV

I love to complain that I pay too much for cable television.

But when I do the math, I’m forced to conclude that isn’t true, especially when I take beer into account.

A survey by one of those market research companies, the NPD Group, says the average monthly bill for basic cable or satellite service was $65 in 2011, plus another $21 for premium channels.

I pay Wide Open West (or WOW! as it likes to be called) $74.99 a month for basic cable, high-speed Internet and “Award Winning Service.” No, really, it says that on the bill.

To make everything work, I also have to pay $27.97 a month for two set-top boxes and a modem, bringing the actual total to $102.96.

I don’t get any premium channels.

My knee-jerk reaction is that $100 a month is too much to spend, especially since my viewing habits have changed over the past few years.

Most of what I watch now comes commercial-free through Netflix (a bargain at only $8 a month.)

I’m currently working my way through hundreds of back episodes of How I Met Your Mother, The League, Burn Notice and lots of other TV series I would never watch before because of the ads.

Of course, I can record first-run shows and fast-forward through the commercials, but I find they’re just as annoying in fast-forward as they are in real time.

I also miss the return of the show and inevitably have to stop and rewind to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Maybe I’d like this option more if I was more adept at working the remote control.

I hit the wrong button all the time (they’re so damn small). Given my age, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that my skill with the remote is far more likely to erode than improve.

That’s why I wonder whether I should ditch cable TV every time the bill comes?

And every month, I grudgingly decide that I should keep it for two reasons.

First, I want to watch sports on ESPN and Comcast SportsNet and would get endless grief from the rest of my family if they couldn’t enjoy all of the quality first-run cable programming that hasn’t made it to Netflix yet, like Dance Moms. And Hoarders.

Then there’s the big reason -- on-demand movies.

The last Blockbuster near our home closed this month, and so it’s Redbox or nothing if you want to rent DVDs.

I’ve done that. It’s certainly cheap. But you still have to drive to the drug store to get the thing. And then drive back to return it.

On-demand may cost more, typically $3.99, but it’s incredibly convenient and allows me to make a sound financial case for keeping basic cable TV.

My family typically watches six or seven on-demand movies a month at an average cost of $3.99. The popcorn is cheap (about 50 cents for a microwave bag), and there’s beer in fridge.

I save a lot every time anyone in my family opts for on-demand rather than a night out at the local multiplex.

I just had to visit the local AMC earlier this month to see American Reunion, even though no one wanted to go with me, not even my wife. She unfairly holds the entire American Pie franchise in low regard, even though she hasn’t seen a single one.

I spent $10 for a ticket and another $11 for a medium pop and popcorn. Total cost: $21. If anyone had joined me, I’d have spent at least $31 to get them in the door and probably over $40 if they had indulged their desires at the concession stand.

I figure that I can save the total cost of my entire cable TV bill if on-demand eliminates three or four trips a month to the movie theater -- which it can definitely do in our family.

Then there’s the beer issue.

AMC doesn’t sell it.

I took a couple of bottles with me to see American Reunion, because it’s seemed like the perfect movie to watch with beer. I planned to stash them in my coat and sneak them in.

At the last minute, I decided to leave them in the trunk and go with a Diet Coke instead.

But my cable company doesn’t care if I drink beer when I watch on-demand movies.

I don’t know how you can possibly put a price on that.

Let’s try, though, and say I’m way ahead if on-demand eliminates just one or two trips to the multiplex each month.

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