Cord Cutting: The Sensitive Guy’s Guide to Breaking Up With Cable TV

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A year ago, observers speculated that 2011 would become the “Year of the Cord Cutter,” during which a record number of consumers would drop their cable subscriptions. Needless to say, the vast majority of American households still have a pay TV plan. When, if ever, will a massive cutting of the cord take place?

In some ways, the breakup with cable is already happening. It appears to be a long, drawn-out breakup, though, not a widespread and sudden flipping of the switch. In one recent survey, 9% of consumers polled said they’d dropped cable service and substituted an Internet streaming service instead. Another 11% were considering subbing in Internet streaming and getting rid of cable.

Young people are more likely to give serious thought to cutting the cord—19% of consumers ages 23 to 28 lean that way—indicating that the trend to drop cable will grow as the years pass, and as Internet services become faster and more robust. For an indication of where things are headed, look to the very recent success of Netflix, which has rebounded from several months of debacles and now expects the streaming business to grow at 30% to 40% annually.

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Among the many consumers who’ve turned nearly whole hog to streaming and ended their relationships with cable TV is the Wall Street Journal‘s Kevin Sintumuang. Like so many breakups nowadays, this one was public—since Sintumuang wrote a column about it.

In his essay explaining why the relationship has ended, Sintumuang first drops the classic breakup line: “It’s not you. It’s me.” As with so many other breakup conversations, this line is a lie. Later, he writes that it is, in fact, cable’s sorry state of programming and high costs that have a lot to do with why he’s making the change:

How many shows about housewives are there? I like chefs, but I don’t need to see them on television 24/7. Ghost hunters? Dancing celebrities? Talent shows? “Shark Week”? Celebrity ghost-hunting talent shows during “Shark Week”? It’s too much of too little. You’re full of a lot of inescapable crap.

There is, of course, one obvious way to escape the crap: getting rid of cable altogether. Sintumuang admits that the breakup won’t be a total breeze. He fully expects to be “staring at spinning wheels and download bars as I wait for my content to load and buffer,” along with “more typing and searching rather than leisurely channel surfing.” But he’s OK with that, so long as the tradeoff is the freedom to view what he wants, when he wants it, along with significantly less expensive monthly bills for in-home entertainment.

(MORE: TV Prices Just Keep Getting Cheaper and Cheaper)

Besides the cute prose comparing cable TV to a girlfriend he’s kicking to the curb, down at the bottom of the column there’s a list of recommendations for gadgets and services that’ll make the adjustment easier for life without cable—antennas, TVs and gaming consoles with good streaming possibilities, that sort of thing.

Hopefully, some combination of tech and services will keep you entertained, and help you forget about the ex that did you wrong.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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