Could I replace the shows that I watch through cable? Well, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both available the next day after airing, and that's when I watch them anyway, so that wouldn't cost me anything. I could get The Rachel Maddow Show, albeit with a bit longer delay, through the iTunes video podcast, again, for free. I have a list of Crappy TV shows that I watch in any given week, different during the main season than the off season, but I'll figure it at main season. If I bought them through Amazon, the per ep cost would range from a little under $2 to a little under $3, depending on whether I subscribed and whether I went for SD or HD (this is what I do when something I TiVo'd gets chopped up, so that's probably what I would do if I wasn't able to watch it via the cable subscription -- I'm unlikely to wait for a DVD boxed set for purchase or rental, and I can't be bothered to figure out when the free window is on the network sites, Hulu, etc.). I watch about five shows during the main season, so call it $10-$15/week, or $50-$60/month.
This ignores the fact that there are three other people in the house who watch TV much less consistently, but who do in fact watch TV.
I'm not seeing any savings here, and I'm seeing a whole lot of inconvenience, so I'm betting that consumption patterns for people who have big savings by getting rid of cable are a lot different from ours. Here are some possibilities:
(1) They are in a town without as much competition for their business, so they are paying a lot more for quite possibly worse stuff.
(2) They actually watch worth while stuff available only through Netflix streaming and similar, where we watch Horrible Commodity Hollywood Programming. If we weren't so White Bread, we'd be able to save money, too.
(3) They _were_ paying for premium services like HBO or whatever.
(4) They dramatically reduced their consumption when they cut the cord, either by reading more, having family dinners, adopting a useful hobby, going to church more often, spending time with loved ones, or getting their media through the library, free streaming and similar.
Theories? Data? Rampant speculation?