When my cable + Internet bill jumped to $170 after the “promo” period ended, I was fed up and decided to CUT THE CORD. In other words, I cancelled my traditional TV cable account, kept the Internet service, and then used a combination of streaming Internet services and a digital antenna to get me the channel coverage I wanted. I was a little anxious about the change at first, but it ended up being a nice experience, and saved me some money each month.
This doesn’t appear to be a fad. Going “a la carte” and creating your own customized television experience seems to be the way the pendulum is swinging. According to a report in Fortune magazine, there was a 3.4% decline in the number of pay TV subscribers in the 4th quarter of 2017. According to TechCrunch.com, streaming services are thriving…
- Sling TV (they were the first in the market) has 2.2 million subscribers
- Hulu Live has about 450k subscribers
- You Tube TV has about 300k subscribers
- Playstation Vue may have upwards of 670k subscribers
True – those numbers are a small percentage of the overall market, but the trajectory for this movement is very UP. This article sites a report estimating that by 2030 only 60% of households will subscribe to traditional pay TV (which would be DOWN from the 81% that subscribe today).
Going rogue and cutting the cord isn’t as tough as you’d think. The cost of entry is pretty low. For me, the economics were very simple…
As you can see, my baseline condition was to get jacked up by AT&T for both the service (TV & Internet), AND the rental of their stupid “gateway.” Note – when I moved out of my townhouse development, and had a choice in subscribers, I opted for a company that let me use my own cable modem (surfboard). Paying $10 a month to rent equipment is a bad investment – buy your own if you can. If you add those charges to my existing Netflix and monthly allocation for Amazon Prime (I had that already too), I was spending about $188.24, and didn’t even have HBO.
Once I scaled back my AT&T to just Internet (note – get the fastest Internet you can afford – you need the bandwidth), and signed up for Sling TV and Hulu, I was saving about $56 per month. In order to get this enterprise off the ground in month 1, I did have to make a capital investment (I use that term very loosely) for a digital antenna. That cost just under $30 for an antenna that covered about 80 miles (which is more than enough). So, if you subtract the $30 from my savings in month 1, I’m still in the black going into month 2.
The economics of this endeavor fall apart if you are in a promo period with your cable TV provider. When my wife and I moved, we found a cable deal that was too good to pass up. So, I canceled my Playstation Vue account (we kept Hulu), and we are riding the Spectrum promo price right now. Once that fateful day comes where they jack up the price (and I can’t negotiate it back down), I’m pulling out my metaphorical scissors, and cutting the freakin’ cord again.
How to Cut the Cord:
- You must have an Internet connection. You are streaming these services over the interwebs, so you must be connected. Like I said earlier, get the fastest speed you can afford.
- Note – I’ve always had a better experience when I actually use an ethernet cable to connect my streaming services. WiFi will work, but, depending on your house layout, the signal strength can be a mildly annoying issue.
- You must have an HDTV. Once you buy your HD antenna, you’ll use the auto program feature on your TV to scan the local airwaves, and lock in the channels that get a signal. This will cover you for all of the local and non-premium channels. Your mom and dad called these channels “three, six, and ten.”
- Call your cable provider and switch your account to just Internet. As an added bonus, in your best Bane voice, tell them, “…your day of reckoning is here…” Okay – that isn’t a requirement, but it’s FUN.
- Pick a streaming service. I listed some above (Sling, Playstation, Hulu, etc). Check out the prices and channel lineups. You really need to figure out YOUR CORE REQUIREMENTS for your viewing experience. Make a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Find a provider that checks the most boxes for you. The cool thing is that these services run month to month with no commitment. You can cancel and only be on the hook for that month if you don’t like the line up.
- Hulu is an interesting part of this equation. When I first cut the cord, I signed up for Hulu strictly for the access to television shows that were past their air date. In other words, I didn’t want to be a slave to the network TV schedule. I wanted to have the ability to watch a show after it aired. Hulu provided this option for a sleek $7.99 per month. Now, Hulu not only offers that service, but also offers a full streaming package for live TV. It’s quite possible that Hulu is your best bargain assuming they have the TV channels you want. So, DO YOUR HOMEWORK and check it out.
- Figure out how to display the streaming content on your TV. If you have a smart TV, you might be able to download the apps right on your TV and be good to go. Netflix and Hulu are pretty common native apps nowadays on new TV’s. The TCL Roku I bought last year even has Sling TV as a native app. If you don’t have a smart TV, check your Blu-Ray player next. A good majority are “smart” and you can download apps. If that doesn’t work, check your Playstation 3 (or later) and/or Xbox. If that isn’t an option – you have one more capital purchase to make – a streaming “box.”
- The big players in the streaming box market are Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV (in no particular order). My advice is to do your homework, and find a nice cross section between performance and app availability. There is no sense in buying the streaming box if you can’t download the app you need. Me personally, I’m a fan of the Amazon Fire TV (not the stick – the stick is slow as hell). The app library is pretty decent (note – they don’t have VUDU yet), and you get a nice interface with your Amazon companion products. It really will come down to your own preference.
- I will say that I don’t have experience with the Google Fiber/TV and Google Chromecast products. As of this writing, that service wasn’t available in my area. If Google Fiber is available in your area, it’s worth checking out to see if you can get the value/performance that you want. People I’ve talked to have nice things to say about the speed/performance of the Internet experience.
- One final note about local sports teams. Do your homework and make sure that if you cut the cord, you can still watch your local sports events. A lot of cities still have these broadcasts over the “free” airwaves, so you’ll pick them up via the HDTV antenna you bought. If your city goes through FS1 or a similar pay cable service (jerks), then you need to make sure that:
- Your streaming package has that channel (its probably in a premium tier)
- The event won’t be “blacked out” when you try to access it through the streaming service.
- As these services are still new, a lot of the exhibition agreements between the sports organization (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, etc) and the streaming service company haven’t caught up to the nuance of not blacking out a streaming broadcast. I believe most are trying to play catch up, and it should be resolved (universally) in a few seasons. But, you need to be proactive and make sure you aren’t in a market that hasn’t made that leap yet. Otherwise, you might want to consider keeping your cable until it does (if sports is a big part of your experience).
Overall, if the finances work out in your favor, I think you’ll find that the cord cutting experience can be just as good as a regular cable experience. I know I’ll be switching back once the finances make sense again. It’s kind of liberating to not pay for a bunch of channels that you don’t use. I hope we evolve to the point where you can pick your exact channel lineup (like at a buffet) and only pay for what you use. That would be amazing.
Are you a cord cutter? Have you considered making the switch? If so, please let us know about it in the comments below. As always, if you enjoyed the post, please “like” and “share.” Thank you.