An Irreverent Guide to Cutting the Cord and Saving Money
The goal of cutting the cord is to reduce costs by streaming a select few shows that comprise the majority of your television-watching experience.
29 October, 2018 | Posted by: Gerry Martinez
Category: Cable, Entertainment, Humor, Streaming, Technology, This & That, Tips, TV | No Comments
Any article that you read about cutting the cord on pay TV subscriptions will ultimately amount to a cheerleading session encouraging you to take the plunge. At the end of the day, there's no great mystery about cutting the cord. It's common sense: you cancel your cable subscription and substitute it with other television content, namely, streaming. Often times, people make things far more complex than they are just to avoid getting down to business, but that’s okay. Sometimes we all need a little push in the right direction.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve heard of the phenomenon of cord cutting, but as with any tried-and-true habit, you just can’t convince yourself to leap into the unknown. That’s why I’m here – to encourage and guide you through the process, but mostly to encourage you.
The process itself is really quite simple. No, you don’t physically cut your cable cord, but you do sever ties with your cable TV provider. Freedom is just a phone call away. If you’re anything like me and you hate getting the sales pitch from some customer retention manager whose sole job it is to salvage your account, then you can simply access the provider website and do it that way. Don't quote me on that one, though. You'll probably still need to make a call. It's okay; it's good to be social every now and then.
Why cut the cord?
However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The first step to successfully cutting the cord is to determine if this is something that’s right for you. To do that, you’ll need to ask yourself one simple question: do you want to save money? Yes? Okay, then; we’re in business! 83% of consumers who decide to say sayonara to pay TV subscriptions do so because it’s too expensive. That’s the only reason to do it, really.
The direction of the industry
We can speculate until the cows come home as to the future of the industry and the direction that cable companies will take to combat this undeniable freight train of a trend. These companies certainly aren’t going quietly into that good night. They are raging against the dying of the light, and they are doing so by creating their own direct-to-consumer streaming services. According to a study by The Diffusion Group, all major TV companies will have their own version of this type of service by the year 2022. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The result has been a proliferation of content services, and maybe that is what makes people indecisive about cutting the cord in the first place: they don’t know where to start. Cable packages are neat and tidy in the sense that they deliver a pre-determined set of goods (the channels). In an ideal world, cable companies would simply allow the consumer to customize their cable package channel by channel. But, do you really see that happening anytime soon, and for a reasonable cost? Me either.
Let me add a disclaimer here. I write this blog for a company called “Bundle Your Internet,” and yes, we do sell cable packages. Sometimes those packages get sold in bundles. Sometimes they are à la carte. It all depends on what works best for the customer, and that’s really the bottom line here. Our agents are trained to be neutral in their service recommendations. The goal is to provide you with a menu of viable options from which to choose. We do the research for you, but you have to decide what’s best for you. Just do you, boo.
Reasons not to cut the cord
Certainly, there are reasons not to cut the cord. Laziness is one reason. Hey, no judgment here; I have my fair share of lazy moments, too. But, let’s keep it one-hundred, okay? Cutting the cord doesn’t make TV watching any easier on the average consumer. You’ll end up saving money, sure, but one of the things that makes cable subscription services popular in the first place is the convenience of having a centralized service.
Some people just don’t want to be bothered with the hardware adjustments and the app updates involved with the process, and that’s fine. It takes a little elbow grease – some research and definitive action to make for a smooth transition – to effectively cut the cord. More on those definitive action steps later.
Technical incompetence is another reason. Grandma might not have the basic technical knowledge to get through the process. I can’t imagine my grandmother having the wherewithal to set up a Roku player. She just doesn’t roll like that. Plus, she’s also dead (going on twenty years now), so yeah, that’s another problem.
More benefits of cutting the cord
For the rest of us – we, the living – who don’t mind putting in a little work to save money, it’s hard not see benefits of cutting the cord. And just in case you still weren’t convinced, ask yourself another question: how many channels in your cable subscription do you actually watch? According to Nielsen, households receive an average of 189 channels of which they only watch 17. You are quite literally paying for things you do not use.
To hammer in the point a little more, the average monthly cable bill comes out to about $103. On top of that, monthly cable bills increase an average of 6% per year, so even if you’re not quite shelling out $100 per month for your cable service yet, you’ll get there someday. Go you! (Sarcasm). As a bundled package, Internet and cable together (sometimes referred to as a double play package) costs an average of $148 per month according to the market research firm, Mintel.
Getting into the numbers
Compare that with the costs associated with cutting the cord. Let’s do the math. Yeah, I know, I know. I detest numbers, too, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet. First things first: you’re going to need to get Internet as a standalone service. The average cost of Internet-only service is $66.17 per month. When you factor in the service costs for streaming subscriptions (and there are plenty to choose from), you can add an additional $26.11 (refer to Grounded Reasons' informative article for a better grasp of the numbers) to that bill, bringing your grand total to $99.28.
Quick recap: double play packages cost $148 per month. If you cut the cord on your cable subscription and keep your Internet service, you’ll be paying about $66.17 per month plus an additional $26.11 for streaming subscriptions. Again, on average. In the end, you end up saving $48.72 per month by cutting the cord. Over the course of a year, that comes to about $600. Sign me up, right?
Step 1: Gathering Hardware
Well, let’s get cracking! This is that definitive action part we talked about. The first step to cutting the cord is to compile your necessary hardware. Something you’ll want to consider is getting yourself an HD antenna. That’s right! Antennas are back in style. Remember those metal rabbit ears that sat on top of your TV set? Well, now they provide a simple, cheap solution for watching live TV without a cable connection.
It’s relatively easy. You just hook up the device to your TV and position it near a window. Done. Now you have access to local broadcast stations – local news and sports included. More about sports later. Be aware that your channel selection depends to a large extent on where you live and whether you have a clear line-of-sight to the broadcast location.
If you live in an urban area, your best bet is a non-amplified antenna, which has a pick-up range of about 20 miles. That’s plenty adequate for people who live near a broadcast tower. Rural customers should opt for an amplified antenna, which can pick up a signal as far away as 50 miles. All things considered, you’re looking at an investment of anywhere from $40 to $70, depending on which model you choose (amplified antennas cost more).
Another piece of hardware that you may or may not need is a streaming device. Roku. Chromecast Ultra. Amazon Fire TV. Apple TV. These are all good options for displaying streaming services – like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc. – on your set. Be sure to check out our reviews of streaming devices to determine which one is best for you. In addition to those things, there are also game consoles and other devices that you can use to set up your TV for streaming.
If your TV has smart capabilities, you may not even need such a device since smart TVs usually have the apps for these services already built in. Let’s also not forget the simple alternative of plugging your laptop (or desktop, if you still have one of those) into your TV via HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, or DVI cable. Boom! You just turned your dumb TV into a smart one. Go you! (Not sarcasm).
Step 2: Subscribing to Streaming Services
The next step is to get the streaming services that you want. There are tons out there, from Netflix and Hulu to horror-specific services like Shudder and arthouse/indie subscriptions like FilmStruck. It can be overwhelming with so many options to choose from. So here’s what you do: take an inventory of all the shows you watch. Make a list and then choose your subscriptions based on which ones will give you access to those shows.
The thing about subscription services is that the monthly bills can ramp up fairly easy if you’re not careful. Rather than try to duplicate your cable service channel list when shopping for streaming services, go after access to particular shows of interest to you (excluding sports; again, we’ll get to sports in a bit). Use your list.
The other thing you’ll want to consider is a cable-replacement service. While they may not help you save money, these comprehensive packages come the closest to duplicating the cable TV experience. The top cable-replacement services include Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV NOW, Hulu with Live TV, and YouTube TV. Be aware that it will cost you extra to get premium stations like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.
Okay. Sports. Here we go. I am by no means an expert in this field (nor do I particularly care about it, to be honest). The last time I handled any balls was – you know what, forget it! Suffice it to say I am no sports aficionado. But, I do understand that sports are a big deal for a lot of people.
Local games are covered with that TV antenna we talked about. With an antenna, you can probably access your local CBS, FOX, and NBC station to get NFL games, for instance. Outside of that, there are plenty of streaming services for specific sports.
Sports organization-specific services
Every major sports organization has their own streaming service. MLB. NFL. NBA. Take your pick. Note that these services are more expensive than other types of streaming services – between $100 and $200 per year. Of course, you can always get a cable-replacement service. Just pay attention to which channels you get through the service and make sure you are getting the content you want. If you only follow a couple of teams in one or two different sports, cutting the cord is still a worthwhile option to consider. However, if you’re a sports nut who watches every game that is broadcast on God’s green earth, well, there’s just no hope for you. Stick to cable.
That about covers the basics of cutting the cord. Again, the goal is to reduce costs by homing in on a select few shows and content that comprise the majority of your television-watching experience. Look, there’s only so much content that a person can watch in a single day – and there’s a lot of content out there! You’ll never be at a loss for something to watch, and if by chance you do cut the cord and find yourself sitting around one day with absolutely no idea what to watch, then maybe it's high time to get off the couch and go outside. You know, live life.
Let us help you find the best Internet deals in your area as well as DirecTV Now to get you started on your path to cutting the cord.