Cable companies are doing a great job of offering their customers TV access on-the-go. Scream Queens, Big Bang Theory, American Horror Story, are all at your fingertips. But 24/7 TV access wherever and whenever isn’t easing the pain of rising cable and satellite TV costs.
People are feeling the pinch. How many times have you been asked to share your HBO Go password? Probably, too many.
For many consumers, reducing their cable bill a paltry $20 a month by resigning a two-year contract no longer cuts it. Fortunately, those looking to untether themselves from cable cord have more options than ever to choose from.
But before you cut the cord, there are a few things you need to know.
1. Who’s Cutting the Cord
Convergence Consulting’s annual “Couch Potato” report found 1.1 million households cut cable in 2015. That equates to one in five U.S. households cable-free. By the end of 2016, that number was anticipated to rise to 26.7 million cable-free homes. And it's not slowing down anytime soon.
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Cord cutting is most popular with Millennials ages 21 to 34, with 38% planning to cancel their subscriptions. And even Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64 are considering following in their children’s footsteps and ditching cable, too, to the tune of 15%.
For those on the fence about “going cordless,” don’t worry. Like mobile video, it’s resonating with audiences and isn’t going anywhere.
2. How It Works
Cord cutting eliminates paid TV and replaces it with internet-based services. You choose (and pay for) individual services to create your own a la carte programming. Think customizing your own meal from McDonald’s Dollar Menu.
Then using high-speed internet (at least a 5Mbps download connection) you can watch your favorite shows and movies via a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or laptop.
Depending on the current devices you own, and types of platforms you intend to use, what you’ll need to make the transition will vary.
3. What You’ll Need
Although the need for internet is required to go cordless, how you go cordless can differ based on preference and need. For instance, if you only intend to watch shows on your laptop, you can skip purchasing a new TV and DVR.
Here’s a roundup of potential items you may need to purchase (if you don’t already have them):
Screen. Smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs can all act as a screen for your viewing pleasure.
Smart TV. Consider upgrading your current TV to a smart one. The newer versions have built-in apps and access to the app store to make cord-cutting a breeze.
HDMI Cable. If you intend to stream your shows through your laptop to your smart TV, make sure you have an HDMI cable.
DVR. DVR functions are available on some gaming consoles like PlayStation 4 and XBox One, but you’ll want to make sure those units are compatible with the streaming platform you’re using. Another option is purchasing a DVR like the TiVo Roamio OTA ($399 one-time fee).
Source: Tech Hive
Indoor HDTV Antenna. To access free local and live network HDTV channels (e.g. news and sports), you’re going to need an indoor HDTV antenna. Antennas range from $20 (Moho Leaf Metro) to $49 (TERK Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna).
Media Streaming Device. There are several media-streaming devices on the market, which include:
- Amazon Fire TV ($89.99). Watch high-definition streams of Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc. Amazon Fire TV offers access to more than 4,000 channels, apps, and games. You can also watch live TV on NBC News, Sling TV, CNN, ESPN, etc.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick With Alexa Voice Remote ($39.99). Amazon recently released the next generation of their best-selling Fire TV Stick.
Source: The Verge
- Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99). Similar to the Amazon Fire TV Stick, you’ll get access to tons of shows. If you’re stuck deciding between the two, Roku boasts they have even more processing power.
- Dish AirTV Player ($129). Designed to combine with Sling TV's internet television service, you get a 4K-ready streaming media player. The device pulls over-the-air channels plus Netflix via your digital antenna. The antenna-compatible version is $129, or you can get the one without for $99.
4. Platforms Available
Before you make any big purchases, check to see if the hardware devices are compatible with the platforms you intend to use. There are several platforms out there to choose from. Here is a just a sampling:
DirecTV Now. The Satellite provider got into the live-streaming game and added more than 200,000 subscribers during their first month live-streaming. Their initial launch pricing offered viewers more than 100 channels for $35 a month, with HBO and Cinemax available as add-ons for $5 each. The cost is expected to go up over time, but those who signed up initially are promised to be grandfathered in at a lower rate.
HBO Now. Sure, you’ve heard of HBO Go, but are you familiar with HBO Now? For $14.99 per month, anyone with internet and supported hardware will have access to HBO shows. This differs from HBO Go which is only available to existing HBO subscribers with a cable plan.
The CW. Just in time for the 2016-17 fall TV season, the network launched their own subscription-free streaming service. The service is set to include Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android, etc.
Netflix. Many smart TVs already have Netflix on them, so using Netflix is a no brainer. Their standard definition stream starts at $7.99 a month, or choose from $9.99 for two HD streams or $11.99 a month for 4 streams + 4K/Ultra HD content option.
Hulu. $7.99 per month, or skip the commercials for $11.99 a month. If you want the latest TV shows from ABC, NBC, Fox, and cable, look no further than Hulu.
Hulu Live TV. Currently in demo, Hulu is working on offering subscribers the option to watch live TV alongside on-demand programming. The service will be available on Xbox One, Apple TV, Android, iOS, Chromecast, and later Roku. The cost for the "skinny bundle" is anticipated to be $40.
Amazon Prime Video. If you’re already a member of the Amazon Prime family, why not throw Amazon Prime Video into the mix? Make it a part of a $99 annual or $10.99 monthly Amazon Prime account subscription. Or if you want to skip the prime membership, simply pay $8.99 a month for just streaming video service.
CBS All Access. CBS All Access is only $5.99 per month, or go commercial free for $9.99 a month. Access is via the website or apps on Roku, Chromecast ($35 at Best Buy), Apple TV, Fire TV, Android, and Xbox 360 (but not Xbox One).
Sling TV. $20 per month for basic package. The service owned by Dish Network is entirely internet-based. You get access to 20+ channels including CNN, Adult Swim, ESPN, etc. It’s available on iOS and Android apps, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast. You can add on additional packages including HBO for $15 more a month.
YouTube Red. $9.99 per month gets you ad-free YouTube streaming plus access to original shows created by YouTube stars like Roman Atwood.
Showtime. For $10.99 per month, you’ll have access to all of your favorite Showtime shows. Or you can simply add it to Hulu or Amazon Prime Video for only $8.99 a month.
Reuters. The news service's TV streaming has grown to 1 million monthly users. With "mid-form" programming, you'll get personalized five to 30-minute news broadcasts. Video clips will be tailored to how long a viewer watches a video, their viewing history, etc. Oh and did we mention, the service dropped its $2 paywall, making it free for viewers.
PlayStation VUE. Get local and cable TV access without the annual contract. Plus Vue's cloud DVR lets you record, pause, and fast-forward live TV. It's compatible with PlayStation consoles, Apple devices, and Amazon Fire TV. Plans start with Access for $49.99 and go up to Ultra, $74.99.
5. How Much It Will Cost (Or Save You)
Wonder how much you’ll be spending (or saving)? Well, there’s a tool for that. The Verge’s Cord Cutting Tool allows you to choose your services, see which channels you’ll get, and anticipate how much you can expect to pay.
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Choose individual networks to see individual prices, or select more than one to see a total overall cost.
Source: The Verge
Then compare your cord-free cost to your current cable cost to see the difference. Depending on your viewing preferences, you may find a significant savings, or in some cases not much at all.
Again cable-cutting is a very much an a la carte system. If you go all out and pick every platform available, you could find yourself looking at a similar comparison found here, where the savings isn’t that much at all:
Source: PC Mag
Ultimately, the cost will depend on your viewing habits and which hardware and apps you decide to go with. Don’t feel pressured to cut the cord completely right away. Test out free trials while you’re still tethered before making the leap.
This article was originally posted in November 2016 and has been republished with new information.