The other day a coworker sent me an email asking for some tips on getting her and her family started on “getting rid of cable”. By the time I finished writing my response I realized it was a good start to a blog post. The act of getting rid of cable or satellite has been termed “Cord Cutting”. People who have decided to get rid of cable or satellite in their homes have been termed “Cord Cutters”. There is also a group of younger people who upon leaving their parents’ house or dorms and establishing their own households never even sign up. This group is called “Cord Nevers”.
Our Household has been a Cord Cutter House for almost three years. I even wrote this post seven weeks after cutting the cord. Industry websites will tell you the percent of households that are Cord Cutter households is less than ten percent of the television viewing public. I think that number is under reported, or my social circle contains a lot of confirmation bias. I would estimate my social circle is close to 50% Cord Cutter. Regardless, the Cord Cutter Movement is now large enough that content deliverers are beginning to take notice and provide products for this demographic. The options that are available now compared to three years ago are amazing and I hardly have time to keep up with them.
Now that you have some background, what I have written below is essentially what I wrote to my co-worker. After I’m done with this post I will start on a sports viewing specific post, since this blog started as a sports blog. Since I estimate that half of you are already Cord Cutters you will not even read this, will nod in agreement, or go about it in a different way. Which is great; more cord cutting ideas are always welcome. Feel free to chime in, in the comments section. This is just what works for our household.
This may seem like a given, but. You need to decide if being a Cord Cutter is right for you. Take an inventory of how you currently watch television. What programming do you watch? How important is that programming to you? Could you replace some of your current favorites with older or similar favorites? Do you like to watch that programming live or recorded? Can you find work-arounds for some of the stuff you would be missing?
For instance. Because of MLB’s Blackout Restrictions I cannot watch live Royals games with MLB.tv. I can watch them after the game is over, but I cannot watch them live. I know from extensive research that the only way to watch live Royals games in my geographic area is to pay for a television package from a cable or satellite provider that contains Fox Sports Kansas City. From the sounds of things these providers and Fox Sports know they’ve got a winner and would be unlikely to provide a streaming option anytime in the future. Royals baseball is the closest thing there is to a program that I cannot live without. However, after assessing how our family watches television I realized there was only one game a week, sometimes two in which I was in a position to watch a live Royals game. That settled it for me, I’m not paying for cable just for one or two live Royals games a week. If you cannot live without live in market baseball games, Cord Cutting isn’t for you. I like baseball enough that I will watch any random team play baseball which is why I still buy MLB.tv even though I cannot watch live Royals games.
I can tell you that most non-sports programming is available online in some form. If you are not a sports fan I don’t know why you pay for cable or satellite. For sports programming things get a little tricky. The networks know this and it’s the reason the majority of a cable or satellite bill is sports programming. I’ll get into those options later. For now we’re going to move on to logistics.
Get An Antenna
The effectiveness of getting an antenna will vary based on where you live. I know of two households that live too far away from a signal that using an antenna is not an option. But, if you’re like most of America and live within forty miles of a repeater tower this is how you get your network programming. In most areas there are usually several channels you didn’t know were out there that show classic movies or music videos. Best of all, after the purchase of an antenna the content is free.
You can spend as little at $20 or a few hundred dollars. This website I have found to be an excellent guide on antennas. It even has a search option to show you what channels are available in your area. Our set up? It’s a $30 indoor antenna we bought at Wal-Mart. It sits on a bookshelf. I’ve thought about getting an outdoor antenna but right now that’s not a priority.
I suppose if you really wanted to go bare bones you could get by with antenna supplemented with VHS/DVD/BlueRay borrowed from friends and family or the library. For everything else you will want an internet connection.
When we decided to cut the cord we already had a mid-level internet connection. I think it was $40 out of the bundle we had with our provider. Now we pay $65 which is the 3rd highest option our provider offers. I have no qualms about paying that. We have seven devices in the household that are capable of streaming content. Not that every device is being used at once. But, this does allow someone to be streaming a program on the television, another to be streaming on a Kindle, and another to be streaming on the laptop without buffering on all three. This doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens enough we like the horsepower. If you don’t have that many streaming devices you might be able to get by with a less expensive internet plan.
You will also want to get a router capable of handling HD quality video. We had to replace our router shortly after cutting the cord to accommodate our set up. Do some internet research before making your selection.
Now is when the fun begins. Remember all that programming that you realized you could stream? This is where you figure out how to get it on your television. You will need a device that streams the content from all the providers of content (like Netflix) to your TV. Or you could buy a “smart TV” that is preprogrammed for the three major streaming options. Some gaming systems like Wii and Xbox will let you stream Netflix and other services. When we started doing this we did Netflix through the Wii to our standard definition tube television and that’s all we had.
Now we have an HD TV and a Roku Player. A Roku player will allow you to stream most content that is available for streaming. There is a multitude of Roku Channels that offer free content. I found this website as a way to search for Roku channels. A few free channels I like that are not widely publicized are: Raw Country TV which is what CMT was before it quit playing music videos in favor of it’s brain cell killing bullshit. It plays bluegrass and classic country videos in addition to the regular stuff. OutsideTV is the Roku Channel for Outside Magazine. This channel shows short videos of everything you would expect to find inside Outside Magazine. Then there’s the TED Channel. If you’ve never heard of a TED Talk you should check it out. Some of the talks I really get into, and some of them go over my head in the first two minutes and I have to turn it off. I’ve noticed some TED Talks creeping into Netflix in the past few weeks, so you may see some of them there. As you can see, even if you don’t want to pay for a streaming service with a Roku Player there is still plenty watch.
Roku is what works for us but there are other options in terms of streaming devices. I found this article to be a good breakdown of all your options. This is where you need to take an inventory of what shows you watch. Decide what you can live without, what you can find a suitable replacement for, and what you absolutely have to have. That will help you determine what equipment to get and what service(s) to go with. Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu Plus all have exclusive and original programming. What shows you watch will make some of these decisions for you.
One point of caution; there are so many streaming options that if you subscribed to all of them you would be paying more than you would for a cable/satellite subscription. For instance our current set-up is almost right at that line. To be honest we’re paying for more content than we have time to watch.
MLB.tv: Is an annual charge of $130 that I pay in February. But lets divide by twelve and say I spend $10.83 a month on it.
You can see we are paying for our content. But, the lowest package I can find with ESPN that does not lock me into a two year contract is $75 a month. I can cancel Sling at any time. And I can’t watch as much baseball as I want. But if I added Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime it would turn into a break even proposition. And if we’re gonna do that I might as well watch the Royals. My wife and I have a pact that if we add another service, one of our current services has to go away, especially since we already have more than we need.
I hope this helps ease your fears that if you cut the cable/satellite cord that you’ll be sitting around listening to the radio and watching old VHS tapes. You could choose to not pay for a service and have plenty to watch. Or you could pay for what you want. There’s no right or wrong way to watch television. I also encourage you to do your own research. There is a multitude of options I have not touched on like HBO Go, and CBS Live Stream, and there are always new products coming to market.
If you’re a sports fan there are a few things regarding Cord Cutting that I did not get to in this post. The problem is I’m not sure when I’ll get to write it. Hopefully in the next 30 days. So, if that interests you. Be looking for that.