“Cut the cord” you say? Now why would I want to do that?
To put it simply: many people are sick and tired of cable and satellite television. This frustration stems from a variety of reasons, from rising costs to limited content options to issues with customer service. In the world of broadcast television, the act of “cutting the cord” refers to an individual who decides to either cancel their subscription to cable or satellite television, or significantly reduce the number of hours of subscription TV viewed due to competitor streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Nowadays, these individuals are deemed “cord cutters.” Sounds rebellious, doesn’t it?
Like landlines and cell phones...
Technology trends are always changing. It’s kind of reminiscent of the time people began yanking landline phones out of their wall. This put an end to those pesky telemarketer calls that conveniently came when the family was gathered around the dinner table. Plus, cell phones were a viable alternative. As the American media website giant, CNET, stated:
Cable TV can seem a lot like a landline phone: an unnecessary expense shacked by outdated hardware. All the cool kids, and a lot of the cool grownups, are cutting the cable TV cord.
This is far from an isolated incident – it’s more like a phenomenon. The research firm, eMarketer, estimated that the number of U.S. cord cutters in 2018 accelerated at a rate of 32.8%, that’s 33 million people. Meanwhile, the number of video streaming service viewers will rise to 170.1 million, equating to 51.7% of the US population.1 According to a survey Market Watch, cord-cutting was most prevalent among millennials, which the survey identified as those between 22-37 years of age. A large chunk of millennials identified as “cord-nevers,” or people who had never subscribed to pay TV. Eighteen percent of millennials surveyed said they were cord-nevers, more than Gen X respondents (ages 38-53) with 12%, baby boomers (ages 54-72) with 18%, and so-called silent generation respondents (ages 73 and over) with 5%.2
Do your homework before you decide
How do I decide whether I should cut the cord or not? That’s a great question. Like any purchasing decision you make, it’s worth doing your homework. Try making a list of deal-breaker shows or channels and check to see if they’re available on streaming services. You could also call your cable/satellite company to ask about your options if you want to downgrade.
If streaming is a totally new concept to you, consider testing the service before making any big changes. Most of the streaming companies offer free trial versions so there is plenty of opportunity to test them out. Canceling cable can be complicated and unfortunately, if you’re under contract for a one- or two-year commitment, it can become fairly expensive. Conversely, signing up for most streaming services and canceling them without financial penalty is pretty common if you discover their content does not align with your tastes. No more commitments! If only that was true for more than just cable television…
Also, take the time to look at the back of your TV. If you find a USB port there, then Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV offer quick, low-cost options for getting streamed content onto a screen bigger than your phone or tablet. You should also consider higher-end devices like Apple TV or Roku, both of which make watching streamed content on your TV easier.
Streaming your favorites
Deciding whether you should cut the cord or not seems like a simple choice, but it really isn’t. Cable television entertainment is part of America’s pastime, as it has been around since the early late 1940’s. We’ve enjoyed so many different programs over the years, from I love Lucy to Gunsmoke to The Tonight Show, that the thought of cutting the cord can feel like we are being disloyal to the past – and who doesn’t like to experience nostalgia?
Here’s the kicker though: guess where you can go to see episodes of classics like “I Love Lucy” on demand? Streaming services Amazon Prime and Hulu. They’ve purchased the rights to the show, as well as many other classic shows, and made them available on their platforms. Granted you can catch a syndicated episode of on TV Land every so often, but that doesn’t stack up well against what the streaming companies are offering.
Not only has television impacted the way families entertain themselves in the living room, it has transcended communication on a national scale. Remember the four debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960? They were broadcasted throughout the year across the country, forever changing the way presidents would campaign. In 1963, for the first time in history, television surpassed newspapers as an information source. In a poll, 36% of Americans found TV to be a more reliable source than print, which was favored by 24%. You can’t forget about space travel. We all watched as Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon for the first time live on network TV.
In 1993, 98% of Americans owned a TV
Television became ingrained in American culture. At the start of 1993, 98% of American households owned at least one TV, with 64% owning two or more sets.3 Good news is that you can cut the cord without cutting out all the memories. You’re moving on to bigger and better and things.
Who are some of the big players in the streaming services world and are they actually that much cheaper than cable? The more popular streaming services include Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Philo TV, PlayStation Vue, Pluto TV, FuboTV, and Apple TV+ (fall 2019). These services run from $7.99 a month to $39.99 a month. Some of them are free of advertisements and allow streaming on multiple devices at once, but not all of them do. It’s important that you identify these things ahead of time by either contacting their customer service or running the free trial.
According to Leichtman Research Group, cable television companies report average spending per subscriber of about $85 a month, while the average among satellite TV providers tops $100 a month.4 Now factor in commercials, contracts, cables, etc. There is some serious cost benefit analysis to be done here.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of today’s streaming services and their respective costs, consider visiting this website: https://www.consumerreports.org/streaming-media-devices/guide-to-subscription-streaming-video-services/. They even include notes on latest news for each of the companies and who it is best for. Also, USA TODAY is launching a weekly series on how to lower your monthly bills and cut your costs, (especially if you are looking to cut expenses during retirement). Each week, they will look at one of your monthly bills and offer tips on how to cut that bill, so keep a lookout for that series.
Feeling compelled to cut the cord yet? Maybe you’re not, which is fine too. Cutting the cord isn't right for everyone. There are plenty of reasons why people around the country are choosing to stay loyal to their cable and satellite providers.
Do you have reliable internet service?
One of the major reasons is dependence on internet connection. If you’re embracing the streaming phenomenon, you need a quality, stable internet connection. You might think that getting cable TV and Internet service from the same provider means you’d have the same quality of service on both, but that’s not necessarily true. Even with quality cable service, you can still experience a spotty internet connection or the occasional Internet blackout.
While this may not seem like a huge deal, imagine you’re watching a highly anticipated show or event, like the season finale of your favorite show or the World Series, and your internet starts fizzing out. If there are certain shows or events that mean a lot to you, this is something to consider, especially if you’re living in an area where the internet connection is not completely reliable. You also need to consider data caps when streaming. If you’re streaming a huge number of gigabytes through Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming sites, you could be consuming a ton of data (especially if you’re streaming in HD), and that could slow your connection or cost you more money.
Like live TV? You may want to keep your current setup
Another reason why people are refusing to cut the cord is live TV events. Whether it is a live sporting event or a presidential debate, not everything that is broadcasted live on TV is accessible through streaming services. Most likely you will have to pay extra to access certain live events depending on the service you use. By the same token, the content being offered on streaming services may not align with your tastes. With that being said, you could write off cutting the cord completely. What’s the point of changing how you access TV entertainment if it’s not what you want to watch?
Worried about money matters? The final reason why cutting the cord may not be for you is that the cost savings might not be as much as you expect. You may be paying a lot for a package cable subscription and thinking that by cutting the cord and streaming all of your content, you will also be cutting your bill by a sizeable amount. But it may not be that much. Depending on the type of content you want to stream, the amount of streaming services you want to use, and whether you want your streaming service to be completely ad-free or not, these will factor into the final cost.