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It’s been a year since we cut the cord and said goodbye to cable TV. Good riddance to overly expensive plans, hidden charges, contracts, and rental equipment. With a full year of cordcutting in the rearview mirror, I realized that cord cutting was about more than just cost. There are many reasons to say adios to cable. Here are a few of my favorites.
The number one reason that consumers cite for cutting the cord is cost. A year ago we called Time Warner, returned the set-top boxes and installed our indoor antenna. We now have free over-the-air TV for our broadcast channels, Google Fiber for internet, and Sling for our streaming service. For comparable features, we’ve gone from paying $195/month for internet and cable to a combined bill of $125 for Google Fiber and Sling.
Our Sling Orange + Blue plan includes 50 hours of cloud DVR, and we took advantage of the AirTV Player’s free DVR feature that allows us to plug in an external 50 GB hard drive to store recordings locally. We saved $840 in 2018 without sacrificing any channels or features. As a bonus, Google Fiber gives us faster, more reliable WiFi than we had previously.
It’s frustrating having to call customer service to upgrade or cancel. It was hard to research options online to determine if the call time would be a valuable investment because the online pricing and specials are exclusive to new subscribers.
Having worked in a sales and service call center, I know that some companies purposely route cancellations through a live agent to maximize retention. I worked for one organization that would park customers who chose “cancel” on the menu in a five-minute penalty hold to discourage losses. Just this week, I watched a guy live tweet his one hour, forty-five minute hold time with Comcast trying to get his online access back.
So we specifically chose providers that didn’t require phone calls to establish or cancel an account. Not everyone has a bad experience with customer service, so we also prioritized choosing a plan and billing system we could understand without an agent or diagram. We excluded any provider that marketed expensive, confusing bundled services, tiered channel subscriptions, and misleading fees on the bill that look government mandated.
Not only are the cable box rental fees expensive - they’re not optional. You don’t get a choice in the make or model, and you’re forced to use the clunky interface from the cable company. In almost all cases, I would rather stream an episode 24 hours later than attempt to watch it on demand from the cable company. At one point, we paid the cable company for a DVR even though we routed everything through TiVo. Adding insult to injury, we had to wait in line at a local equipment return office to turn in the boxes when we unsubscribed.
With over-the-air and streaming platforms, we can customize the media solution that works best for us. People who like to tinker and code can work with NVidia or a Kodi box. Roku offers an easy plug-and-play arrangement, and Amazon Fire TV is easy for even the least tech-savvy people you know. It’s easier than ever to create a custom whole house multimedia setup with Plex or another management platform without being tied to an interface and equipment forced upon you.
Before cordcutting became popular, most consumers could only choose entertainment providers from a short list. In our current home in a large metro area, we had to choose between a satellite provider and a cable company. Options were few and far between.
As the way we consume entertainment evolves, it seems like a new streaming service is announced each week. Warner Media (previously Time Warner) announced plans to unveil a new on-demand streaming platform later this year, featuring HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner libraries. Apple joins the fray this year with a streaming service and original content. Kanopy offers free streaming services through university and public libraries. Even Sinclair, which owns 190 local broadcast stations, announced the launch of their new streaming service, STIRR. The free and ad-supported service will offer access to Sinclair’s unique take on national news, sports, entertainment, local content, and a video-on-demand library.
The cable company offers us a new, compelling deal every week in the mail to resume our service. There are offers for a discounted initial rate or a free premium channel for a limited time. But all of the offers require at least a one-year contract. In my experience, you can call to negotiate a lower rate at the end of a contract, but if a lower price is available, I’d rather have it automatically applied. You can’t test drive cable without a commitment of some kind.
On the other hand, streaming companies provide a free introductory period so you can check under the hood and kick the tires. Contracts aren’t required, and the month-to-month fees are the same for every customer and published transparently on the Internet. It’s less like buying a car and more like buying a DVD – you can pick what you want, and you don’t have to negotiate the fees, taxes, and delivery at checkout.
There was always an old joke about cable: 500 channels but nothing to watch. Channel surfing was a passive way to watch without intent. We know there was exceptional entertainment on cable. For example, HBO dominated the Emmy Awards with high-quality hits for two decades. It was the first institution to tackle premium original content outside of the big network channels. HBO played a huge part in getting us out of the theater and into the home theater.
It seems like the biggest struggle now isn’t finding something to watch, it’s watching everything on your list. Arguably, channels like ESPN and CNN also provided original content on cable channels, but in my opinion, the investment and creation of Game of Thrones are on a whole different level than a live broadcast or commentators. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu elevated our expectations for streaming TV. It’s no longer enough for channels to offer movies after they left the theater or reruns of shows. Netflix’s record $11 billion investment in 2018 might not seem that unusual after Amazon and Hulu up the game. With the recent acquisition of HBO, Warner Media promised to invest significantly more than the estimated 2018 budget of $1.5 billion.
We encountered a few surprises as we cut the cord. We’ve since added an extra indoor antenna, so we don’t limit live viewing to one screen. But in the year since we cut the cord and said goodbye to cable TV, we’re richer in both cash and content. We’re in control of the streaming services and the equipment we choose and not beholden to a contract with shady fees and the dread of dealing with customer service.
Cord cutting brought us more benefits than just cost. If you haven’t said adios to cable, what is holding you back?
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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