“Cord Cutters”, as we have come to be known to the public, are simply people who no longer feel the need to pay for expensive cable or satellite video content and use cheaper and more user friendly alternatives. Many are not only frustrated with the cost and excessive fees, but also with the inability for cable companies to keep with the times in terms of content offering and usability. Last year, my wife and I joined them and have never looked back.
We previously subscribed to cable and internet through Time Warner Cable. I rarely watched television, limiting it to a few times a week and mostly a few select channels (The Discovery Channel, DIY Network, The History Channel). My wife watched more television than me, but many her shows were actually on network television. Neither of us actually used 95% of the channels that we paid for, but having cable seemed natural and the only choice. In fact, each time we moved (into college, into our first apartment and into our first house), scheduling to have cable and internet installed was one of the first things on the list. When we would first sign up we would get an introductory rate. The the bill would arrive with an additional $12 in various fees. The cost would continue to increase as the cable company hiked their rates. Due to our schedules, we felt the need to purchase DVR and had to pay extra to have it on each TV (and of course the DVRs were not connected to each other). We also got hit with a $10 extra for high definition content, which was only available on a handful of channels anyways. By the times things were said and done, we were paying $100+ a month just for cable. That is $1,200+ a year. We got to a point where it just was not worth it and we began looking for alternatives.
After a bunch of research, we ended up replacing our cable box with the following hardware.
Playstation 3/PS3 ($200) – I actually already owned a PS3, even when we did have cable. The PS3 doubles as not only a gaming system, but also somewhat of a multimedia player. It supports services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others.
Roku 3 Streaming Player ($99.00) – Roku is a media player/streamer. It is about the size of a hockey puck but packs a ton of features. It has a 750+ channels available (some free and some paid). It even allows you to enter the name of the show/movie and will search all of your channels to let you know who offers it. Here are some of our favorite channels: Netlifx, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Plex, Pandora, Crackle, UFC TV, Epix & TED Talks.
*Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna ($37.36) – Many people do not realize that you can still get high definition local channels for free over the air (OTA) with an antenna. This antenna is literally paper thin and not not need to be installed on the roof. Simply plug it into our tv and used the supplied double sided tape to attach it to the wall and you are in luck.
*Clearstream Long Range Antenna ($85.99) – We found this antenna at a yard sale for $10, so we purchased it and installed it on the rood. It picks up some channels that are futher away and typically does better than the Mohu Leaf when the weather gets bad.
*Be sure to check out AntennaWeb before purchasing an antenna. AntennaWeb allows you to enter your address and it will tell you how far away local stations are and what type of antenna you need to receive them.
Over-The-Air (OTA) Stations (Free) – As mentioned above, we installed 2 HD Antennas to allow us to get local channels for free. This allows my wife the ability to watch her network shows (such as Glee) and allows me to watch things such as NFL football.
Netflix ($7.99/month) – We actually had Netflix when we also had cable. Netflix offer a large selection of movies and tv shows. Many people complain about the selection, but I feel that it is getting better over time. Additionally, there are a lot of great TV shows that I never had a chance to watch and Netlfix has many if not all of the seasons. Last year we watch Breaking Bad, then Game of Thrones and are now working our way through Mad Men. We have several other shows on our waiting list. Netflix has a lot of documentaries that I enjoy and many children shows that our daughter likes. To top it off, we can watch Netflix on our PS3, Wii, Roku, Desktop Computer, Laptop, Tablet and Smart Phones. So as long as we have internet, we can enjoy Netflix.
Hulu Plus ($7.99/month) – We picked up Hulu Plus when we cancelled cable. We were going to just use Hulu, but there are a lot of extra shows/episodes and my wife wanted to make sure she could watch her shows if she missed them OTA.
Amazon Prime ($79/year, ~$6.59/month) – We also previously subscribed to Amazon Prime when we had cable (see Why I Love Amazon Prime). Amazon offers many free movies/videos to prime members, plus you can rent or download additional content. We do this for some shows that are not on network television and are not available on Hulu.
Overall we are happy with our setup, but “cutting the cord” may not be for everyone. Below are what we see as some of the pros/cons to it.
- Save Money: Even though we spent some money on hardware to get started (~$150 for 2 Rokus & ~$50 for Antennas), that is a one time expense. The only additional expense that we added since dropping cable was hulu Plus at $7.99/month. Between Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, we only spend ~$24/month.
- HD Content: We get HD content over the air and also through video services.
- DVR Without Thinking: DVR was great invention, allowing people to no longer be constrained by having to watch a show at a certain time. One of the things that I hated about DVR was that I had to plan ahead to record a show. I also had to manage how many shows were recorded and delete them over time. Since the services that we subscribe to have so many shows, I can watch them whenever I want and never have to think about recording a show again.
- Access From Anywhere: We can use just about any of our devices to watch these services. With cable we had to be at our TV. Now we can be anywhere thanks to mobile devices.
- Choosing Content: When we had cable, often times we would sit in front of the TV and aimlessly channel surf. I felt like this was a waste of time. Now if we go to watch TV, we have a specific show or movie in mind. Overall, we tend to watch less TV.
- Don’t Have All Shows: As I mentioned, I really enjoyed Discovery Channel and DIY Network when we had cable. Most of the shows from these channels are not on the other services that we have, so I no longer get to watch them.
- Sports: One of the last advantages that cable has is its grip on sports. I am not a big sports guy (I typically watch NFL Football and UFC) but if you watch a lot of sports you might want to stick with cable. The good news is that many sports networks are starting to allow you to get their services separate from cable (ex. DirectTV offers NFL Sunday Ticket on its own for $299/year). For me, I can catch most Sunday games with my antenna. I subscribe to NFL Mobile on my phone for Thursday/Monday night games (~$5.00/month) and will head to a friends house/sports bar if I want to watch other games). For UFC, I can still over the fights from the UFC channel on the Roku.
- Paradigm Shift: No longer will you sit down and use a channel guide to show you what to watch, you have to search and decide for yourself. You can scroll through titles, or using the new Rolu 3 feature actual search for content and Roku will tell you which channel offers it.
The choice comes down to you. If you have cut the cord, how do you like it? If you are thinking about it, what are your questions? Leave comments below.