TV is awesome. Far too many people take a jab at TV as a “waste of time” or “anti-intellectual”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The amount of time, effort and dedication that goes into producing some of TV’s greatest shows is truly remarkable.
Suffice to say, I’m a big fan of great shows. But I’m also a big fan of keeping my own money in my pocket, and that doesn’t jibe well with the cable companies. So whenever I’m looking over my budget and trying to tighten the belt, I always run into the same problem: how to cut the cable bill and still watch my favorite TV shows.
After doing some research and checking out my options, I decided to do it. I took the plunge, and cut the cable. Yay, no more bills! I still had the problem of watching my favorite TV shows though. I eventually solved that problem, and then I realized – there are probably dozens like me looking to do the same thing. So here’s my guide to cutting the cable, but not your favorite shows.
1. You’ll need to buy some stuff.
Ok, I know this is all about saving money. But the fact is, sometimes you have to make an investment to get a return.
You’ll need to make sure you’ve got a digital antenna. This will help you get reception for all of your local networks. However, not all digital antennas come equal. Antennaweb.org is a great tool for deciding on which antenna you’ll need, based on the level of reception you get.
Next, you’re going to need a streaming device. There are dozens of streaming devices on the market. Some of the more popular ones include the Google Chromecast ($30), Apple TV ($69), the Amazon Fire ($99) and the Roku 3 ($99). Have a look around and decide which one’s right for you.
A piece of advice: get the higher-end stuff. If you really want to watch your favourite shows uninterrupted, then it’s worth shelling out a bit of cash for the Roku 3 or the Amazon Fire. It just makes things so much easier. There’s nothing worse than losing a stream halfway through a show.
If you’re not interested in any of this, you can always just use your computer and stream directly from the cloud.
Over-the-top (OTT) services are rapidly changing the landscape in the TV world. OTT services allow you to watch channels via the cloud, without a pricey cable subscription.
Just like streaming devices, there are dozens of competing companies in the OTT sector. The biggest player by far is Netflix, who evolved their product from online DVD rentals into the media streaming powerhouse it is today. They’ve also entered the market of original content, and have a great line-up of impressive Netflix-branded shows.
If you’re a sports fan, Sling TV offers a basic package with ESPN and Turner channels for around $20 per month. You can add on different expansion packs depending on your taste for $5 each.
Hulu and Amazon Prime are another couple of viable options. The best part of all of these services is that they offer a free trial, usually for around a month. Shop around and have a look at some of the new, smaller players. There are new services coming online regularly. Get on and try a few out – at the very least, you’ll get a few months free access to your shows across the many services.
3. The Costs and Benefits.
This is different for everyone. We all have different needs and different priorities. What you end up going with is entirely up to you, but if you’re going to make the change, you may as well make sure it’s worth it.
Simply weigh up the costs of your existing cable bill for six months and compare it to the set-up costs of a streaming service and monthly subscription costs for six months and compare the two. For the vast majority of people, cable will come out as the vastly more expensive option.
On the other hand, you could always harangue your local cable company for more value. Most cable companies face a very high cost of customer acquisition. Once you’re in, they need you their for life, as it takes a while to start making a profit out of each user.
Give them a call and threaten to leave, or at least ask politely if they can upgrade you or give you a better offer. They’re usually very eager to keep you on. and happy to come to a compromise. It’s worked for me before, until I finally decided to cut the cable.
4. The Future of TV.
Cable companies have faced immense pressure from digitally agile competitors. They’ve experienced a declining user base, shrinking profits, and a solid hit to their brand image.
Business model innovation is the key to survival for cable companies. If they can adapt to customer needs, deliver the service that people expect, and compete on price, then they might be in with a chance of survival.
Cable companies, with their wide networks of affiliates, still have some strength over smaller up-and-coming streaming services. In recent times, however, Netflix has rapidly eaten away at the strength of large cable companies, even expanding internationally.
Comcast responded to the popularity of Netflix’s original programming by investing in NBC. Comcast, Verizon and Charter Communications have all begun rapidly diversifying the industries they work in, recognising a future of diminishing returns from cable services.
All cable companies are shifting some aspects of their operations into the cloud, in a late-to-market imitation of the streaming services like Netflix that took the world by storm. They’re also offering leaner packages, improved flexibility and better service. Funny how competition can make companies pick up their game.
As the situation stands, it’s an exciting time to be a TV fan. The long monopoly that cable companies held over the TV industry is rapidly breaking down. Fragmentation of the market will lead to many companies servicing niche customers far better than the monolithic cable companies once did.
So sit back, relax, and watch the war for TV time go down. The winners are us, the consumers.