How to cut the cord on your cable bill
Until recently, the idea of cutting the cord on your cable television service was absolutely unheard of. How else could you watch your favorite programs? But more and more people are saying goodbye to cable — 6.5 percent of households in the United States stopped paying for cable in the last year, according to Experian Marketing — and the number is increasing.
It’s no wonder. The market research and consumer tracking company the NPD Group estimates that the average cable bill in America is $123 a month, and it’s been going up almost 10 percent each year.
But how viable is life without cable? Sure, there are more and more streaming services that provide television content, but can you still watch all the shows you want? How do you watch live news and sports? And do you really save much money by cutting the cord?
Six months ago, that’s just what I did — I cancelled my cable subscription with Time Warner. I was paying $100 a month for cable (and another $70 a month for high-speed Internet, which I still have). That $100 bill was for basic cable and did not include HBO or Showtime.
To help you decide if giving up cable is right for you, I’ve outlined some of the main alternatives available, including the equipment you’ll need to purchase.
Streaming media player
Hulu Plus allows you to watch current programs from ABC, NBC, FOX and The CW the day after they air for $7.99 a month. It also offers programming from cable channels like Comedy Central and FX. (Note that CBS isn’t on the list –— the network offers its own streaming service.) For an extra $4, you can watch the shows without commercials. Hulu Plus is also now offering a Showtime upgrade for $8.99 more a month, so you can get your fix of “Homeland” and “Ray Donovan” without having cable.
I originally subscribed to Amazon Prime for $99 a year to get the free two-day shipping. The television programming was an added bonus. Amazon Prime has become a producer of prestigious original content, such as the series “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Amazon Prime also lets you watch TV shows by purchasing episodes or entire seasons a la carte, which are available the day after they air on cable. Because I don’t have the Lifetime channel anymore, I can still watch “Project Runway” by buying the season for $18.99. It’s cheaper than having a cable subscription. And there are no commercials!
HBO made headlines this year when it announced that you would no longer need a cable provider to get access to its programming. With HBO Now, you can watch all of the premium channel’s original movies and shows for $14.99 a month. Currently, HBO Now is compatible only with Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Chromecast, so if you have only Roku or a Smart TV, you will need to buy an additional device.
Netflix isn’t technically a cable replacement. With its slate of original programming including “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” even those with cable subscribe to Netflix. Still, most cord cutters have included Netflix in their bundle of streaming services because of its binge-watching possibilities.
My Total Bill
In addition to the free network shows I receive via digital antenna, I subscribe to Hulu Plus with the no-commercials upgrade ($11.99), Amazon Prime ($8.25) and HBO Now ($14.99). Not including the antennas and streaming player I’ve had to buy, which are one-time fixed costs, I now spend just over $35 a month on my television subscriptions. That’s a savings of $65 a month, or $780 a year. Even if I add some a la carte programs and movies to the mix, the savings are substantial.
Is cutting the cord right for you? That really depends on your own viewing habits. If you were to subscribe to every streaming service available, it might not be any cheaper than cable. Still, it’s good to know your options, and as the popularity of streaming grows, those options are only going to get better.