By PETER LoPINTO
According to the most recent data, the average American pays around 100 dollars a month for cable services. With the rise of the internet and video streaming services, many have found that “cutting the cord” and moving on from their cable company can save them money without a significant detriment to their entertainment. It can be scary ditching a product that seems like such an integral part of the American way of life, but ultimately it comes down to asking yourself what you get out of cable. Do you value cable for access to the latest media; enjoying quiet movie nights; following each episode of your favorite shows; immersing yourself in live events like news or sports? Taking into consideration the average cable bill cost of 100 dollars, I’ll build an example plan to get an idea of the viability of cutting the cord.
Netflix: $14 a month: streaming service and a DVD mailing plan
Money left: $86
This plan gets you 2 DVDs a month, so for nights when you really want to get invested into a high-quality movie, you can have one ready. Netflix’s DVD service has a very wide selection of movies that you won’t be able to find online. With the streaming service, you’ll have access to their original programming, which includes popular shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Their TV show selection is also broad, but while they have some of the most popular series, Netflix is not designed to carry current seasons of TV shows. The streaming service is typically one season behind current shows. Finally, while Netflix does have some movies, it has been criticized by many for offering a lackluster amount of online movies.
HBO NOW: $15 a month: streaming service
Money left: $71
HBO NOW is a streaming service that includes HBO’s original programming and a fairly wide selection of movies. HBO is prolific for their original programming with classics such as The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm and current hits such as Game of Thrones and Last Week Tonight. Their selection is thus full of quality, and as a plus they post new episodes fairly quickly. HBO NOW will also be the main piece of our streaming plan for watching movies. Their selection online contains a decent variety of recent and popular movies as well as classics. It could be unrealistic to expect Netflix’s streaming service to meet your movie needs, but HBO NOW’s collection has content to satisfy most.
Hulu: $8 a month: streaming service
Money left: $63
Hulu does offer a no-commercial package for $12 a month, but if you’re coming over from cable, the commercials from Hulu won’t seem like a big deal since there are less of them per show. The main reason for adding Hulu to the plan is to stay up to date on the television shows people are talking about. Its selling point is that they have partnered with many of the major networks to have new episodes up the day after they air. Keeping up with the latest popular TV shows is part of the culture that cable has developed, so for many this benefit of Hulu is a major selling point. Hulu also has some exclusive television and original programming that can bolster your watchable content. Additionally, they do have movies available, but HBO NOW’s content still outshines Hulu’s in this regard.
The last service for the plan is YouTube. It’s the most popular video streaming site with an endless amount of free, entertaining video uploaded by a variety of people and channels. You likely already use YouTube on your computer, but being able to watch it on the TV can make using this site more of a group activity. In addition to the main YouTube videos, there are also many movies that you can choose to pay one-time fees for if you have something specific in mind.
Below are some one-time fees that I’ll divide amongst 12 months for the plan. However, these devices should last you more than 12 months.
TV Antenna: $30 ($2.50 per month)
Money left: $60.50
The one weak spot of a plan to cut the cord is live television programming such as news and sports. Each professional sports network has its own contractual agreements with TV networks, some of them written before online streaming video became a major source of entertainment. For this reason, watching all of your favorite team’s games can be impossible or excessively expensive if you don’t live in their market. The antenna, however, will allow you to watch any locally broadcasted sports. Plugging it into your TV will give you all major channels, providing you not only with hometown sports, but also local news and live programming on major networks. If you find yourself attached to the flip-and-watch style of television consumption (allowing networks to take the burden of deciding what to watch), the antenna gives you that option. 30 dollars is a median cost for an average antenna, but you can also decide to get a bargain for 10-15 dollars or a more powerful product for 50 dollars or more.
Roku Streaming Stick: $42 ($3.50 per month)
Money left: $57
For all of the services that I’ve added to the subscription plan, the Roku streaming stick is the best option. There are many other choices such as the Amazon Fire TV stick or the Chromecast, but I personally recommend the Roku streaming stick for the plan. It streams all of the plan’s services, includes a remote, and has solid performance reviews online. In addition to the main concerns, the price is right, and it offers a nice perk through its phone app, allowing you to listen to what you’re watching via headphones plugged into your phone jack. The stick plugs into the USB port on your TV.
Finally, here are some other ideas that I’m not adding to the plan. I’ve included them for the sake of information.
Sling: $20 or $40 per month: streaming service
This is a fairly recent service, so it still has flaws as well as mixed performance reviews. Some people have had streaming issues, and the live sports included in the package can be blacked out on occasion based on your market. That being said, I’ve included this because I believe it’s a service that is thinking towards the future of including the freedom of choice in cable channels. The main package is 20 dollars a month, and includes cable channels that many are attached to such as ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, and AMC. A different package includes more sports channels as well as local sports but removes ESPN’s channels from the list. For 40 dollars you can get both packages. I didn’t include this in the plan because I feel for the price this service should work near flawlessly.
Amazon Prime: $99 annually
Unlike Sling, this is a very solid service that has a great track record. I didn’t include it in the plan because I believe that it is mainly a service for shipping products quickly through Amazon. Adding this service to your monthly bills would be something that would be unfair to compare to your previous cable bill because it’s more of a decision to think about in the context of shopping bills. Amazon’s collection of movies and shows is growing, however, and if you feel the perks of Amazon prime’s shipping service (free 2-day shipping on many products) are worth the cost, then their media would round out your plan nicely.
Final monthly cost: $43 per month: includes antenna, Roku stick, Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW and YouTube
For 43 dollars a month, the average American would save 57 dollars a month (or 684 dollars per year) off of their cable bill. The plan still provides plenty of TV shows, movies, and original content. Local programming is also available, including local news, sports, and major network broadcasts. And a major perk of this plan is that you’ll find yourself watching more of what you want to with fewer commercials.
Cable has been a staple of our lives. It can be difficult to imagine a life without it. Ultimately, the decision comes down to one question: what do I get out of cable, and can I get that for less money by utilizing the progress of the digital age?
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