There is a growing interest among people fed up with being held for ransom by the high cost of subscription bundled TV programming to move to the darkside and cut the cord on their cable TV subscriptions. The current average cost of having hundreds of worthless channels delivered to our homes so that we can watch the ten coveted channels we’re really after is around $90 per month. Analysts are predicting that to continue to rise every year until by 2020 we are paying upwards of $200 per month. Some of you are thinking, “I am already paying close to this!”
More and more people are actually taking the plunge and cutting the cord. Nielsen, the group that tracks consumer viewing habits, says that over 5 million households have opted to be cable (or satellite) TV free. While this number might seem small when you consider there are about 108 million households, that 5 million number is up nearly 23% from 2010. That is clearly a trend.
If you are itching to be part of that trend, there are a few things you should be aware of upfront. For some people, these issues will not be a problem, but others may have to find alternative sources or even sacrifice. It’s important to begin with educating yourself on what’s required to stream,
- An adequate broadband plan is a must. By adequate, I mean your plan has a minimum of 3 Mbps download speed (higher is better, particularly if you want to stream HD or have an adequate bandwidth for one person to stream music in one room while someone else is streaming a movie). But – speed isn’t the only issue. Many broadband providers are capping the amount of data that they will allow you to consume per month. Since streaming one movie in high definition eats up about 1.5 GB of data, a plan that caps you at 5 GB per month will be worthless for streaming. The good news is that the larger providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are providing more than adequate data plans for most people to engage in moderate streaming.
- Make sure your TV is getting enough bandwidth. While paying for a broadband plan that has enough speed and total data limit, oftentimes consumers use equipment with old technology that ends up with the streaming device simply not getting enough bandwidth. Those who connect their devices to their WiFi system sometimes have trouble with streaming because they have a bottleneck somewhere in their network. For instance, if too many users are connected through a wireless g connection, either to the internet or to one another, the amount of bandwidth allocated by the wireless device/router to the viewer who is streaming may be inadequate. Upgrading to a wireless n, or using 100 MB or a GB Ethernet connection will provide the necessary throughput. But remember, every component between the internet connection and the streaming device must meet the minimum requirements.
- Understand that your viewing options will change in some cases. The phrase “you get what you pay for” is a good thing to keep in mind here. If you want everything to be the same, then you’ll need to stay with your current cable TV subscription. What you will miss out on when you cut the cord includes most live sports, newer releases of movies, local network programming, and some syndicated TV shows who have not yet jumped on the streaming bandwagon. But – if you are willing say to get an antenna (provided you are close enough to pick up the signals), you can get some sports and local programming. Also, watch for streaming services in the near future that charge you $10 to $15 per month for local programming. Legalities are still being worked out here, but there may be options that will help fill in the gaps. For newer released movies, you can rent individual digital titles from sources like iTunes, Vudu or Amazon to fill in the holes that a streaming subscription like Netflix and Hulu might have.
- Select the best streaming device for your particular needs. We have articles and pages available to help you sort through your options. You’ll want to compare streaming media players as well.
- You may need to get creative and try a few things out before you get the right selection of plans on board. You are paying for convenience and an all-inclusive package of programming when you subscribe to cable TV. To save money, you will need to seek out various sources to meet most of your programming needs. It’s kind of like seeking out pieces to a puzzle – it’s not impossible, but it can take a bit of time and trying different plans out. Also, you need to be aware that the current business models of the entertainment companies who hold the copyrights to the content are kind of stuck back in the 20th century. It may take a while for competitive economic forces to work their magic and get these companies to step into the 21st century. The more of us who are willing to do this type of experiment, the sooner these so-called economic forces will work in getting business models to change.
Many people who have taken the plunge and cut the cord say they are very satisfied with the fact that they have gotten their budgets balanced by getting rid of the over-inflated costs of television. They have even splurged on big-ticket items like widescreen plasma TVs with their savings in some cases. Whatever your goals, you don’t have to completely forgo big or small screen entertainment in order to save money.