In her Aging With Geekitude series, self-professed “recovering technophobe” Erica Manfred writes about her adventures with technology and shares what she’s learned as she navigates the not-so-scary waters.
I made two leaps of faith this year. One was to escape the New York cold by renting a condo in Florida for three months. Two was to live without my 200+ channels, along with Showtime, Starz and the DVR that I have at home.
In making this decision, I became part of a hot new TV trend known as cutting the cable cord. In case you have no idea what this means, cord cutting is a way to save on those huge monthly cable bills. You cut your expensive cable service and instead rely on the Internet for your TV content. Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Hulu are some of the popular services that have convinced millions of cable and satellite subscribers to cut their cords and change to video downloads or streaming.
How to Cut the Cable Cord
Smart cord cutters keep Wi-Fi and use it to get Internet TV. With wireless, you basically have the world. You can connect a streaming service like Roku (see below) to get a multitude of channels and pay as you watch, use Netflix to watch past seasons of TV series ($7.99 a month for unlimited streaming), and iTunes or Amazon to buy shows individually for $1.99. If you subscribe to Hulu Plus ($7 a month), you get most of the popular shows, such as Mad Men, one day after they air on TV.
I mentioned streaming services: To cut the cord, you have to own an intermediary hardware device such as Chromecast, an Amazon Fire stick, or a Roku box or stick. I have a Roku box at home and know how it works, so I decided to pay 50 bucks for a Roku stick in Florida; also, the Roku has a separate remote.
Cord Cutting Pros & Cons
Cord cutting has advantages and disadvantages. It saves you money for sure; you don’t have to subscribe to channels you have no interest in watching, and advertising is minimal. But you do pay a price: no more live TV. Without cable, I’ve had to go cold turkey on my diet of real-time broadcasts on network channels such as ABC, CBS and NBC. No daily news and talk shows, no CNN, sports matches and awards shows. If there’s a hostage crisis, I won’t be able to watch it as it happens.
I happen to be addicted to live TV. I don’t know about you, but at home in upstate New York I wake up with Hoda and Kathy Lee and go to bed with Jimmy Kimmel. But I pay $180 a month for this privilege, along with premium cable channels such as HBO and Showtime – extremely self-indulgent for a senior on a fixed income.
Luckily, there are some solutions in the works.
New Developments for Cord Cutters
New solutions for cord cutters will arrive in 2015. They include:
Sling TV which will stream live TV for $20 a month. Channels streamed by Sling TV will include ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Travel Channel, Food Network, ABC Family, HGTV, Disney Channel and Maker. Read more about it here.
Untethered HBO If you’re a Game of Thrones addict like me, you’ll be able to get your fix without having a cable subscription by buying HBO separately as a streaming channel. Here’s the skinny on that.
My Cord “Trimming” Solution
Neither Sling TV nor HBO Untethered solves the Cathy Lee and Hoda problem, but if I spring for basic cable, I can get the live local channels plus some cable channels. You could do the same if live TV is important to you.
However, in the world of cord cutting it can take some ingenuity and research to get the current season or a new episode of a particular favorite show. Hulu carries most shows but not all. At home I have a DVR (digital video recorder) as part of my cable TV package (costs extra of course) and I record “Downton Abbey” so I never miss an episode. But the only streaming service that carries the current season of Downton is Amazon, and they’re charging $2.99 for it in HD. So I will bite the bullet and pay for it.
The Bottom Line
Even if you opt for all the bells and whistles of the cord-cutting option, including Netflix and Hulu plus, your monthly bill will be under $50. If you add basic cable, you’ll bring it up by $30 or $40, depending on where you live. I suspect that once premium cable channels like HBO and live TV services like Sling are added, the bill may start climbing. But I doubt it will ever reach the heights I’ve been paying.
Think you’re ready to cut the cord?