Cutting the cable TV cord

Cutting the Cord

I have seen some discussions about people “cutting the cord” to cable TV in my local technology user group. I recently joined that group and some of the members want to sever the cable TV connections and wondering how to go about it and how to do it. The tech group in Orlando that I have been a member since the 80’s had this discussion a few years ago and some members made the break. Some of those who made the cut have shared their experiences with me.

I use BrightHouse Networks as my cable TV and Internet provider. BrightHouse has a bundle that includes Basic Cable (75 Channels), use of Cable Hotspots & 25MBPS Internet for $79 per month, plus taxes, equipment, fees and surcharges. Additional Internet Speed, more channels, & DVR is priced at $122, plus taxes, etc. My total bill is about $182 per month for 50 MBPS, 2 TVs, DVR’s on both, and Premium Channels. I do not have the Movie or Sports packages, so no HBO, Showtime, & the extra sports channels. I also can use BrightHouse hotspots when traveling on my phone, my tablet, or my laptop.

I can also sign in many of the cable networks’ websites to watch recent programs by validating that I am a subscriber to BrightHouse or one of the other cable companies. or I can get some channels on the BrightHouse app on my iPad, and more when I am on my own Wi-Fi. Without cable, BH Internet is $57 for standard, $77 for 50MBPS (which is the speed that I get in my plan), and faster which costs more.

If you are considering “cutting the cord,” I suggest going through all of the stations & networks that you watch and making a list of your must-haves. Then take what it will cost per month if you cut the cord. Decide what you want & what you can do without. As you check the different alternatives, check which stations, networks, and programs are available and if subscriptions will be needed. When you are figuring the equipment cost, remember that any repairs or replacements are at an additional cost and as technology changes, you will need newer equipment or models of what you initially purchase.

Many of the networks available on cable & through services
Some Channel Choices

For instance, the service, SlingTV has $20, $25, & a &40 per month plans. The higher priced plan lets you watch all of the offerings in the other 2 plans, including local favorites on FOX and NBC and regional sports (select markets) on Fox Regional Sports Networks. Plus, watch top shows and games on AMC, FX, CNN, HGTV, NFL Network, Comedy Central, USA, and more. FOX, NBC, Univision and UniMas live programming availability varies by location. Other channels are available for additional fees, just like on cable.

 

To use Sling TV you need to purchase a device, unless you have a TV that offers Roku, Sling TV, etc., as part of the TV. Otherwise, you can get the devices for about $35 to $100 for each TV. Examples are Apple TV, Roku, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast, xBox One, as well as apps for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Devices like Roku, and I have 2 of them, have some free channels, but many have a monthly fee. I don’t subscribe to most of them, but here are some typical monthly fees. Netflix $10 – Hulu $8+ – Major League Baseball $20 – NBA $200 a season – NFL Game Pass $100 per season. There are many more, some free & some have nominal monthly fees, but they can add up.

I time-slice most of my TV viewing. That means I record programs on the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and then play them back when I want. I can also speed through the commercials (and the boring parts). My cable account allows me to record the programs and then watch the recording on either TV.

Without a cable, there are DVR devices available. One is the originals of the DVR boxes, the TIVO sells for $200-$400 plus a monthly subscription to their streaming service. Their service is $15 a month, or $150 per year. Then you have to add in the other services like Netflix, Hulu, or any of the other choices. If you want the Tivo for 2 rooms, they have a second room accessory for an additional $150.

My friend Sean, who “cut the cord in 2011 and has been very satisfied with the options available via my Roku, like Netflix and YouTube.  About a year ago I bought a Tablo to record OTA shows.  I get about 70 channels with the antenna I list below, although many of them are Spanish or religious, I still have about 35 channels that we can enjoy.”

Here is the equipment that he is using. antenna – Antennas Direct ClearStream4 HDTV Antenna – http://amzn.to/1Mtt4IY cable – Coaxial Cable (50 Feet) – http://amzn.to/1LQYBUJ tuner – Tablo DVR for HDTV Antennas, 2-Tuner with Wi-Fi – http://amzn.to/1MwZKlO smart box – Roku 3 Streaming Media Player – http://amzn.to/1IraJe5 Tablo app for Roku – https://owner.roku.com/add/Tablo

Sean placed his antenna in his attic space, but it is an outdoor antenna. He then ran the coaxial cable down to a convenient place to have the Tablo plugged in to power, and connected to his home network (via wire, or wireless).  Then, he downloaded the Tablo app in his Roku and it searches for, and finds his Tablo, on the network.  He states that “the picture quality is amazing”. He also added a portable USB hard drive on his Tablo to record shows. He is paying about $100 for his Internet from BrightHouse, and $5 a month for the Tablo channel listings. He is also paying for services like Netflix on his Roku.

He gets about 35 channels through the antenna, plus another 40 religious & foreign language stations. He is in Orlando. In the Sarasota/Manatee area, that number may be significantly lower, due to the distance to the Tampa Bay area.

Another of my friends, Mike, decided that there were too many programs that he would not be able to watch, so he opted to add more to his cable selection and not cut the cord. Another friend commented to me that his “problem is that I can’t seem to find what I watch in other ways. I negotiate hard every year. Right now I’m paying about $118/month, including taxes, for 50 mb Internet and cable with 1 package up from the base.”

My friend on the east coast of Florida says, “I cut the cord a number of years ago.  I miss some things, but not that much. I get all the PBS channels, WUCF and WEFS, which are extra cost on cable, if available. One of my TVs uses an RCA flat plate antenna which I have to move around at times. The other TV uses good old rabbit ears.  I’m on the fringe area for reception.”

This started as a simple answer to one of our Sarasota Technology User Group members about what might be needed if they did not “renew our contract with our cable company and used a variety of ways to get TV service.” There is no simple solution. There probably will be cost savings, but each of us has preferences and priorities which may not be met by cutting the cord to cable TV.