Cutting the Cord

pliers in cutting position on cable cord

Many people have decided to find new ways to entertain themselves instead of the standard 100-plus channel cable or satellite TV lineup. Generations have had access from their childhood to uninterrupted programming. As a nation, we’ve grown so used to continuous round-the-clock entertainment that the idea of disconnecting seems like it would leave a hole in our lives that couldn’t be filled.

That attitude is rapidly changing. Dropping cable or satellite services, called cord cutting, is outpacing projections for its growth. Answer these four questions if you’re thinking about cutting the cord.

  1. How many channels do you receive?
  2. How many do you watch?
  3. How much does cable TV cost every month?
  4. Have you promised yourself that you would drop cable immediately if you could replace it with a less expensive option?

Most people would answer “Too many” to question number one and “Not enough” to question number two. The answer to question three would probably be “Too much,” and question number four would receive a resounding reply of “Yes.”

The simple fact is that cable and satellite companies have had a virtual monopoly for decades, and they chose to wring every cent out of their customers with expensive channel packages and never-ending commercial breaks. This has led to opportunities for websites that stream content to their members for rates that can be as low as $5 per month or $50 and higher if you sign up for premium streaming services like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime or any of the various sports networks, such as the N.Y. Yankee network or the NFL football packages that include every game.

Why Should You Cut the Cord?

Many people have made their move and cut the cord already. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 60% of Americans use streaming services to watch TV. In addition to saving money, you could enjoy the following benefits.

  • View programs on your own time
  • Binge watching
  • No need to be somewhere at a certain time to see a show
  • Better programming
  • Buy only what you want, not what they want you to buy
  • Fewer or zero commercials

What Options You’ll Have If You Turn Your Back on Cable

man and woman sitting on couch eating popcorn

Frequently, people will choose to stay with a provider because they don’t like big changes in their lives, and cutting the cord means they’ll have many new changes. Nearly everything you receive from cable or satellite is available elsewhere for less money.

Local options

You can take advantage of the free or low-cost options available locally.

  • If you enjoy local news shows, buy a digital antenna to pick up nearby channels. Some can receive channels as far away as 50 miles.
  • Dust off your membership card to the DVD rental store down the street.
  • Check out the local library for DVDs. If what you want isn’t on hand, use interlibrary loan to locate hard-to-find films.
  • Read a book or magazine for pleasure or to begin or continue a hobby.
  • Listen to some e-books. Many titles are available; there’s something for everyone.
  • Netflix still offers DVDs by mail for around $10 per month.

Online options

Your online options for entertainment are numerous and varied. They can be free or cost as much as a cable bill with premium add-on channels.

YouTube offers an almost unlimited number of music videos, live music performances, skits, short films, lessons on all kinds of hobbies, how-to guides for DIY projects and many more.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Reddit have plenty of content from all over the world as well as live interaction between members.

Subscription services

Netflix is currently the king of streaming sites. For $10 per month, viewers can choose from a huge library of studio films and Netflix originals, which have become good enough to win Oscars for the network. About 60% of Americans are streaming, and Netflix is by far the main source.

Amazon Prime members can watch new and old films and TV programs in the Prime Video area. Premium add-on channels are also available for $5 to $10 per month, including HBO, CineMax, Showtime and others.

Hulu, Crackle, Sling and other sites offer vintage TV programming and movies as well as reruns of current shows.

For sports programming, the various leagues have gameday packages available for regional teams. Some teams even have their own networks to broadcast games that aren’t being shown on network TV. FuboTV provides various a la carte packages for NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and some of the popular cable channels like FX, AMC and FOX Sports. Channels can be purchased singly or in packages you design.

Individual channels like FX, HBO, CineMax and Showtime have their own subscription streaming services. Disney is going to start one as well.

Acorn TV features British, European and Australian TV shows and films, including high-quality programming from the BBC.

You may not be able to head down to the local Blockbuster store any longer, but even the father of all DVD rental stores has an online service that streams films.

Options Other than TV

Even if your goal in life is to be a couch potato, other entertainment alternatives can be enjoyed on or off the couch, recliner or bed.

Online interactive multi-player gaming is very popular. Video game releases rival major studio film debuts in terms of sales and number of participants. That many people can’t all be wrong. Maybe gaming can be your new hobby.

Read books, comics and magazines for entertainment and knowledge. It’s always good to invest a little time into your personal development.

You’ll find that you have more free time to pursue a hobby if you aren’t watching TV all the time. Write a book, learn to play a musical instrument, paint, exercise or walk your dog. Do something you enjoy.

It’s nice to come home from a hard day at work, sit in your favorite spot and click the remote. You know the schedule, the channel lineup. Take charge of your own entertainment. Cut the cord and set yourself free.