The trend is growing to cut the cable TV cord with American families. An estimated 3.74 million (3.7%) US TV subscribers cut their TV subscriptions between 2008 and 2012, to rely solely on Netflix, Over the Air, Online and other services to replace their cable television service. 1.08 million (1.1%) pulled out the cable in 2012 alone. Some are taking the movement quite seriously and leaving behind their cell phones as well.
Is this going to be the new normal? Is there a regressive movement at work?
We’ve not done it yet, but the topic of making this radical adjustment has been broached in our household more than once. Personally, I’ve not yet reached the point of yanking it out, but I’ve come close. Especially after an hours long, bruising confrontation with a “retention specialist” on a rate increase. As yet, none of our close friends or family have taken the step, but the day may be soon coming.
Cut the Cable TV Cord – Why Is This Even A Possibility?
The occasions when this comes up in our home is usually when we:
- believe there is nothing interesting on
- feel we could be doing something much more constructive and productive than watching television
- are thinking about the money we could save by canceling the service
- what is on is hardly morally, spiritually, or culturally uplifting, is basically objectionable.
One would think, with 230 channels in our package that we could select at least one program that would be compelling enough to navigate the remote to it. In truth, there have been times when we’ve gone up and down the guide and found nothing that piques our interest. When this happens, we truly start discussing if we really need cable TV at all. We use satellite, so set aside the usual pros and cons of satellite vs. cable TV.
With income getting stretch more each month, it makes sense to review what we’re paying out, especially for things that are less than essential. Honestly, we don’t need to have television. We have radios and the Internet, so if we want information we can get it. But TV has been something grew up with so it seems only natural to have it.
So, to help you make the decision, here are some steps you can take to make your own choice.
Do Some Research
Doing this is going to take some time and effort, but once you go through it, you should be comfortable with the option you and your household elect.
1. How much TV do you watch?
This is going to be like keeping a rating service diary. Make a record of everything you watch; don’t bother with those shows you start and then abandon. This has to be what you totally sit through, whether you enjoy the content or not. Use a notebook, with a page for each day. Once you’ve completed that day, start on the next. Don’t go back and look at the previous pages until you’ve finished the exercise.
Your goal is to establish how many hours you’re watching television. That’s the amount of time that will either be lost or gained (based on your final evaluation). I was surprised when I charted our viewing habits. The sets are on about 11 hours day. According to Statistic Brain the average American as of February 18, 2016, watches 5 hours and 11 minutes per day.
2. Identify what you watch.
Again, this is like the rating journal. Put down something that will help you recall and classify what the program was. This is important because it will help you prioritize your viewing later.
If the critical issue for you is the expense, contact the provider; see if there might be a less expensive subscription tier. Complain about having to pay for channels you don’t even watch (we have two horse racing channels, a tennis, and a gold channel we’ve never watched). Sometimes just changing your “menu” may save money.
The idea of “a la carte’ cable TV was floated about 10 years ago but the industry buried it under a mountain of objections. I don’t think it will ever come back to life.
3. Compute what it is costing you per month per hour of watching.
Divide your monthly cable TV bill by the number of days in the month. In our case, it’s about $5.50 a day. That’s about $0.45 per hour, given that our TV is on an average of 11 hours per week.
4. Classify the programming.
This you need to do to see exactly what you are watching. Is it news, information and education you are getting? Is it entertainment? Once you do that then you have to find out if and where you could get that from other sources than television.
5. What does it cost to get what you watch elsewhere?
An article in the Orange County (California) Register says the average cost of a daily newspaper, hard copy off the rack, is about $1.27. In Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal Constitution offers a combination electronic and home delivery for seven days for about 84¢ per day.
The blog NedGames says the average price of a movie ticket in the United States has reached an all-time high of $8.38. But figure the cost of transportation, parking, and concession goodies.
Getting educational materials from your public library should be next to free.
Evaluate Your Results
This is where the rubber meets the road. You’re going to have to see if what it would cost you to get what you receive through your television from those sources other than TV. Be realistic and honest.
Evaluate the need for printed media. Would you actually read every page of a newspaper that cost you $1? Would the coupons that come in the Sunday paper save you enough money to justify the likely $2 cost of that edition? Are there that many movies you and your spouse would want to pay $15 (or more) to see?
Let’s go back and see if there are options you may not have considered if you are looking for entertainment.
Your smart phone or smart TV. If it’s just you, and you have a screen bigger than a postage stamp, there are many streaming sites to watch movies and programs on. If you do cut the cable TV cord, have a “smart TV” (Roku, Apple, etc.) and keep your internet service; there is a whole new world of content available through it.
“On Demand”. Most cable services offer you an ever-expanding library of programming that is available through its “on demand” services. The majority of these are free because they will have commercials in them, but for as little at 99¢ you can watch a movie (sometimes fairly recent releases) without commercials and at your convenience. Some systems offer “start-pause-play” functions and you can view them as many times as you wish during a 24-hour window.
“Pay Per View”. This is a bit like on demand except that these will always cost something. The more recent the movie, the higher the price. Playback times are staggered throughout the day to try to fit your schedule, but they may or may not have the pause function of on demand content.
Online Options. Hulu, Netflix and several of the commercial networks offer both pay per view and on demand material. It means having to gather around a computer screen. You can watch every episode of some series at your “time shifted” convenience.
Movie Rentals. Blockbuster is gone, but there are still the “Red Box” vending machines where you can rent DVDs inexpensively. Again, most public libraries have a selection, though it may not be as current at the rental outlets.
But then you must compute what the cost would be if you went these routes and put that up against the cost of the television service.
Sharing Movies. Ever given a thought to setting up a kind of “lending library” with your family, friends, and neighbors? How many times do you go back and watch a DVD you both paid $2 for at Hobby Lobby a second or third time? You might want to start canvasing the landscape and see if some sort of swap could be arranged.
Yard sales. Take a look at those boxes. Just like at the retail stores, there may be some hidden treasures for next to nothing in cost. I understand there is now a company operating in Georgia with a website that will give you the current asking price for titles, and provide you with a means of sending the discs to them, they pay you, then resell them.
After putting the pencil to the numbers and you think it is the way you want to go, check out these considerations about ditching your TV connection:
- Contract cancellation costs – are you committed to a term, and how much is it going to cost you to get out of the contract?
- Returning (or disposing) of equipment – cable systems want their boxes and remotes back or they will bill you, and it can be exorbitant. Satellite companies usually say the dish is yours, but you may have to ship back the converters. (If they do want them back, before you break it off with them ask for RMA – “Returned Merchandise Authorization” – labels.)
- You pay in advance. Sure, they say they’ll send you a refund check, but that can take weeks. Plan your termination date to coincide as close as possible with the end of your service period.
- Be prepared to “be tough.” As soon as you mention your desire to cut the cable TV cord these companies transfer you to experts who will offer you outlandish and very attractive deals to extend your stay with them. After it is all over and you have dumped them, you wonder why they couldn’t have given you these deals while you were a paying customer?
- Don’t look back. Once you’ve made the decision, go through with it. If you go back, there are going to be “re-connection fees” and deposits all over again.
This is definitely a trend that is growing and it is alarming advertisers. Many “millennials” see making this change an expression of independence, of throwing off the bondage they inherited from the culture. How long it will last is truly going to be determined by how much content is out there, and if the cost will be substantially lower than being tied to cable or satellite services.
Are you considering “cutting the cord?” Have you done it? Would you share with us what you have heard from those who have gone this route?