Now let’s talk about one of my favorite ways to “save more,” namely by cutting the cord, canceling cable. Americans spent an average of $103 a month —$1,236 a year— on cable television in 2016 and the prices are only going up. People are so intrigued and yet so confused about cutting the cord that my next guest produces an entire podcast and blog about how to do it right. Please welcome Dennis Restauro of Grounded Reason to Easy Money. Hi Dennis!
I think you were intending to do a broader podcast and blog about technology, but Grounded Reason really grew when you talked about canceling cable. Talk about how the podcast and blog took off, because I think it proves there’s a ton of rabid interest in cutting the cord!
When I started my podcast and blog, I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. I started it as a hobby to improve my writing skills. By the end of the first year my blog was getting over 100,000 page views a month. Since then it’s become a very fulfilling part of my daily life, where I interact with people, guide them to the answers they seek, and hopefully help them solve a few problems along the way.
Your blog and podcast were my main source when I wrote a recent Washington Post piece about how to cut the cord. So let’s get into the steps I learned from you, the master. Number 1: If you want to cancel cable, first you need an HDTV ANTENNA, right?
Actually, all you need is a regular antenna. Manufacturers are using “HD Antenna” as a marketing term. Since 2007, local TV stations have been broadcasting digital signals so crisp that the reception is better than that of cable TV. Plus, despite all the hype about shows on niche networks, 19 out of the top 20 TV shows in 2016 aired on over-the-air broadcast networks. That’s why step one is to buy an antenna or dig out an old one. You can use the old rabbit ears or get a modern digital TV antenna so sleek it will match your decor or so skinny you can mount it out of sight.
Number 2, you need decent internet speed AND price. What should people be looking for?
To stream high definition TV shows, you need a speed of at least 10 Mbps (Megabits per second) —per TV set. If you live in an area with 2 or more providers, you should be able to get that kind of internet service for no more than $40 a month. You may have to do the dance and switch from one provider to another once your introductory period is up to maintain this low rate. Also be on the lookout for fees that aren’t included in the base rate.
Third step: Tell us about HDMI cords. What are they, how much do they cost, how do you hook one up and what do they do for you?
This is really the poor man’s solution, but worth trying and if you’re happy, you need go no further. The very cheapest way to watch internet shows on your TV is by connecting a laptop to your television set with an HDMI cord. Cost: as little as $3.50. It may sound complex, but it’s just like connecting an external monitor to your computer. You can then watch individual shows —and often entire seasons of shows— that the television networks have posted on their websites. Channels like CNN even offer live video feeds updated every few minutes.
Step 4: I’m a fan of websites that tell you where you can watch your favorite shows without cable. Do you find them useful?
They’re useful for finding new shows to watch. But these days digital TVs have great menus of their own. So you may not need outside services like Untangle.tv, Fan.tv and JustWatch.com.
Number 5: Check to see if you already have a smart TV. I myself was “this close” to buying another Roku box and then the guy at the store told me my TV was probably already internet ready. Is this a common mistake??If you purchased your television after 2009, there’s a good chance it can already stream television shows via the internet. Many modern televisions are “internet ready” with apps like Hulu and Netflix embedded in them. The problem is that sometimes a particular TV does not have the particular apps loaded onto it that YOU want. SO be sure to check because loading apps onto a TV is not simple like loading them onto a smart phone.
6: See if you can stream shows through your Blu Ray or gaming consoles. Once again, the idea is to use the technology you already have.
If your television isn’t pre-loaded with internet apps, you may have an external device that is. Many Blu-Ray players can stream shows and cost as little as $50. This is how I got started. Alternatively, recent editions of gaming systems like Playstation, Wii and Xbox can also stream videos.
And now, at step 7, you can finally consider spending a little money on a player. I think people should choose their player based on what shows they want to watch, because they all have different strengths. Do you agree?
Most players these days can access most programming, so this isn’t as important as it used to be. But if you have niche viewing habits, check to see if the device you’re interested in can access your shows. Some examples of players:
Amazon Fire ($40-$90) is a favorite of the editors at PC Mag because it supports so many different media services.
Apple TV ($149-$199) integrates seamlessly with other Apple devices.
Google Chromecast ($35-$70) Allows you to watch YouTube videos (and more) on your TV.
Roku ($29-$121) is easy to use and offers access to the most different channels.
Tivo Bolt ($300-$400 + $15/month). This device is more expensive because it streams video, but also skips commercials with a single click and does all of the other things that made “Tivo” into a verb.
And, finally, step 8, the last step. is to add streaming services. I like to divide these into “mainstays,” “Live” and “Premium.” So let’s talk about the mainstays first. These are services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix. How much do they cost and what do they offer?
• Amazon Prime ($99/year) offers hundreds of free shows, its own original programming, plus the ability to pay for shows and movies on demand. Many people already have Prime for the free shipping, so this shouldn’t even count as a cost for them.
•Hulu.com ($8/month) offers ABC, Fox and NBC shows, in case you missed them live with your antenna plus many cable networks from Comedy Central to SciFi Channel.
•Netflix ($8-$12) has the largest selection of television shows of any service and produces its own popular programs like Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards.
Now let’s talk about Live options. These are new and exciting and solve the perennial problem of how to watch many sports without cable. What are some names and prices?
• DirectTVNow ($35/month) provides 60 channels, from A&E to the Weather Channel but is so new that users report bugs to work out.
• PlayStation Vue ($30-$65) works with its own devices and others and includes base packages plus add-ons you can tailor to your tastes.
• Sling TV ($20/month) includes 30 or more channels, depending on your package, and with no contract so you can cancel any time.
•YouTube TV ($35/month) is You Tube new’s streaming service and is still adding metropolitan areas and channels.
•Fubo-TV ($35/month) offers a lot of sports options and is the newest of all.
And, finally, there are the Premium streaming services, which are the same as premium channels on cable, right?
Yes, and keep in mind that these can also be added to some of the basic options above. So check which is a better deal before buying them ala carte.
HBO Now ($15/month) is available on nearly every device.
Showtime ($11/month) can be added to Amazon, Apple TV, Hulu Roku, and Playstation Vue.
Starz ($9/month) is available via Amazon Prime and a dozen other venues.
This is all great info, Dennis. Thanks so much! Dennis has also provided a guest blog post with even more cord-cutting advice. Plus I will link you to his excellent Grounded Reason podcast and blog.