Why you should ditch your cable provider and control your TV

People everywhere are ditching their cable and satellite TV for streaming services over the internet.  It’s not as hard as you think, you probably actually do a lot of what it takes for cord cutting already.

Do you have a Hulu subscription? Netflix? Amazon Prime?  You are already are on your way there.  Why should you be at the mercy of what the networks want to show you when they want to show it to you?  The days of being beholden to the network schedule are over.

I think it all started with the TiVo or the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) it allowed people to “time-shift” their viewing.  Meaning, you could watch your shows on your schedule not someone else’s.

Hulu and now Netflix were born out of this model, and modern high speed internet really caused this to take off.  Without it the streaming model fails.  Most people now days forget that Netflix started with mailing DVD’s to your house that you would mail back after a couple of days.

What the cable providers are doing wrong

cut-the-cable(When I say Cable I am also referring to Satellite providers as well)

Cable is expensive.  For what you get.  I bet most of you only watch 10 channels out of the 100 or so that the cable company forces you to buy.  The cable company pays the networks to provide their content.  So for every ESPN there are 5 QVC channels.  There have been a couple of tried by Congress to pass a law requiring Cable providers to allow for an A La Carte plan.  Meaning you pick the channels you want, the cable companies have been fighting this tooth and nail for decades.

Year after year your subscription price goes up and the quality of the channels offered and the customer service you receive goes down.  What I find the most offensive is that the cable companies charge you extra to get your local channels in HD.  You should know, that with a simple, cheap antenna, you can receive your local channels in 1080p HD for free!  It’s all on the air.  Unless your TV is really old, like pre 2005 old, it can decode the over the air HD signal.

Okay, so Cable is bad, what should I do?

cable-cuttingEasy.  Drop the TV package, and the home phone from the bundle.  The cable guys will tell you about all the money you are saving on your bundle, but if you do the math, a stand alone internet plan is always cheaper.

The other thing you will need is a decent WiFi router, one that is dual band (look for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz).  If you have the all in one wireless router/cable modem that you got from the cable company it will work, but there are better on the market.  The WiFi router is the cornerstone of your cord cutting.  If you can’t spread the internet around the house well, you will not have a great experience.  Also you will need a decent internet connection.  If you don’t have at least 20Mbps speed into your house, you will not have a good streaming experience or be able to support streaming to multiple devices.

Next is buying something to stream with.  There are lots of options on this front, some are better than others.Amazon Fire Stick

Streaming “Sticks” from Amazon and Roku and many others are available, the Amazon and Roku are probably the most popular and best supported.

These sticks just plug into one of the open HDMI ports on your TV.  It makes them easy to hide, so you don’t have a box out somewhere that can be seen.  Also if your TV is a little bit newer it can power the stick via the USB port, so you won’t have to plug the stick into the wall for power.

These sticks also include a remote for navigating the on screen menus.  This is where you will sign into your services and access the content.

Some other options are some small box sized devices.  They are usually more powerful and have a couple more options than the sticks.  The main little box is Apple TV.  I don’t have much experience with it, so I can’t say too much about it.

xbox-oneYou can also find streaming services on the Xbox One or PlayStation.  These two gaming consoles offer several streaming services and some of their own.  Xbox has the Microsoft Movies & TV service where you can rent movies or watch TV series. The Xbox also offers apps for Hulu, Netflix, ESPN, etc.  There are some limitations.  Case and point, if you want to watch something that is put out by Sony Pictures you are not allowed to watch it on an Xbox, since it competes with Sony’s own Playstation.

playstationThe Playstation also offers a lot of the same services along with Sony’s own Playstation TV app. Both are an easy way to cut the cord and have an option of a total “media center” for your entertainment, since both of these devices also have the ability to play Blu-Ray discs.  You can also by special Media remotes for these consoles so you don’t need to use the included gaming controllers for running the console.  There are also older versions of these two consoles that have a lot of the same feature for less than the cost of a brand new one.

Ok, cool, but what about my laptop

The laptop makes a good streaming device also.  With most new laptops being equipped with HDMI ports you can stream videos from the web to your TV.  It’s easy. The only downside is that you usually have to set the laptop close to the TV and you can’t do anything else with it while you are streaming.

I have a smart TV/Blu-ray Player/DVD Player

smart-tvThen you have a cord cutter built in.  The limitations of these Smart devices is that their apps are limited and not that great.  The apps that are included usually limit the streams to 720p, which is HD but not full 1080p HD.  So if you paid for a nice TV, you are not getting the full effect of the awesome screen you paid for.  This works for now, but you will find yourself wanting access to more of what the internet has to offer.

I don’t have any of that stuff, what can I do

Google Chromecast 2

One of the easiest ways to get started with cord cutting is to get a Google Chromecast.  It can turn your dumb TV into a smart one.  The advantage of the Chromecast is that you use your smartphone or tablet as a remote instead of an actual remote.  So you do not need to have another remote lying around.  You pick what you want from the service you want, tell your Chromecast to grab it from the internet.  At that point you can go back to using your phone/tablet for whatever you want.  The Chromecast does not require it to stay on the source of the stream.

So this is all free, right?

cut-cableWell yes and no.  It can be cheaper since a subscription to Hulu is around $8 a month and Netflix is $15 ish.  Still cheaper than cable.  Some of the other apps you may want to stream like ESPN or Fox Sports require an active cable subscription.  You can get around this by subscribing to SlingTV, it’s cheaper than cable and provides access to different tiers of service.  It can be tailored so you can spend as much or as little as possible.  Good news with Sling is you can also take your TV on the road with you.  It streams well to mobile devices.

If you want a free solution then over the air HD is your only choice.  There are some less than “legal” ways to get access to the programming and shows you want.  I wouldn’t recommend a lot of them, and some are complicated and expose yourself to a lot of issues both technical and legal.

You could always find someone willing to share a subscription with you.  Netflix and Hulu allow for multiple devices to stream at the same time and even have multiple profiles.  I wouldn’t recommend sharing something like Amazon Prime Video, since it is tied to your credit card and someone could make a purchase of a video without your knowledge.

So what are you waiting for

netflix-house-of-cards-tablet-edit-640x0There is really nothing stopping you from cutting the cord today.  The technology is there and it is not all that complicated.  Don’t be a slave to what the cable company thinks you want to watch.  Their fees will keep going up.  In the last two years Netflix has only increased by $2/month and Hulu has stayed the same.  Amazon Prime has increased from $79/year to $99 but that is still not as much as your cable bill has increased.

Bottom Line

Cord cutting is easy, it’s cost effective and makes perfect sense.  You don’t need to stay hooked into one service that you really aren’t happy with.  The choices are now in the hands of the consumer.  Cord cutting is not perfect and you might have to work a little bit to get things the way you really like.  It is still worth it in the long run.

Other tips and tricks:

DigitalTrends.com: Cord Cutting 101

CordCutting.com: News and info on what to do after you cut the cord