4 Things to Consider before Cutting the Cord on Your Cable Subscription
Cable and satellite subscriptions in the US are plummeting, and video streaming is driving the change. Cord-cutters are people who have ended their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming sites, local channels, and other types of entertainment. By cutting the cord and building a custom package of individual services, you could save a lot of money, but there are some major considerations to make before you take the leap yourself.
Here’s a closer look at why cord-cutting might (or might not) be right for you, and four things to think about prior to taking the plunge.
Cord-cutting in 2018
There’s never been a better time to be a cord-cutter. Streaming services are rapidly taking over mainstream entertainment; in 2017, Netflix spent around $6.3 billion on content acquisition and production, putting it on par with most major TV networks. Other services like Amazon and Hulu are close behind, pouring money into high-quality original programming and expansive media libraries. A recent 8 percentage-point drop in cable subscriptions shows that many people are eager for alternatives to cable.
But traditional pay-TV isn’t without merit — NBC’s $10 billion budget indicates that the company is still well ahead of major streaming services. Traditional TV also holds a strong lead over cord-cutting with popular programming like sports, news, and local content, which can be hard to access without a cable subscription.
So before you learn how to cut the cord, consider these questions to determine whether the available streaming programming and delivery options will match to your entertainment preferences.
Do I care about local channels?
If you’re cutting the cord, you don’t need to forgo your access to local channels. Indoor HDTV antennas take advantage of over-the-air digital signals to bring local channels to most (but not all) households in the US. Popular networks like NBC, CBS, Fox, and the CW are all available over the air for free, giving cord-cutters access to essentials like sports games and local news.
Before ending your subscription, make sure your home has access to digital TV (DTV) signals. The FCC provides a helpful reception map to show access at different locations throughout the US. If you’re on the line, invest in a good antenna to make sure you’ll have the most consistent reception possible.
Are my devices future-proof for ATSC 3.0?
If you care about local programming and you’ve determined your access to local DTV signals, make sure you invest in an HDTV antenna that has future-proofing for the ATSC 3.0 standard for 4K definition. This new standard would allow networks to voluntarily stream in 4K over the air, and it’s slated to arrive as early as this year.
If you’re just getting on the cord-cutting train, you’ll want to make sure your HDTV antenna is future-proofed for the new standard. Only newer antennas specifically designed to accept the ATSC 3.0 standard will be able to access the high-quality content. ATSC 3.0 also brings big changes to device access; all web-connected devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers will be able to stream broadcast television under the new standard.
What options are out there for building my own streaming package?
Want multiple programs on different networks? Then you’ll want to be very deliberate when choosing the streaming services you’ll use to replace your cable subscription. Paying for monthly access to all of the available streaming content outside of a traditional cable package can cost just as much, if not more. It doesn’t have to, though; if you can find enough entertainment value across a few streaming services, you stand to save hundreds a year.
Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu offer some of the largest libraries of television programs, movies, and original content. Each of these services is competing to offer more content than the others, which means these libraries expand each year. HBO, CBS, and other channels that traditionally host content on cable television are also offering their own streaming subscriptions so you can keep your access to shows like Game of Thrones.
Should I Upgrade to a Smart TV?
A smart TV isn’t a mandatory upgrade for cord-cutters, but it certainly helps replace a cable package’s convenient menus and navigation. Smart TVs have apps, much like a smartphone, that allows users to switch between streaming services, local channels, and web content. Many newer HDTVs are smart, so you might already have one in your living room.
If your entertainment system is stuck in the past, external devices like Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV stick, and the Roku 2 can transform your existing TV into a streaming-ready smart TV. Some tech-savvy cord-cutters also rig up dedicated computers as the “brains” of their smart TVs, allowing for even more streamed web content.
If you’ve got access to a DTV signal and are satisfied by the content options on streaming services, it’s hard to find a reason to keep paying your cable bill. Cord-cutting is a great way to customize your entertainment options while saving a small fortune on monthly subscription costs.