On September 2, 2015, Hulu announced that it would offer an ad-free level of its popular streaming service. This prompted a lot of my Facebook friends to start talking about cutting their cable service.
According to the company’s press release:
Viewers now have the choice to watch Hulu commercial free for $11.99 per month or with limited commercials for $7.99 per month. Current Hulu subscribers will maintain their existing subscription, but will have the choice to switch to the commercial-free option at any time for an additional $4 per month. For viewers who choose to watch content with limited commercials, Hulu will continue to show fewer commercials than scheduled television.
With so many options out there for getting your favorite shows on demand, is there any reason to keep paying for cable or satellite TV?
For years I’ve watched my clients struggle with cable bills that come to well over $200 each month, draining their wallets for the privilege to do the same things we used to get for free – watch television.
Sure, there are more options now than there were when I was a kid. In spite of that, most people struggle to find something interesting to watch. Many compelling programs continue to come from the major networks, with the rest shown on channels we’re forced to pay for.
I’ve been a proponent of cutting the cord and ditching cable television for a long time, but it was only when we moved that I took the plunge.
It’s been over two years, and I’m pleased to report that I am now saving $80 per month. Here’s how I did it.
Get A Device To Stream Programs
In order to cut the cord and be able to keep getting the content you want, you’re going to need to have a set top device that connects to the Internet. That device will wirelessly access your Internet connection and plug into your television, essentially functioning as a tiny little computer for your TV.
You’ve got lots of options when it comes to devices, and I’ve found that most of them are interchangeable. I opted for the Roku 2 Streaming Media Player, which allows me to add channels to access Amazon Videos, Hulu, Netflix, and a bunch of others. It hooked up to my television easily, and setup amounts to entering in your wifi password.
These days there are a number of options that are less expensive and just as good. They include:
- Apple TV ($62.10)
- Roku Streaming Stick ($39.99)
- Amazon Fire TV Stick ($34.00)
- Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player ($29.99)
What’s the difference? For the most part, not much – they all give you access to the channels I mentioned. Apple TV allows you to buy TV shows and movies from the iTunes Store, so if you’re deeply involved in that platform then you may want to stick with that device over the others.
Subscribe To Streaming Channels
There are a number of paid streaming options, each of providing slightly different programming options. You’ll need to go through each one carefully to make sure you’re getting the right subscription, but the good news is that none of them require a long-term commitment. Subscribe to one, use it for a month, then drop it if it doesn’t meet your needs.
Some of the more popular streaming channels are:
Netflix (free trial, then $7.99 per month): Netflix gives you access to a lot of movies and television shows, including original programming such as House of Cards, Narcos, and Frankie and Grace. You can also watch Netflix-only episodes of Arrested Development and Wet Hot American Summer if that’s up your alley. Netflix has a great selection of shows for kids, including PBS Kids.
Sling TV (free trial, then plans begin at $20 per month): For years, the thing that kept people hitched to their cable subscriptions was the ability to watch sports. Sling TV blew this one out of the water when it introduced this service, which includes pretty much every variation of ESPN, as well as TBS and TNT.
You also get HGTV, The Food Network, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Disney Junior, and new channels such as CNN and Bloomberg. There’s also AMC and A&E. In other words, pretty much everything you’re going to watch on basic cable.
The only downsides are that you have to watch live (no DVR or on demand options yet), and there are commercial breaks.
Hulu ($7.99 per month with commercials, $11.99 without): Every show on ABC, Fox, NBC, WB, The CW, Lifetime, Comedy Central, FX and Bravo are on Hulu. There are also movies and some old shows to keep you busy when the networks end their seasons). There’s a free level with more limited options, but the price is so low there’s no reason to stick with the free plan.
Amazon Prime ($8.25 per month, which comes to $99 per year): Amazon Prime Videos includes some good stuff, and lots of old movies. Amazon is breaking into original programming to compete with Netflix, so it’s not an awful choice. If you order from Amazon and enjoy the free shipping with Prime then you should sign up. If not, it won’t make much of a difference in your life.
Keep Your Internet Access
You need to have solid Internet access if you’re going to pump video content to your television. Don’t cancel it, and make sure you have decent service.
If you’ve had your service for awhile, call your provider and be sure you’ve got their most recent router.
For those who want to save even more money, consider buying your own router (make sure you talk with your provider to ensure your chosen model is compatible before you buy).
What About Your Home Phone?
Lots of people don’t have a landline phone anymore, which makes the whole, “I need cable service because I’ve got the Triple Play,” argument pointless. If you can’t remember the last time you used your landline then this applies to you as well.
Many of my clients don’t want to lose their local phone number because they’ve had it for years. If you fall into this camp, call your cell phone provider and port the number to a cheap phone you can pick up on eBay for $20 (turns out your old flip phone from 2002 still has some value).
Count The Savings
When I had cable television, I was spending $190 every month for the service, the set top DVR, and the privilege of watching my money go to Time Warner Cable. Now I spend $94.22 – a savings of about $95 a month, or $1,140 a year.
Here’s what I spend each month now that I cut the cord:
- Netflix ($7.99)
- Hulu ($7.99)
- Sling TV ($20.00)
- Amazon Prime ($8.25)
- Internet access ($49.99)
We haven’t used a landline phone for years, so that part wasn’t an issue for us. If you need to port your number to an old flip phone, you can reduce your savings by about $15 each month for an additional line on your account.
All of the streaming services are available on your iPad, Android phone, and iOS device. That means you can watch your favorite shows and movies when you’re traveling, during downtime during your day, and in some cases in the subway (Amazon allows offline access for their television shows and movies).
More convenience at a lower cost. What’s not to love about cutting the cord?