Cable Options: Is Cord Cutting Right for You?


Cable once had it good.

It held a monopoly on premium movie, music and sports networks. That allowed companies to charge whatever they chose. Don’t like that back-to-reality pricing after your trial period ends? Go back to three channels of network TV.

Today, online options tie cable in knots. Consumers can connect anywhere for the TV series and movies they used to get with cable. Web-based and fiber-optic providers produce exclusive series and movies. The allure of more and more channels has lost its luster. This has caused a shift in cable’s mere survival.

Research firm Digitalsmiths polled 3,000 people on which channels they’d want. Three of the top four networks were broadcast TV. Here’s the top 10, from Digitalsmiths:

Network Percentage
1. ABC 62%
2. Discovery Channel 58.9%
3. CBS 56.8%
4. NBC 55.9%
5. History 55.6%
6. A&E 53.4%
7. Fox 49.5%
8. HBO 48.6%
9. National Geographic 46%
10. PBS 45.1%

News networks and Internet cable providers have noticed. Many provide alternatives to include such valued programming. ABC, the Discovery Channel and CBS – the survey’s highest-ranking networks – all have web presences that allow viewers to see programming for free.

Is it possible to get all benefits of cable programming – without cable?

What is cord cutting?

Consumers who cancel cable subscriptions to rely on Internet for live streaming TV? They’re cord cutters. Also, customers who’ve turned to fiber-optic communications providers for TV – usually bundled with Internet and home phone – fall into this category.

These customers bypass common cable setbacks, such as rising cost and iffy customer service. With services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, it’s possible to customize your TV experience by adding networks you choose at little or no cost per month.

Video-streaming subscription services and other free platforms played a role.

Why cut the cord?

NO UNWANTED CHANNELS | Cable TV providers package channels by the dozen. Internet TV subscribers aren’t bound to a bundle of channels they’ll never watch.

MINIMAL ADVERTISING | Commercials interrupt broadcasts less with online content.

REDUCED COST | Cable rates are climbing at a rate four times that of inflation, and marketing research company NPD forecasts that cable costs could surpass $200 per month by 2020. Costs come from media companies such as Disney and Fox.

Why keep cable?

SPORTS | “We go off and on with cable,” said Jennifer, a blogger from Marysville, Wash. “Because of football.” Sports programming drives up the cost of cable, but has fewer options outside of it.

OTHER UNAVAILABLE CHANNELS | The Internet brims with ideas of how to receive cable channels you’re not supposed to get. Some consumers want all the channels.

BANDWIDTH | Over the top broadcasts, programming received through the Internet, is subject to signal strength. suggests at least 5Mbps to cut the cord.

Cord cutter options

Cord cutters have two main options:

OVER THE AIR FREE BROADCASTS | All you need is an antenna. American broadcast TV stations are digital. Cord cutters should find antennas that receive both VHF (2-13) and UHF (14-51) channels.

OVER THE TOP BROADCASTS | Programming delivered via Internet. No antenna required, but you’ll need an Internet connection.

Diana, a dietician from Mesa, Ariz., said her family watches everything through Netflix. “My husband connects the computer for football games,” she said. “We were done with the ever-rising prices.”

ESPN, the king of cable sports programming, ranked out of the top 40 in the Digitalsmiths survey. The International Business Times reports the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports has lost 7 million subscribers since 2013.

ESPN doesn’t offer free programming online. The network faces shrinking numbers with fees for the right to broadcast games from college and pro leagues on the rise.

Time to cut?

Even premium movie networks have shifted with the times. Hulu, Netflix and Roku broadcast programming ranging from TV shows to movies. Networks such as HBO and Showtime have also begun to offer content online.

“I love everything about it, except that I wish TV shows would be available a bit sooner,” said Roxanne, an editor in Reno, Nev. “I do have to be aware of spoiler alerts from those who watch shows as they originally air. So far only one major death in a show I was two seasons behind on was spoiled.”

For now, consumers can piece together services to provide the programming they want. Providers that offer Internet and TV are growing savvy to providing customizable, cost-effective options. Your choice to cut or not to cut depends on how you watch TV – and what you’re willing to spend.


About Author


Eli studied English and Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte. A former sportswriter, he writes a blog about coaching his daughters in soccer and once was mistaken for racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He writes on the Internet and other technology. He’s a native of Greeley, Colo., an avid NPR listener and average disc golfer.

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