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Have You Cut the Cord?

In today's SmartStream blog, Barb Gonzalez talks about her experience cutting the cord to cable TV while retaining broadband Internet access from her cable company and what might be in store for others wanting to do the same thing. And from what I can tell, their numbers are growing fast as more and more people—especially youngsters—turn to the Internet for their television programming because of its inherently on-demand nature and often much lower cost (though download overage charges can certainly mitigate that advantage).

How about you? Have you cut the cord to cable and/or satellite service in favor of online delivery (and perhaps free over-the-air terrestrial broadcasts for local channels)? Or does cable/satellite still provide something you can't get online? What led you to the decision you've made in this regard?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Have You Cut the Cord?

David Vaughn's picture
As a sports fan, I have to keep cable in order to watch my local teams. Until I can get the local games online, then I'm stuck with Comcast.
chebner's picture

Where are the options for getting all my TV from either satellite or cable? Seems a little biased.

I can't understand why anyone who actually cares about sound and picture quality would willingly choose internet delivered TV over satellite or cable; over the are is perfectly understandable. My 12mbs cable internet connection certainly isn't the fastest available, but upgrading is a significant increase in cost. And upgrading still doesn't guarantee zero pixelation, zero pauses for buffering, or decent sound quality. In fact don't most services still only provide (highly compressed) stereo sound on a majority of their programming? What's the point!!??

So how many people are actually streaming the majority or all of their TV? 30M? 40M? 50M? Wait till its 250M, without SIGNIFICANT upgrades to the internet infrastructure in the US sound and picture quality will continue to suffer and the internet could slow to a crawl especially during peak usage. Sure, compression technology will improve in both quality and a reduction of bandwidth requirments, but BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS will need to be poured into infrastructure improvements. Streaming may be a little cheaper right now, but it won't be forever. And that isn't event addressing the skyrocketing cost of content lisencing the streaming services are experiencing. Have fun paying more (in the not so distant future) for less quality and more limited options, unless you want to pay even more of course.

Satellite providers are by no means perfect, but they still provide consistently and significantly better sound and picture quality. I have always been extremely happy with the quality I get from DirecTv and Dish Network before that; and their hardware is very good. I don't have any experience with Cable TV so I can't comment on that.

If you really want to watch what you want when you want, learn how to use a DVR, the good ones are really pretty simple.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Perhaps I should have included a "get none of my TV online" choice, but the point of this particular poll is whether or not you have cut the cord, and if you get at least some of your TV from cable or satellite, you haven't cut the cord. On the other hand, I did include a few different choices to gather info about our readers' TV sources, and I could have added the choice you suggest in that regard. Oh well, can't always think of everything...
figuredmaple's picture

Since we don't get any specialty channels I rely on my Blu ray and DVD collection, especially our seasons of sit coms, when there's nothing we'd like to watch on the Network channels. We certainly don't miss the commercials.

notabadname's picture

Long time before internet delivered programing matches the integration and selection of DirectTV or Cable. Love Hulu Plus, VuDu and Netflix for catching that show I forgot to record, or reliving past series no longer easily available, and even a streamed movie. But Game of Thrones, Dexter, NFL Sunday Ticket, 24 hour news channels, and even those classic networks - hard to beat.

HDMan72's picture

I currently have Directv so I need YES Network, NFL Network and NFL Sunday ticket. Not ready to cut the cord due mostly to sports.

Albert71292's picture

I finally dropped Dish service in November. Most evenings there'd be nothing I wanted to watch on, even with 250 channels. Probably because of things like Discovery no longer showing documentaries, History no longer showing history, MTV/VH1 no longer playing music, Science turning into the "How It's Made" channel, AMC going commercial and no longer showing classic movies, IFC going commercial and no longer showing independent films, Game Show Network no longer airing old classic game shows, TV Land not airing NEAR the classic TV they used to, Discovery Health getting hijacked by Oprah, etc...

Don't have anything like Netflix either, because the quality is TERRIBLE on my DSL connection, near unwatchable.

Surprisingly, I find MORE than enough to watch on the 16 local OTA channels I get for free with the antenna on my roof!

abentrod's picture

I can't ever see cutting the cord. There is just to much good viewing I would miss out on, BBC America, History and Discovery not to mention Science Channels and my fav Velocity. None of these channels can be obtained in HD with anything other than cable or satellite. If like Leo Laporte you care nothing for picture quality you can stream many cables shows from the internet, but really how anyone can stand such poor quality video is beyond my comprehension.
But a society where people think mp3 files sound good perhaps its not surprising after all. Audiophiles and Videophiles I fear our days are numbered.

Kenny Kraly Jr.'s picture

I have not decided to cut the cord yet and here's way. 1st I still have Directv to get my sports packages like MLB and my local channels. Plus I have a PC and Time Warner Cable to get cable internet. Also I have a Sony PS3 an Xbox 360 to get my internet base apps like netflix , hulu , vudu for 1080p streaming for movies in hd and I use the ps3 for blu-ray discs and games as well. If I decided to cut the cord how whould I get my sports? I just could not live without Directv because of the sports blackouts issue MLB and other sports leagues have on the internet based sports app with local games.

Hillcountryliving's picture

Recently moved to a location where there is no over the air HD programming and was forced to get a cable package. Looking into sports packages that would cover my sports viewing and stay within the same price range. Over the air
was great with a very good picture quality but somewhat limited for sports due to pay channels now carrying much of the sports programing.

mtucker's picture

I cut the cord about a year ago. I found I was mostly watching "network TV" through my satellite provider. The satellite/cable companies compress the HD shows a lot more compared to OTA (especially noticeable during high action scenes) so not only did my monthly cost drop way down, but my picture quality went up. I use Netflix streaming for $8/month to supplement. The one thing holding me back was a DVR, but I found a DVR with two ATSC tuners (it isn't as user friendly as my previous DVRs, but works well).

Although HD via Netflix isn't nearly as nice as Bluray or OTA, it still looks decent even on my projector. I find hard wiring media streamers to the internet really helps (using ethernet instead of WiFi). Even with my 3Mbps DSL connection (no cable where I live), I can stream reliably.

Putting a high gain antenna on your roof (as I needed to do) or running CAT5 can take some effort, but it pays off in the long run.

ByronServies's picture

I went all OTA for TV in 2008 because DTV + NFL Sunday ticket became ridiculous. Now, I get all HD TV OTA and buy some series on iTunes when I want and use Netflix for Blu-Ray disks.

I thought I would miss NFL Sunday ticket, but I'm discovering that I get plenty of pro football with just the major networks (which only show local teams, so David's comment confuses me). All in all, I'm saving a ton of money and I have plenty of entertainment options.

Raiderbones's picture

So Leo is incorrect that living in a metropolitan area you can get ALL local stations. I can ONLY get Chanel 4 and 11 living in the SF. Bay Area. I have an out door antenea and of course I get all of the advertisement stations and non-English stations.

Also when I get the 2 local stations they stutter and pixelate. Any suggestions?

I got rid of Dish Network due to increasing cost. However. New customers get the great deals.
You suck Dish.
Comcast is also too expensive .
So we cut the cable to avoid the high cost.
We got a Roku for Christmas. It is great.

What am I to do about the Ariel. I live in a home owner association

kevon27's picture

Here's the problem with "cable cutting". The cable/sat/phone companies are still in control. People who cut a service, mostly TV, still depend on those mentioned companies for internet.
All a cable company has to do if they see a huge enough uptake of people ditching TV and phone services and just use the internet, they'll 'FORCE' people to get a bundle package.
They will stop offering internet only services. They have been preparing for this sorta thing for many years now.
My mother has TV and Phone service from Optimum Online. Since the phone is VOIP. She is paying for internet she does not use.
The only way to really cut the cord is go back to a PRE-INTERNET era style of living. Hard but possible.
These providers are preparing for more people to cut services due to the horrible economy. They are already trying to get the government to allow them to scramble "Free TV". Soon, OTA services will stop. Who owns the OTA stations, it's the cable,sat and phone companies.

MatthewWeflen's picture

I think the scenario you posit could happen, but I'd put the probability at less than 50%. Why? If several companies made this sort of move, I think we would see aggressive government intervention, not to mention massive consumer unrest. It would be a very unstable situation for cable corps to continue in. I think what Comcast is doing, trying to create alternatives to services like Netflix, is more likely - attempt to undercut competitors, as opposed to exercising monopoly powers. In the best of all possible worlds, Cable would strive to make internet tv obsolete by offering true a la carte service. But I also think this is somewhat unlikely.

Either way, I'd rather cut the cable and take my money elsewhere in the meantime, as opposed to just handing over inflated monthly costs for bloated packages of content I don't want.

Barb Gonzalez's picture
While I agree with you that the cable companies are making it harder (and more expensive) to get programming via internet...I believe there will be another paradigm in the future. Internet TV is not a fad.
mastemaybe's picture

the very sentence just makes me wanna puke in my soup. I've gotten so sick of it- mostly because it's predicated upon absurd assumptions for MOST people, let's examine them:

1. SPORTS. Especially locally. For me it means: no Brewer baseball (the games are of course blacked out locally on MLB due to exclusive tv contracts). No Bucks basketball (see aforementioned reason for baseball). Little to no Marquette or Wisconsin athletics. Nationally televised events and teams: sure you can get a lot of them online through one service or another...but usually at a COST higher than many will admit.

2. Exclusive cable programming. There's a TON of it, still. People who think otherwise are either delusional, misinformed, or dishonest. Pick out 30 random shows and show me how many are readily available online. Yeah, that's what I thought.

3. Cable/SAT SHOULD be a good value. Those pointing out the $170 bills are of course talking about the outliers. "Basic" packages will give you all of your local sports and a hundred plus channels and you can get it in (2) rooms for under $70 a month. If you're paying more, you're doing something wrong. Heck, there are MANY that will give you the entry package around $30 a month for a year and then double it ($60) for the next...cheaper still.

4. Bandwidth/quality. Give me a break. As has already been mentioned, what % of the population enjoys more than a 1-3mbps i-net service? Quality is hit or miss on my 6mbps and I would NEVER depend on it for anything that mattered. Not nearly the time from a tech perspective for a good number.

5. "cutting the cord" is anything but a free lunch. If you actually tally up ALL the costs on the "CTC" side AND examine what you WON'T get, it quickly becomes clear that it's hardly the wallet-bulking option many make it out to be.

I don't deny that CTC'ing is an option for SOME, but I laugh at those who claim it to be such a nearly universal viable option for some when you realize the VAST majority of the country watches 30+ hours of TV a week.

And oh by the way, while I'm at it, my cheapskate brother can stop coming over anytime to watch baseball games he can't enjoy anymore since "cutting the cord". great move, how's that $4.25 gas integrating into your viewing budget? lmao.

good grief.

mtucker's picture

Raiderbones: "..........What am I to do about the Ariel. I live in a home owner association"
No problems there. The FCC says that HOAs can not keep you from putting an antenna up to get broadcast TV. Part of the law even covers renters. Sure, you HOA may not allow antennas but the Federal law says they can't enforce that. Brush up on your antenna rights ( ) and check an OTA reception website like TVFool ( ). You can figure out which stations are important to you, what band they are on (VHF, UHF), which direction they are from you and buy the appropriate antenna(s). Antennas are cheap compared to a month or two of cable/satellite service.

thx2468's picture

Next month I'll do it! Single and I spend less than 1 hour a day in front of the tv and when I do it's the local news. I pay $22.00 a month for basic cable and I'd rather to put them on my dsl to speed it up. My neighbor just got an antenna he doesn't miss cable at all and gets a beautiful reception.

MatthewWeflen's picture

Cutting the cord is about adjusting your habits and expectations. If you think you're going to get all the same options as before the cut, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

The biggest thing I miss is 162 games of White Sox baseball. But around 60 are still on broadcast TV, so I've adjusted my expectations to include listening to some on the radio, and just watching fewer 3-hour games in general.

We have a Wineguard indoor OTA antenna that pulls in about 30 channels from Chicago and even a few from Gary. That covers our network needs, PBS, as well as classic TV (with the MeTV suite of channels). Again, is it everything? No. Is it DVR? No. But it's enough HD viewing if we really want to make time to watch.

Netflix (multiple devices) and free Hulu (PC connected via VGA) round out our options. Hulu is our "DVR" to time delay network shows, while Netfix is "Cable" to give us access to various pay channel shows. Does Netflix provide all the options that cable does? Of course not. But it's about 1/10 of the cost.

So basically, we've reduced our TV watching time by let's say 20% overall. Look - I love TV. But I've also enjoyed not having "so much to watch, so little time." We've reduced our "television bill" by 90% (saving probably $800 annually). It's been 2 years, and I don't think we'll be going back any time soon. We've got plenty to watch, and the majority of it is in HD.

Tonypla's picture

If the FCC ever allows the cable companies to scramble basic cable and force me to use a set top box or card I will go OTA. I am close enough to NYC to get all the major broadcast networks in HDTV off the air (I bought a cheap HDTV antenna from Radio Shake and checked). For the hand full of cable only programs (that come analog on basic cable) that I watch, I will simply buy the DVD's or blurays of each season and watch them in HDTV whenever I want. I worked it out once that this would be cheaper than what I pay for basic cable. I am just to lazy to get the antenna installed, but forcing me to use a set top box for basic cable would cause me to do so. I do not use cable for my internet (DSL is good enough for me). When AMC went from basic to premium because of the Mad Men success I simply bought the DVD for each season and watch the whole season in a week or so, love watching episodes back to back.

Tonypla's picture

I just posted in the thread on scrambled basic cable that Cablevision has told us that by May 15th we must get cableboxes so the antenna is up and works just fine. I will soon be going OTA.

tmsorosk's picture

I get constant music threw by cable box without news or interruptions. Many channels to choose from and great quality.