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The Time is Now to Cut-the-Cord and Choose Streaming

Want to cut the cord with cable TV and go streaming only? Let me tell you about my cutting-the-cord adventure and suggest what you might do if you are considering a move to streaming television, and though the time is now, there are some caveats to be aware of before you get the metaphorical scissors out and start snipping.

MY CORD-CUTTING ADVENTURE
When getting ready to sell our house in October of 2017 — we moved from Minnesota to southern California in mid-2018 — I had the following home theater gear:

  • TiVo box as a tuner and DVR
  • Sony BluRay player
  • Pioneer A/V receiver
  • AppleTV
  • Roku TV
  • Bookshelf speakers.

In order to make our house look bigger and get rid of clutter, I boxed up everything but the AppleTV, bought a cheap Vizio sound bar (to replace the receiver and bookshelf speakers) and called Comcast to cut cable (which, by the way, we were paying over $100 per month for!) since we had an early version of DirecTV NOW and could stream local channels too. Comcast tried VERY hard to keep me, but I informed them that we’d sold the house and were moving to an area without Comcast…then it was no problem and they backed-off and let us do it.

I’d considered cutting-the-cord with cable TV starting in 2015, but the time was never quite right. But I continued to hunt around for the best deal and service, so when AT&T announced they were enabling AT&T Unlimited Plus mobile subscribers like us to get DirecTV NOW for $10/month and $5/month for HBO, we immediately signed up. Over time I’ve participated in beta releases as they tested out new features and have never looked back. The kicker though? AT&T just announced two new pricing and packages and are increasing the “grandfathered” subscriber’s price (like mine) to $20/month. Fortunately it still includes our favorite, HBO.

So today we only use our AppleTV….that’s it. The home theater gear mentioned above is still in boxes, nearly 10 months after we moved to California (and I’ll probably sell it). The AppleTV remote controls both the power/volume for the TV and the AppleTV itself, which makes my wife quite happy as we used to have five remotes to control everything in our old home theater.

Our minimalism approach to TV pleases us both and we’ll never go back.

After we cut the cord, we wanted to receive the programming we desired or found interesting, so today we also subscribe to Netflix; Hulu; AcornTV and CBS All Access. Our total out-of-pocket cost for our replacing of Comcast Cable (and we also receive more channels now than we did with Comcast) is:

  • DirecTV NOW: $20 (we got the early adopter deal and it is now $50 per month for new subscribers)
  • Netflix: $15
  • Hulu: $12
  • AcornTV: $5
  • CBS: $10
  • TOTAL: $62

Back in Minnesota we were paying about $120 for Comcast cable TV and $70 for internet (with 75mbps/down and 18mbps/up speeds — “mbps” stands for megabits per second) or $190 per month. (NOTE: We would, however, gain better pricing on our cable TV cost by going to the Comcast store every six months. They’d explore packages and get us a better deal on TV…so we were often paying $25-$40 less for TV than that $120 per month).

Here in California we are paying $62 per month for all our TV coming through DirecTV NOW, and those TV apps mentioned above, streamed to our AppleTV. We pay $90 for fiber internet with speeds of 300mbps/down and 30mbps/up for $152 per month (NOTE: my internet was only $54 per month, but I had to add an additional 500GBs per month since we were using close to the 1 terabyte ceiling of data per month!). I foresee being able to lower costs for those other TV apps as services become more robust and bundle them, so hopefully we won’t have to subscribe to a bunch of other TV-app-services forever.

YOU WILL USE GOBS OF DATA WHEN STREAMING

Here’s my big caveat: BE CAREFUL when deciding to cut-the-cord, move to a streaming-only experience, and figure out what you’re going to spend each month. You will likely be surprised when you add everything up, especially if you have to pay more to lift your data cap up and have more data to use.

As you consider what you’re going to be spending each month, be aware that the cable companies are getting pretty dang clever about making up for lost cable TV revenues by capping internet speeds and making you pay more for your internet connection if you go over that cap. Our cap is a whopping 1 terabits (1,024 gigabits) so I thought we’d never go over that amount!

When streaming you will use A LOT of internet data on top of your other internet activity. I can almost guarantee that you will go over that data cap if you, like me, begin streaming UltraHD 4K shows to your new 4K TV since UHD 4k uses more than twice the data of HD 1080p. UHD 4K data streaming uses roughly 7 gigabits of data per hour vs. the same streaming show at HD (1080P) which uses 3 gigabits per hour.

Here is a rough guesstimate of how easy it would be to go over a data cap: Let’s say you watch 4 hours per day of UHD 4K streaming TV. That is 7 gigabits times 4 hours per day for a 30 day billing cycle = 840 gigabits! If you do anything else using your internet connection, it will be trivial to use another 160 gigabits of bandwidth/data use and be over your ISP’s data limit.

Our family sure goes through gobs of data, especially after we purchased a new Sony UHD 4K TV in January and began watching our streaming shows in UHD 4K. Since our house is new — and we had a 1 terabit “cap” on data use — I naively thought we’d be more than covered with that much possible data amount to download! Though we don’t watch that much TV each evening, I’ve been stunned how much data we use and mid-February I noticed that we were on a run-rate to go ABOVE that 1 terabit download data cap. So a couple of weeks ago I moved our household to a 1.5 terabit (1,500 gigabits) tier of service with Cox Cable due to the amount of data we were downloading for streaming and other uses.

So get ready to start paying your internet service provider (ISP) more money going forward for internet, especially if your ISP is a cable company, as they try to make up lost revenue as more of us shift to streaming and cut the cord to cable TV.

THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT YOU MIGHT DO NEXT

1) My first advice would be to hold off on choosing any service until Apple’s event on March 24th. Why? The rumor is that their streaming service will debut and that Apple is scrambling right now to do deals with HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of their streaming service. Whatever Apple announces *might* disrupt pricing models of all the other services….or not….but the announcement event is so close, I’d hold out to see what’s next with Apple and how their, and other TV services, might compete with one another.

2) When looking at services, focus on the channels you care about and whether or not one of your must-haves are local TV channels. You may-or-may-not need local channels since, in many markets in the U.S., you can easily get an over-the-air (OTA) antenna for your attic and get local TV channels for free. But then what if you want to record something off the air?

For that OTA recording you’d have to get something like the TiVo OTA box ($257) and a $7 per month TiVo Guide subscription if you want to choose channels and DVR-record shows OTA. That’s why I just use the DVR service on the DirecTV NOW service for those few shows we can’t get stream using our Hulu commercial-free subscription, and want to record off the air and skip through commercials. It’s SO easy and simple to record with DirecTV NOW and you get 20GBs for free (and can buy a 100GB tier but pricing hasn’t yet been announced).

3) Try to project your data use and whether or not you’ll have to pay more to your ISP and factor that in to your calculations. Oftentimes it’s about the same cost to stay with the cable TV package from your provider (especially if you get your internet from them too).

4) Examine the top services and determine which one best meets your needs. To learn what the top TV-streaming services are offering right now, take a look at THE most up-to-date analysis of packages at Cord Cutters News (a site I follow daily) that I could find:

Good luck and get your scissors ready to cut the cord!

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

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