Don’t just cut everything off
If you have already made this mistake I am sorry you did so. But the worst thing someone can do if they have always had a pay-TV service is just say “OK I’m canceling everything” without any prior research or plan for moving forward. Why. Because if you watch TV a lot you will automatically realize what you miss or take for granted about your TV service and scramble to replace it. I see people on Facebook groups, Reddit Forums, and other avenues desperate to find some show, local news a game or something else trying to learn about 10 things at once and getting advice from too many people at once. Do your research.
What does that mean?
Make sure that your next option addresses what you want out of TV. People who cut cable based purely on price often make a fatal flaw. They make an emotional decision about a financial situation. They get mad at a bill and say “OK THAT”S IT” But then two days later they want to see something mundane like American Idol and can’t. Why because they dropped a TV service before they knew how they would replace it. Sure the allure of knocking off some of those very bloated bills is tempting. It is part of why I canceled cable over 10 years ago. But before you do there are some questions you need to answer.
- What do I like about my TV service?
You probably like some things about whatever service you pay for. I mean you have been using it for years right? Do you like its simplicity? Do you like DVR? Do you like flipping through channels? Do you like the familiarity, do you like how the menus work? The answers to those questions should inform you as to what to do next.
- What shows do I watch regularly?
Some people with cable may not realize that very little they enjoy is dependant on having cable TV. Content from all the major networks is available either for free or with a minimal cost through apps. There is now a free CBS app that has all its biggest prime time shows available on-demand, Hulu with shows from Fox, NBC, ABC and tons more for $5.99, Peacock which has NBC shows available the day after they air with commercials or a paid version without them for $9.99. There is even a CW app with every single show available the next day after it airs.
- Do I love the shows I watch regularly or watch them out of habit?
Ahh. Time to sit down on comfy furniture and turn on the TV. What’s on? Does it make you happy or just let you turn off your brain till you fall asleep? If TV is something in the background while you talk, eat dinner, read, get on social media etc, then replacing it is insanely easy. Any free app will do that. But if you love a certain kind of programming it will take more looking into it. Luckily there are so many services that if you are want to find them you can usually get the shows you like the most without spending lots of money. So before you cut off your current access to them just look into online options to receive them. Does your favorite network have a free or paid service? Is it worth it to jump in with a paid cable replacement service with fewer channels but receive the ones you want the most?
- What news do I want to watch?
This is a very important question for some folks. For some local news is the key. And before you cut off cable you should see whether you can receive your local news via an antenna. Try one out. Many local news broadcasts have their own apps with live news streaming along with the TV broadcast. There are also services like NewsOn, VUit, Stirr and others that pull in broadcasts from multiple channels usually under the banner of whatever its parent company is. If cable news is your favorite you should find where you will get it ahead of time. Channels like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are available with many cable replacement services. So if those channels are a priority you should look into Sling TV, Hulu With Live TV, fubo TV, and YouTube TV. You can not get a free feed of your favorite cable news live any other way.
- What programming do I feel that I can not live without?
Is there something that is implicitly on a pay-TV channel? Do you live for your favorite Hockey team or baseball team etc? RSN’s or regional sports networks are actually pretty hard to come by via many cable replacements. Heck some of them are owned by cable companies. That can be a very unpleasant surprise to those who jump into the deep end without afloat. It’s not always sports that end up being deal-breakers. It’s likely you can find ways to get a certain channel, but you have to be honest with yourself about whether it is worth it to pay for other channels you do not want in order to get it.
- Am I willing to learn how to use new technology?
Pay-TV is an ecosystem and one people have used for decades. There is a box hooked to your tv and a big remote control with a hundred buttons of which you probably use 5. You turn it on, it works, you watch. The end. But jumping into cord-cutting means you might cut off those kinds of arrangements. While some cable companies like Comcast and Charter Spectrum offer almost the same experience via apps on certain devices, it will mean learning how to use, set up and maintain a new way of watching TV. The old way is just “TV”. Cord-cutting is apps. Click on this for that. Connect a box to the internet, go to the app store, find the one that has the shows you want, open it, sign in etc. If you hate learning new things get ready to be a little thrown. Millions of people have made these transitions though. Don’t let it intimidate you.
- Am I willing to invest now to save later?
Unless you are just willing to turn your TV off or just watch movies on a DVD player or such then you need do nothing. You may even already have a game console or smart TV with the apps needed to set up a full cable experience replacement. But if you do not it means that moving forward will involve decisions. Do you want to start streaming? Does your TV already have the apps you want? Is a mounted outdoor antenna worth it? Should you save money on cheap streaming devices or spend twice as much for something better. I find that if you think it through and get the better equipment to start things out you will usually be happier. But for some people, even an extra 5 bucks here and there can really add up.
- Is it important to me to watch TV as it is airing or can I watch later?
A lot of questions about TV come down to whether it is important to see it right now. So much TV programming is available on-demand whether one has a pay service or access to free apps. And for the most part, people seem to be getting used to checking things out after they come on whether they actively use a DVR and skip commercials or if they pull up programming on-demand. If live TV is not needed you have a lot more inexpensive choices. If live TV like Sports or News shows are your key interests you will be spending more money to do so.
- How much do I want to pay for TV and is that realistic considering my needs
Here is something I see from new cord-cutters. “I just cut cable. How can I get all my channels for free” You can’t. There is not a legal service that will give you all of the channels that are on a cable package for free. But there are a number that will give you lots of channels for a whole lot less then pay-tv companies once you are not on promotional pricing. TV packages/skinny bundles/cable replacements start around $35.00. Will the cheapest package do what you want? I don’t know. The costs go up as you look at different services and some of them have the old-fashioned tiered system just like cable. But nothing will approach the huge prices some people pay for cable/pay-tv. I don’t know what you pay for your TV service but I know it can vary from $120.00-$250.00. It all depends on where you live and what is out there. If you want a full TV package all in one place there are apps for that. It’s just about deciding whether the cost savings is worth the learning.
- Will everyone in the home be happy enough once we make the move?
I don’t know how things work in your home. Maybe you pay the bills so you make all the decisions. If you do then this is an easy question to answer. But if your happiness is dependant on how others around you feel about things just make sure that you are all on the same page. When I told my wife I wanted to stop paying for big bundles she jumped for joy because she didn’t think it was worth it. But some people might say “you expect me to give up _______” As we have stated already, there is nearly nothing on cable TV that does not have a legal and in most cases super affordable avenue to access. And I mean identical channels, not just “you can watch this network instead of that one”. But it pays to just make sure everyone will understand what will be happening later and how it will work is all.
- Do antennas work where I live
Some people honestly watch almost all of their TV via broadcast networks or at least they do during certain times of the year. For instance, NFL Football essentially lives on FOX, CBS and NBC. Local news comes on local channels within those basic networks too. If this is you a good antenna is worth its weight in gold. And now you may also pick up dozens of other channels with their own niches from throwback TV, to comedy, true crime, and more.
- Is there a solution to get local TV channels?
Depending on where you live there could be many. At the moment there are certainly areas where users can not use an antenna. Maybe it’s a neighborhood rule, the design of your home, geography etc. But antennas simply are not a one-stop solution for some. But there are other ways to get local channels. An app called Locast is slowly spreading as an option across the country that will cost users $5.00 per month and supply their local networks. Services like Hulu with live TV, fubo TV, and YouTube TV also work with local broadcasters to deliver the channels. But it is not uniform. There are tools on respective sites to find out what you can and can’t get. Remember though, Hulu with live TV, fubo TV, and YouTube TV are cable replacement services with full 65-80 channel bundles and will be priced starting at $65.00. That still might be a heck of a bargain for you. But if you are trying to decapitate your bills it may not seem attractive.
Always look for competing services
Ok, you are tired of the cable company. But is AT&T offering TV service in your area with a new customer discount? Is someone else? Are you a U-Verse customer who could sign up with a cable provider instead? For people who prefer traditional experiences, this is a solution they should definitely look into. Look, not everyone is made for cord-cutting. That’s ok. But we all like to save money if it is not going to cause more problems than it fixes. And even though I am a cord-cutting advocate sometimes I just tell people to play competitors off each other. A few years later, when a service is ending its promotional pricing there will probably be another looking to get you on as a new customer. Even if it is the company you used to pay.