Cutting the Cord

One of the best kept secrets in America is Over-the-Air (OTA) TV broadcasts. With the right equipment and a little bit of knowledge, a person can receive high quality feeds directly from local TV broadcasting. The television signal comes into the home without a need for a physical connection to the outside world. These feeds are digitally broadcasted, and most channels are in true native high definition.

Over-the-Air is not a new concept. In fact, long before cable companies existed, people used antennas to receive over-the-air analog television in their home. Television was born without a cord to cut. It wasn’t until 1948, the first cable services delivered distant over-the-air television to homes in Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. According to NCTA, “by 1990, 57% of the households subscribed to cable television services, with up to 79 networks.”

Nielsen estimates the average U.S. TV home now receives 189 TV channels. However, U.S. TV home viewers only tunes into an average of 17 channels. Nielsen estimates that Americans have on average, about 172 channels they do not watch. These numbers confirm what many cable subscribers already feel.

Cable companies face a challenging era, as cable TV prices ascend, and other consumer options become available. While cutting the cord is too complex for every TV user, it might be worth learning more about. Millennials (18-35) have never been huge cable TV users, and are possibly the natural driver for cutting the cord. We often read about people cutting the cord, but it’s important to note that a physical cord into the home is not typically cut. Almost every TV user is interested in saving money, and some people need to know where to start.

The price for admission to cable continues to increase. According to Business Insider, “In 1995, cable cost $22.35 per month. In 2015, it was $69.03”. On average, cable prices have climbed 5.8% per year compared to inflation climbing at 2.2% per year.

Home TV users have traditionally used a cable box provided by the cable company. Therefore, some education about technology is necessary before people will feel comfortable enough to walk away from cable TV. OTA (Over-the-Air) boxes have become more popular. TiVo and Tablo are industry leaders in creating OTA DVR experiences, and have opened more doors than ever before to cutting the cord.

Younger generations are not into cable TV as much as their parents. Millennials grew up with technology, and were less dependent on what cable TV dictated. Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services were driven by the behaviors of millennials. Due to streaming availability, live TV is not as dominant as it once was. Without sports, live TV would lose a large chunk of its audience.

Cutting the cord

Cutting an actual physical cord into the home is very difficult to accomplish. Using OTA tuners will bring local TV into the home. However, most consumers still need an ISP (internet Service Provider). While it’s possible to utilize a mobile carriers unlimited data plan, it’s not yet ideal. Mobile carrier unlimited data typically comes with its own challenges, such as getting throttled at lower data speeds once a specified threshold is attained.

Cutting the cord is not free, and will take an upfront investment.

  • A high quality amplified outdoor antenna is recommended for weaker signaled areas.
  • TiVo boxes can be purchased with monthly or lifetime subscriptions.
  • High speed Internet is still needed to watch streaming subscription services.
  • Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Google Chromecast are needed to run the applications.

How I “somewhat” cut the cord

The upfront costs can be a bit pricey. However, I bought the TiVo Roamio DVR and TiVo Mini’s a couple of years ago (before cancelling cable TV), and that decision paid for itself. Cable TV boxes for my house were costing around $60 per month ($720 per year). Only 2 of our household TV’s were “smart” at the time. To accommodate, we bought Roku 3 devices and Amazon Fire TV Sticks. Preferences between Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick vary in my household. I bought the Antop outdoor antenna and installed it in my attic, and receive crystal clear reception from my local TV stations (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC)

The TiVo Roamio DVR allows me to simultaneously record up to 4 shows at once, and the platform is by far the best I’ve ever seen. The TiVo platform is very user friendly, and easy to create and manage OnePass recordings. The system is seamless to browse for TV shows, movies, and even actors. TiVo is also capable of running apps, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video.

Device QTY Price Total
TiVo Roamio DVR with a lifetime subscription 1 $399.99 $399.99
TiVo Mini 2 $149.99 $299.98
Antop outdoor antenna 1 $99.99 $99.99
Roku 3 3 $79.99 $239.97
Amazon Fire TV Stick 3 $39.99 $119.97
Total     $1,159.90

Cutting the cord has been a slow transformation for me. Over the past few years, I have learned what works for me, and learned how to accommodate my family’s TV viewing habits. I learned that none of our kids (ranging from 10-20 years old) are addicted to live TV. They mostly watch on-demand TV, and somewhat surprisingly spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos. If live TV is depending on our kids to keep them in business, then it’s already over. I am not sure how live TV can change this natural evolution.

Half of my monthly subscription dollars are currently allocated to DirecTV Now, which is a service I can cancel at any time and does not require a dish. We opted for the second tier ($50 package), and added HBO and Showtime for an additional $13 per month.

We have used Netflix and Hulu services for several years, so those were not an additional charge to cutting the cord. However, the services certainly make the decision much easier. We upgraded Netflix (4 screens) a few years ago, when we started to have issues with too many people watching at once. This was also a sign that hardly anyone in my house was actually watching cable TV.

Monthly Subscription Price
DirecTV Now (Just Right – HBO & SHO) $63.00
100 Mbps Internet $39.99
Netflix (4 screens + Ultra HD) $11.99
Hulu $11.99
Total $126.97

Conclusion

Cutting the cord is a big decision, and it’s important to understand the dynamics involved. It’s a certainty that streaming services and millennials are changing the way we look at cable TV. Depending on a person’s viewing habits, there are many services to choose from, and many directions to steer towards. In the end, we chose something in the middle of cutting the cord, and it works great for us.

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