Some folks still aren’t familiar with the phrase “cord-cutting” — most of my older family members, for instance. They’re still inextricably tied to their cable bills. “It just makes it easier to have the whole cable package,” said one older gentleman, who might be related to me. “I don’t want to have to remember a bunch of passwords for a bunch of different services.”
Fair enough, I say. While anecdotal, this story isn’t surprising. Whether these fogies believe it or not, 25 percent of American homes have decided to cut the cord and no longer subscribe to cable or satellite television. Predictably, the majority of these homes have at least one resident who belongs to the millennial generation. Younger consumers have started the trend, but studies reveal that cord-cutting is on the rise in households with members of all ages.
And why not? We’re living in the age of unlimited options. We want to choose what we watch — and when. The savings too, are unbeatable. In 2016, the typical American spent more than $1,000 a year just on pay-TV service. Cutting the cord offers a way to trim that bill by half, if not more.
Related: Top 3 Reasons to Cut the Cord
Here’s an easy guide to ditching your cable or satellite service and reclaim your entertainment freedom.
1. Get a digital antenna.
A digital antenna costs around $40 and will capture the signal for your local channels in an HD-quality picture. It’s by far one of the best (and least expensive) ways to watch in-market sports games and other live events broadcast by “the big four” networks. The yet-to-be-released Mohu AirWave promises to function as a receiver for digital over-the-air signals while also integrating with streaming boxes or plug-in devices. AirWave offers a way to unify streaming and live local content in a single, channel-guide-type menu.
2. Get a streaming box or smart TV.
Smart TVs probably will be the wave of the future (if we can figure out how to get them to stop spying on us). But not everyone can drop that much dough on a new television. Consider a streaming device instead. Most plug directly into an HDMI input and are ready to stream after roughly five minutes of setup.
Roku and Google Chromecast are among the most popular and best known. Amazon’s Fire Stick and an abundance of other products also are available — at very reasonable prices. Do the research to find the one that fits your viewing habits, existing equipment and other needs.
3. Select one or several streaming services.
This might be the most difficult step for some viewers. Instead of having 100-plus channels (with nothing on) force-fed into your living room, you’re about to choose which channels and shows you want to access going forward.
It’s easy to watch shows after they air. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video all trade in syndicated programs and “new” television seasons a year after they’ve aired. Increasingly, though, streaming services provide TV programs the day after they premiere — and in some cases, live. Sling TV and DirecTV Now offer same-day television programming. In some outlets and markets, live shows also are an option.
I won’t sugarcoat it: Cord-cutting is still in the dark ages when it comes to sports packages, but it’s gradually getting better. Subscription services such as MLB.TV ($109.99 per year), NFL Game Pass ($129.99 per year) and NBA League Pass ($125 per year) add up quickly for those who want to watch out-of-market games. We can only hope the near future will bring a economical way to bundle multiple sports packages and give fans a mix of games they actually want to watch — without capitulating to a cable company’s bloated sports packages.
4. Try curated content.
Oftentimes, when I sit down to watch something on one of my streaming services, I am afflicted by what has been referred to as the “tyranny of choice.” It’s not unusual for me to end up watching nothing at all.
I know plenty of cord-cutters who’ve had the same experience. My suggestion: Find a curating site. They’re perfect for whittling down the options and simply finding the best stuff streaming right now. These sites typically are staffed by knowledgeable movie fanatics who can help find something good that also matches your tastes and mood.
Still unconvinced? Check out this handy calculator to see just how much you could save by getting rid of your cable subscription and going streaming-only.