Cable. Do you still have it? This seems to be a constant conversation on the local moms’ message boards around here and even came up the other night at a dinner out with friends. It is just so expensive. Do we really need it? Do you really watch all those channels? The answer is no.
The NY Times just recently had an article referencing how much of an energy draw those cable DVR boxes are. Seriously, they suck more energy than one can imagine. In 2011 it was reported that “a single DVR unit chewed through as much as 275 kilowatt-hours per year, more than half as much as some Energy Star refrigerators. And many homes had more than one box. In total, the defense council estimated that set-top boxes in the United States were consuming about $3 billion worth of electricity each year.” And now as of 2017 “set-top boxes in the United States were using about seven large power plants’ worth of electricity each year“. How INSANE is that?!
Now, set aside the effects on the environment and let’s talk about the cable company…THEY are a real drain on the wallet. You get a discounted bundle when you sign up for cable/phone/internet but then the costs skyrocket after your one or two year promotion is up. You wind up paying for so much content you aren’t even watching!
When you cut cable and pivot to just using streaming options, you pick what you need, including specialty channels like HBO, Showtime and sports packages. You really only need internet to get everything you want.
We worked on this plan for a while before we cut the cord last year. It wasn’t done without copious amounts of research and lots of phone calls logged with our provider. While I’m sure that many of you already use some subset of streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, you’re probably still carrying your cable package because you aren’t sure how to live in a post-cable world.
Here is what we did…
- Get rid of your cable service. This is the hardest part… they don’t let you go easily. We really only have one option for an internet provider (decent high speed) where we live, so I had to haggle a bit. I would recommend calling around to see who offers the best internet in your area and get some price quotes.
I called our provider to find out what the monthly cost would be for a new customer to sign up for JUST high speed internet so I knew what we should actually be paying. I even did this from my cell phone so they didn’t know I wasn’t a real new customer. The cost is significantly lower for just high speed internet.
When you first call your cable provider to cancel they are going to tell you something along the lines of ‘if you drop cable your bill will only decrease by $10’. This is absolutely RIDICULOUS. And simply not true because you just found out how much you should be paying for internet if you were a new customer who did not want a bundle.
So, outsmart the cable company. When you call ask for the retention department. Tell them you’d certainly like to remain a customer with internet service but need to cancel your cable. They will push back. (Unless you get a really awesome person who just does what you ask… let me know if that happens!!!) You will have to consistently reiterate that cable is no longer in your budget and you know that just internet costs X. They will eventually give in! (Really. Seriously. Just be persistent)
A month after we dropped our cable, which cut our bill in half, they called and offered to double our internet speed for an extra $10 a month! Perfect.
2) Okay… now that you have dropped cable (Yay, good for you!) you have to figure out your streaming service and your devices.
I happen to really like the interface of a Roku, but you can also try out AppleTV or the Amazon Firestick which offer pretty much the same streaming capabilities. There are some differences between the platforms; in addition to liking the Roku interfaces, it is a neutral platform so you aren’t likely to miss out on various viewing options when the other platforms get into turf wars.
There are also Smart TVs with ROKU already built in; see a list here.
In addition to our home setup I mentioned above, we have a Smart TV with Roku built in at our vacation house (TV linked below). One of the advantages of going with these online platforms is that all of our preferences and logins are shared across the platform so we can start binge watching a show during the week and finish it up at the beach on the weekend.
Any device you purchase will be super easy to install. You connect it to the back of your TV with an HDMI cable (make sure your device comes with one); if you are using a Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Firestick you can just plug it right into the USB port in the back of the TV. You then follow the guided steps to set up and connect it to your internet.
If you don’t need live TV (hello sports!) than this would likely be enough! You can get almost all network TV on Hulu the next day (except CBS, they have their own streaming app you can sign up for on your ROKU), you can sign up for HBO and Showtime & Hulu now has some great programming of their own. Netflix & Amazon Prime too… amazing original programming and movies as well as old classics and newly releases box office hits. And in case you do not know this; if you have Amazon Prime for your free shipping that means you also have Amazon Prime Video streaming service! Just use your amazon login!
That is one other feature I love on the Roku; you can search a particular movie or show and it shows you what streaming service you can watch it on!
In order to get broadcast TV we signed up for DirectTV Now and really like it. It is a channel that you download to your streaming device. They have several different packages; the base package being 65+ channels for $40 a month (that’s what we have). The service also includes a recording feature. My favorite part of having DirectTV Now is that it allows you to sign in to any network channel and get their streaming content through any device. So I may miss something on AMC or Bravo but I can sign in to their app and watch! Same with kids shows, Disney, Nickelodeon, etc; you can sign in to all of those for on demand programs! They also have a Sports Pack that you can add on that will give you all local sports so you won’t miss your favorite teams games. You can also upgrade packages (different than the Sports Pack) to get certain sport networks… which I will be doing for the NHL playoffs.
Also, you can use the DirectTV Now app, as well as the other streaming services, on your phone, tablet or computer. I love being able to record a TV show directly from my phone or pull up an episode of Curious George in a pinch!
4) So what exactly do you need?
You need a Smart TV with built in streaming device, like this TCL 43 Inch TV. ($249.99!)
Or a Roku streaming device. This is the one we have: Roku Ultra.
For streaming services check out all of the following and see what fits best for you. Check out Hulu, Netflix & Amazon Prime Video for streaming content. I should (and will) write a separate post about the best shows that are exclusive to these streaming platforms.
Oh and one more thing, just in case! Get a new HDMI cable!
Let me know if you end up cutting the cord! As always, reach out with any questions I am more than happy to help!