Saying goodbye is never easy.
For many, the comfort of television is knowing that no matter when you plop down on the couch, you can find something you enjoy. You can watch live sports, catch the local and national news, and dive into endless reruns of crime procedurals, buddy sitcoms and fantasy shows.
In the past, the only way to do so was by subscribing to cable or satellite. But the way people watch television is changing.
As streaming services and Internet entertainment becomes more popular, and cable television more and more expensive, people are “cutting the cord” to traditional TV.
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Internet services can not completely replicate the offerings that cable provides. But with some planning, people can ensure that they’re watching their favorite shows and sports, while saving money at the same time.
“People are paying $115 per month, just for television. That’s a lot,” said Patric Welch, Greenwood technology expert and owner of Noobie. “But you have to have the mentality that you’re going to give something up. You want to save money, then you’re going to have to do your part. There’s going to be some show, some program that you won’t get, and you have to be OK with that.”
Cable is still the overwhelming way that people get TV. Last year, 81 percent of all households were subscribers, according to a 2015 report by Leichtman Research Group on media.
Still, that number is slowly drooping. Pay television subscribers made up 87 percent of all households in the U.S. in 2010.
At the same time, Internet-delivered services are on the rise, according to Leichtman Research Group. Fewer than 20 percent of all households had pay video-on-demand via the Internet in 2010, while that number jumped to more than half all houses last year.
People get an average of 215 channels through their cable, according to the Leichtman Research Group. But surveys showed they only watched 26 channels in a given month.
That means that they are paying for nearly 200 channels that they never watch.
“There’s no nirvana to call up cable and satellite and say, ‘Cancel everything except sports.’ You end up getting 100 channels that you don’t necessarily want,” Welch said.
As owner of Noobie, Welch offers technology services instructing people on what to do if they want to cut the cord. He has given presentations at libraries throughout Johnson County as well as Columbus.
“It’s my most popular class. When I go to local libraries, I usually get 20 people to show up for a class. With this one, I get more than 80,” he said. “There’s definitely an interest, just from the cost.”
To help people figure out if cord-cutting is right for them, Welch shared some of his tips to make the transition as painless as possible.
Figure out what you watch:
When Welch advises people on whether or not to cut the cord, he first recommends they take a week to pay attention to what they watch.“I tell them to jot down all of the shows they watch, and what network or channel they’re on,” he said. “For maybe the older viewers trying to cut the cord, there’s going to be the element of giving something up. I know almost no way around that.”
The streaming services and on-demand video will not be able to offer all of the live shows that you’re used to.
“If you can’t find it on Hulu, past seasons on Netflix or SlingTV, and that’s your deal-breaker, you’re going to have a hard time moving forward,” Welch said.
Think about sports, news
The biggest difficulty for people will be the lack of live news and sports, Welch said.“If your sports team isn’t on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, where you can get the games on an antennae, then you’re not going to be able to watch them,” Welch said.Adding confusion to the process is the fact that channels such as Big Ten Network and NBC Sports have apps that viewers can download to watch live.
But those applications still require a cable or satellite subscription to use, Welch said.
“You’re going to have to figure out what you’re going to give up,” he said. “You need to ask if you really need to watch all of these shows on your list.”
Start with the basics
If you’re planning on getting rid of cable or satellite, but still want to watch local news, network television and some sports, your television is already equipped to handle that.All people need is a simple antenna — the iconic “bunny ears” — to pick up those digital channels, Welch said.Those channels are free to the public. The only equipment you’d need is an antenna if you don’t already own one, and models range from $12 for basics up to $50 for more powerful versions.
Any television built after 2006 is already capable of receiving digital signals. Sets built before then may need a converter box, which would cost an additional $30.
Streaming video and television-on-demand reaches your TV through a variety of different devices. Video game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation allow you to get different programming, as do players such as Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast.Knowing what you watch and what you’re looking for in TV, you can play around with the best streaming channels to mold your viewing options, Welch said.One of the oldest services, and the most popular, is Netflix. While the service started with movies, it has expanded to full seasons of television shows as well as original shows such as “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Making a Murderer.”
“Netflix to me is still the best, in terms of entertainment. They are essentially their own channel, since they have so much of their own programming now,” Welch said.
Hulu is another service that is ideal with people looking to replace their television shows, he said. People can watch current Fox shows such as “The Simpsons” and “American Idol,” the day after they air, as well as binge on past seasons of classic shows such as Seinfeld.
NBC, ABC and Comedy Central all offer access to their libraries of shows.
Sling TV is the app that is closest to the television that you know and love. Through the Internet, people can watch live versions of shows on limited channels.
For $20 per month, people have access to ESPN and ESPN2, AMC, TBS, TNT, CNN and others. With $5 add-ons, you can get packages that include channels such as BeIN Sport, Disney Junior and Headline News.
But don’t assume that just because your Netflix or Hulu features a show right now, that it will always do so.
“Contracts change. So you if you like watching one show, and you wake up one morning and that show’s not on anymore,” Welch said. “You have to be ready for that.”
Factor in Internet costs
Getting rid of a cable bill of more than $100 can be liberating at first. But a snag that many cord-cutters find is that they forget about one important detail, Welch said.“One of the biggest surprises that people encounter is they decide to cut the cord, thinking they’ll save all of this money. Then they remember, they still need Internet,” he said.To stream video and programs without interruption, people need Internet access of 10 to 25 megabytes per second, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But even that might not be suitable if you have more than one user online, Welch said.
Aim for getting Internet service between 25 to 50 megabytes per second, to ensure your shows run without buffering and interruption.
Streaming devices it works on: Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Nexus Player.
What can you watch?
- TV: Fox, ABC, Nickolodeon, NBC, Comedy Central, MTV, CW, Bravo and more than 300 others
- Movies: A rotation of new releases and older classics. Current selections include “Interstellar,” “Braveheart” and “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water.”
- Original shows: Hulu has released 10 originals, including “The Mindy Project,” “Casual” and “Difficult People.”
Cost: $7.99 per month with commercials, $11.99 with no commercials
Streaming devices it works on: Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Nexus Player and Nvidia Shield
What can you watch?
- TV: Full seasons of television show such as “30 Rock,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Sons of Anarchy,” among hundreds of others.
- Movies: Thousands of new and old movies.
- Original shows: “Orange is the New Black,” “Narcos” and “House of Cards.”
Cost: $7.99 per month for basic, $9.99 for standard and $11.99 for premium
Streaming devices it works on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Nexus Player and ZTE
What can you watch? The basic package of live television channels includes ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, AMC, CNN, Disney Channel and HGTV, among others. Extra packages that include beIN Sports, Outside Television, Disney Junior and HLN.
Cost: $20 monthly for the basic package, $5 for additional packages.
Streaming devices it works on: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV
What can you watch?
- TV: More than 60 older shows such as “The Three Stooges,” “TJ Hooker,” “Seinfeld,” “The Shield” and “All in the Family.”
- Movies: More than 140 Sony movies, including “Weird Science,” “Spy Game,” “Insidious” and “Crash.”