Have you cut the cord — in other words, do you get your television programs by means other than cable or satellite? Would you cord-cut if it were cheaper than your current bill?
The question of whether you should cut the cord doesn't have just one answer. This guide can help you look at your own TV viewing habits and preferences and figure out the setup that works best for you.
What TV shows do you watch
Services like Amazon Instant Video, Google Play or iTunes sell individual TV episodes for $1.99 to $3.99, and sometimes season passes that save you a few dollars versus buying each episode separately. These usually can be purchased within a few hours after the show's original air time.
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How do those costs stack up to a cable or satellite bill? The average cable TV bill was $86 per month in 2011, or a stunning $1,032 per year (estimate by the NPD Group). At four episodes per month, a hit show like “The Walking Dead” could be had for $11.96 per month. For the money you pay for cable TV, you could afford:
- a subscription to Netflix streaming ($7.99 per month, or $95.88 per year)
- a subscription to Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month, or $95.88 per year)
- five television series with 20 episodes per season ($2.99 per episode times 20 episodes times five shows is $299)
That's still under $500. You can put the $500 you're saving into a better television, a streaming box like an Apple TV, Roku or PlayCast, or even more TV shows and movies. And that assumes you have to pay for all the shows you watch. But many are streamed for free.
Do you watch sports on TV?
If live sports is critical to your TV-watching experience, then you're probably going to want to keep cable. Sports is the one type of TV programming that's hard to find without the cord. There are workarounds, however: You can buy an antenna to get live over-the-air (OTA) TV from network channels like NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, but a lot of sports coverage is on ESPN.
There are some singe devices that combine streaming video and OTA reception. TV antenna maker Channel Master sells a $250 device called DVR+ that integrates two TV tuners for watching one channel and recording another to an external hard drive (sold separately). It also supports Internet streaming, but currently from only one service, a la carte video provider Vudu. This summer, another antenna maker, Mohu, will begin selling its Mohu Channels device (to be priced around $90). Channels includes a single TV tuner with an Android operating system that can run any Android app, including streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Spotify and many others. Channels doesn't DVR live TV, however.
Apps like Thuuz Sports also help sports fans keep track of when and where their teams are playing, whether online, on cable, or even in local sports bars and restaurants.
Is online video streaming for you?
If you're willing to wait between 12 and 24 hours after the episode's airtime, most channels (but not AMC or HBO) will put the five or so most recent episodes of currently airing TV shows on their websites and or on Hulu for free.
Your TV-watching hardware also plays a role in how you get your television programs. You may be used to watching TV when it airs on cable channels or recording it with a DVR, in which case moving to other viewing methods could be a hassle. Or you may not like the idea of watching television programming on your computer screen.
What hardware do you need for cord-cutting?
With a streaming box such as Roku or Apple TV, a video game console such as the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4, a screen-sharing device like a Chromecast or even just an HDMI cable and a computer with compatible ports, you can easily bring Web content onto your living room television.
If you decide cord-cutting is the way to go, follow this flowchart to the bottom to pick a hardware setup that works for you.