So, I've been a cord-cutter since the end of 2015 March Madness. The biggest impediment to most people cutting the cord is the lack of live sports, as it was for me prior to the introduction of SlingTV.
I had wanted to take at least one season to see if it worked for me, but since it was Apr 2015 when I did it, that means I've made it through two football seasons and two basketball seasons since ditching DirecTV.
I thought I'd post some thoughts on what I've done and how it's working out so far.
First things first, you need a broadband internet connection. I would expect that most of you already have one, of course, so your cost for internet should NOT be considered a "cord-cutting cost". However, if you have the lowest tier of service, or if your internet provider will jack your rates due to no longer bundling with TV, you may have to factor in the cost of your internet increasing.
The key to remember is that you DON'T need blazing-fast internet. You probably don't want anything south of ~25 Mbps, but unless you're regularly streaming UHD (4K) content, anything in the 25-50 Mbps downstream rate is just fine. If someone tells you that you're going to need the 150 Mbps or 300 Mbps tier of internet, they're lying.
Okay, step #2. Local OTA channels. For some people this matters. For others it doesn't. For me, it didn't, until I started getting into NFL and found myself unable to watch a lot of games. For college basketball, and some college football games (SEC on CBS, prime-time ABC game*, Fox games), having your locals is really helpful.
For most people, if you're in a city you already have locals. You may need to buy an antenna as a one-time purchase, but you will get them. You can go to the TV Fool
website to determine what you will receive.
For me, I'm about 50 miles from the broadcast towers. That meant I couldn't get by with a simple indoor window antenna. But for under $50, I bought this model off Amazon
, and it works beautifully.
One thing you'll notice: TV looks better over the air!
OTA transmission is now all digital, which means that you don't have the static and noise of the old-school analog OTA signals. The reason it looks better, then, is that cable/satellite streams are highly compressed
in order to save bandwidth. OTA signals are not. So the picture is actually better OTA than it is on cable/satellite.
(* I put the asterisk by ABC, as getting ESPN through other sources will still get you streaming access to the ABC game even w/o antenna.)
Next is your non-live streaming services. I'll go over this briefly since I'm primarily writing this for sports fans. But once you cut the cord, if you still want to watch TV, you probably want access to the main streaming services. Here's what I use:
Amazon Prime Instant Video ($8.25/mo*): A lot of content here. Not as much original content as some of the other services, but getting better. You can rent movies that aren't available on Prime, but I rarely need to do that (once every 4-6 months).
Hulu ($7.99/mo): Biggest claim to fame is next-day access to network sit-coms and dramas, although they've been coming along with a lot of original content lately.
Netflix ($10/mo HD, $12/mo UHD): GREAT original content and decent library of non-original. Oh, and a lot of their newer stuff is in UHD. Sure, you bought that fancy UHD television on Black Friday, but you can't watch any content from your cable company? Well, now you can.
Oh, and for those of you with kids? Kids do *JUST* fine on the streaming services. In fact, kids are instant gratification by default, so they like the on demand viewing more than waiting around for a program to start and then sitting through commercials.
(* I asterisk the Amazon Prime cost because I was a Prime member for the shipping benefits LONG before I ever started watching video content.)
And now the big one: live TV. This has exploded over the last 2 years. The first key enabler for sports fans was SlingTV, which brought along ESPN. Now you add DirecTV Now, Playstation View, Hulu Live, and there are others in the works.
You can see their channel lineups compared here
, along with the base package costs.
SlingTV gets you access to ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN3 (as well as streaming access to ABC sports) for $20/month. For added tiers you can have additional sports options.
I believe Playstation Vue is the only one with Big Ten Network that I can tell. It also includes local channels if you're in a market with them, but prices recently jumped and it's about $50/month.
DirecTV Now is about $35/month for their base plan, but that doesn't include BTN. For BTN you need to get into a bigger package.
Hulu Live includes BTN in its base package, but looks to be about $40/month.
Now, some of those look pricy. But I argue it's better than traditional cable/satellite for two reasons:
- That's your all-in cost. With satellite/cable there a whole bunch of addtional fees, equipment rentals, etc etc. Even if the advertised prices were similar, you don't have all that other crap layered on.
- There's no contract. I cancelled SlingTV this year right after the end of March Madness. I'll start another service (maybe Sling,
maybe not, depending how much I decide to value BTN) right at the beginning of football season. So that cost is amortized. I get plenty of content through my other streaming services that I don't need the other live TV channels.
So although the live packages aren't as compelling as SlingTV at $20/mo was originally, I think they're still a better deal than cable.
After this, there *is* an equipment cost... Maybe. A lot of you probably already have a Smart TV that has these apps. If not, a Roku Streaming Stick is pretty cheap, as is the Amazon Fire TV stick. I personally eventually upgraded to a Roku Ultra, as I found the higher-performance CPU improved responsiveness and I wanted the 4K UHD support. But this is a one-time cost, not a rental.
The only thing that doesn't easily stream is NFL, so for that you need either an antenna or a streaming service with local channels. But some of these live services include locals, so at least that's an option now -- it wasn't when SlingTV was the only one in the game.
All told, I ended up spending a little more on my internet (due to lack of bundling), and add $20 offseason and maybe $40-60 during the sports season depending on what service I choose. These services might actually start competing more aggressively now that there are more of them around, though, in which case I might be able to TRULY do a more a la carte channel selection (i.e. the ESPN's and BTN only and leave everything else out).
That's my take on it. I'm sure the rest of you might add to this with your own thoughts, but I've basically been able to get 90% of the sports content I want, and plenty of other streaming video content, and cut out a huge bill otherwise.