I can only imagine what it was like back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when the American family purchased their first television set. Black and white video, big antennas, big fat tube tv sets, a fuzzy picture- I wonder if anyone knew back then how it would change the world. Families gathering around watching a wholesome television show like “Leave it to Beaver”, or maybe witnessing history like the Apollo 11 Moon Landing or the Beatles debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Television has certainly changed our lives. Over time, it has gradually evolved and adapted but the past few years have seen a decline in traditional TV service.
TV has changed because the average family has changed. Mom and Dad work different schedules, Brother doesn’t want to watch the same show that Sister watches. Sister has her own TV in her own room. Whatever the case may be, the average family doesn’t sit around the television like they did 40 or 50 years ago. Everyone’s on the go, staring at their tablets and phones watching the latest viral video. Our attention spans are shorter, demanding for video that we can start and stop as we please, as well as watch it on whatever device we happen to have handy.
I recently canceled my Cable TV service. I pondered doing this for at least a year before deciding to cut it altogether. My decision was based primarily around the rising cost of my monthly cable bill. Of course, you can call and threaten the cable company, and they may work with you, but I had read and done research on all these streaming video services that are cheaper, no contracts, and have a broad range of various programming that I can watch on my schedule.
I’m going to attempt to lay out all the various services and devices that exist that the cable companies hate to hear about because it means more “cord cutters” – those who have cancelled their traditional satellite or cable based TV service and watch their television streaming via the internet – are ditching their cable bills and thus the big cable giants are losing money. This post will discuss what to consider when thinking about cutting the cord. The next post, probably in a week or two after this one is published, will focus on the different devices that can stream television and video and finally, the final post will focus on services that stream various content and the costs, advantages, and disadvantages of each of those services.
First off, cord cutting is not for everyone. Heck, I’ve only been a cord cutter for a little less than a month and I don’t even know yet if it will be a permanent thing or not. Start off by figuring out how much your cable costs per month. Don’t include the internet part of your bill (if you have a combined internet/tv/phone package), because you’ll need to keep the internet connection to be able to stream television (You may end up having to increase your internet cost to provide faster bandwidth for a better streaming experience). In fact, I would recommend an internet service that gives you at least 10MBPS (Mega Bytes per second) or higher in order to stream video. If you are not sure how fast your internet is, call your internet provider or do a free test from any computer. Just visit speedtest.net or fast.com and it will test your internet connection.
After you’ve broken down your bill, look for the section that lists the cable package you pay for. You’ll see the basic cost for the package, added fees like a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or HD (High Definition) fees, added costs for additional TV boxes in other rooms, and a slew of government and FCC Broadcasting and regulatory fees. You’ll probably be surprised at just how much you spend per month on cable service. The question is, does your viewing habits justify how much money you spend? For my wife and myself, the answer was no.
After you know how much money you spend, figure out what channels and television programs you and your family watch. Are you like me and love live sporting events? Maybe you like watching just about anything on the Sci-Fi channel. Or you are a big fan of “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead”. Maybe Fox News or CNN are playing on your tv most of the time. If you have children in the home, maybe Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel are important. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to write down a list of shows, channels, or genres (sports, news, movies, sitcoms, documentaries) that both you, your spouse, and/or your children want to have, because this list will determine what direction (if any) you can go to become a “cord-cutter”.
Next time, I will discuss the various devices that you can stream television on, what exactly a “Smart TV” is, and the pros and cons of each device.
Post and Computer Center (Freshfields Village)