Many of us can relate to coming home after school when we were younger, having a little snack and plopping down in front of a screen, waiting for our favorite shows to come on. This was the original method of viewing television, and very soon, it may be a thing of the past. Cord cutting is the act of swapping traditional TV subscriptions (or “cutting” the cable cord) for online streaming services, with what is presumably much to the dismay of TV executives. The trend of saying goodbye to cable services only continues to grow, and it has for some time now.
Households have been slashing subscriptions in droves for the last few years and more people have stopped paying for TV service in the last quarter of 2016 than in any previous quarter, ever. According to studies by Leichtman Research and Convergence Consulting, one in five American households did not subscribe to pay-TV at the end of 2015, with 1.1 million cutting cords that same year. This figure is estimated to be roughly 22%, or 26.7 million households in 2016.
But enough about statistics. It is clear that attitudes are changing along with viewing habits. David Tice, senior vice president of GfK’s media and entertainment practice, brings to light the fact that some millennials are the first true generation of “cord-nevers”, or those who have always used streaming services in lieu of traditional TV. According to Tice, what seems to be concerning TV bigshots is the fact that older households who are able to, and have in the past, pay for cable subscriptions are choosing not to. Tice believes this marks cord cutting as a lifestyle choice rather than just an economic one.
– Paying only for what you watch.
On average, cable costs around $99 per month, with premium packages ranging up to $300 a month. If that seems like an exorbitant amount to pay for TV, that’s because it is. Exclusive channels such as HBO or ESPN, should you choose to subscribe to them, can add up to $6.04 per channel to your bill. While adding these channels is up to consumers, they are also continually paying for ones they do not watch or even want, as they come pre-packaged in subscription bundles without much in terms of leeway.
Say, for example, that you’re a fan of The Walking Dead who does not care for the weather, the news, or cooking shows because you only care about zombies. Adding a Showtime package to a Time Warner subscription costs an extra $15 per month, with a basic TV package starting at $29.99 per month when bundled with other services. In comparison, Showtime’s streaming service with up-to-date episodes costs $11 per month with no other commitments. A basic Netflix subscription with all previous episodes of The Walking Dead excluding those currently airing costs $8 per month.
In essence, while the TV aspect of online TV streaming may initially cost a little extra, it’s nothing compared to the cost of cable. Hardware that connects streaming services to your television is a one-time purchase comparable to the price of one month of cable. There’s Roku ($50), Apple TV ($129), Chromecast ($35), and Fire TV ($40 – $100), with the Roku streaming stick standing out as the best bang for your buck in terms of quality and affordability.
– Watching what you want, when and where you want.
Unlike in days long past when screens were black and white, programming was limited to a handful of channels, and restrictions on TV would never, ever allow for Game of Thrones to air, there are options now—perhaps to a fault. While some people like the idea of having hundreds of channels to choose from, others realize that many of these channels go unwatched. In this culture of excess, being able to pick and choose the content you want (and then binge watching it until four in the morning) can be a blessing.
In January 2014, Netflix had 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows. While it is difficult to quantify exactly how much you can access on a traditional subscription service on any given day (presumably a lot), you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. On-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are up front about exactly what they offer, so you can stream what you like, when you like without the unwanted sensory overload. With cable and satellite, on-demand and pay-per-view is often either limited in selection or an extra expenditure. The image of one’s younger self waiting for a show to air at a specific time comes to mind.
Of course, there are some drawbacks. As previously mentioned, some services like Netflix do not offer episodes of shows which are currently airing. For this kind of service, there are streaming packages for premium TV channels such as HBO and Showtime, which can be standalone subscriptions or added onto more integrative platforms such as Hulu Plus.
– Mobility and flexibility.
You can’t take it with you. This, of course is in reference to terrestrial cable and satellite. Ideally, paying an exorbitant amount for an entertainment platform in 2016 would guarantee that you can fit it on your smartphone and in your pocket. While this cannot be said of traditional TV packages (considering the clunky cable box or satellite dish), essentially all on-demand streaming services have a mobile app, and can be accessed almost anywhere with an internet connection.
Brow-raising prices on cable subscriptions also come with contracts, and those contracts come with fees for cancellation, late payments and the like. For those of you with commitment issues, online TV streaming just makes sense; starting at $8 a pop, you have instant access to an entertainment library that you can cancel at any time you like.
So, binge watchers, sports addicts, and film buffs, don’t despair—there are plenty of flavors of streaming platform to choose between for when you part with your current cable provider.