Since I’ve started reporting on TV broadcast technology in January, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for the magic of broadcasting. So much so, that I’m writing today to say I’m tired of paying a high bill to my satellite provider and am ready to cut the cord.
This is coming from a guy who grew up with cable television. I only have memories of watching free, over-the-air television at my grandpa’s house, specifically, The Lawrence Welk Show on PBS.
I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally seen the light. Last weekend I went to Radio Shack and bought an indoor antenna which picked up 25 channels. The Denver-area broadcast transmitters are located in Golden where I live. I can actually see them from my balcony. While I’ll never watch a majority of the digital channels, the local ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS stations broadcast in crystal clear HD. After flipping between DirectTV and over-the-air, I can honestly say the HD looks better over-the-air. That’s because the signal isn’t as compressed.
Why am I doing this? While it did cross my mind that telling my readers about the decision would make them happy and perhaps slip me some great story tips, money was the main reason.
My last DirectTV bill was $115. That’s right — $115! It seemed like a good deal at first, and then they throw in a promotion for HBO (I love Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom) that includes Cinemax and Showtime. Three months later, the promotion ends and I end up paying regular price, but for what? One show that I really like? And of course, you can add more services online, but you can’t cancel those same services online. That requires a phone call. It’s not worth it.
Cutting the cord isn’t a perfect situation. I will miss watching live ESPN, but I can condition myself to catch up on the games that I care about online. I’m an MLB.TV subscriber so I can watch my hometown Detroit Tigers return to the World Series this year while living in Colorado.
I also have a few shows, including USA’s Burn Notice, that I enjoy to watch.
For those cable shows, I plan on subscribing to Hulu Plus ($8/month) and upping my Netflix account (I know… I was paying $115 each month plus Netflix online for $8/month) to a one-DVD package for $10. Shows like The Newsroom are available on DVD at the end of the season, which make for a perfect binge-watching Saturday.
I won’t need a DVR, because if I miss a network show, like The Office or Modern Family, I’ll watch on my iPad. All four networks have an app that let viewers watch primetime shows 24 hours to 1 week after the show airs. Hulu and Netflix also stream those shows.
Let’s do some quick math:
- I was paying $115 + $8 each month for DirectTV and Netflix, plus Internet at $30/month.
- The antenna I bought was $25 and it’s going to cost me about $60 to cancel my DirectTV contract early.
- Each month, I’ll pay $10 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu, plus $30 for Internet.
- That’s $48/month for a savings of $105/month. That’s $1,260 each year.
Don’t expect my story to be out of the ordinary. I firmly believe more people my age (I’m 26) to follow suit. There was a report out this week that said 27% of U.S. online 18- to 24-year-olds watch five or more hours of video each week. 29% watch between one and four hours; 17% watch under one hour and 28% watch no video online. And according to PaidContent.org, Pay TV will actually shrink for the first time in history, from 100.8 million users in 2012 to 99.3 million this year. By 2017, it’s expected to drop to 94.6 million.
Just like broadcasters are adapting to consumer trends, cable and satellite companies will need to come up with a better business model. The bundle is unraveling. Consumers are sick of $100 cable bills.
Why pay all that money when local broadcasters are providing enjoyable, informative and great looking content free of charge?