Commentary

Help Me Cut The Cord

I’m thinking about cutting the cord in addition to writing about people cutting the cord. It seems I’m always thinking about it, but this time, I think I will do it. I need your advice, your encouragement, your warnings.

First of all, though I work out of Manhattan a lot, my wife and I now live full time in semi-rural Bucks County Pa, (fresh air!) roughly equal in commuting time between New York (Times Square!) and Philadelphia (Pretzels!) but part of the Philadelphia TV market.

With a good, flat indoor antenna, I can pull in most Philadelphia stations plus all those mostly useless digital channels offered by the networks. It can be spotty.

But I’m an old TV critic. I have to admit, I get some perverse pleasure out of watching local TV newscasts, because, really, they do seem so hopeless and really news-less, and so earnest about it. 

Ways to economize are filled with hidden missing ingredients. But they are ample, from Sling TV to if Bloomberg is correct, is a new effort by to Amazon to offer more on-demand platforms. Comcast is also beginning to offer a device-only package, called Stream, that packages authenticated TV channels, a DVR and its own VOD package, but it may be far less than meets the eye.  There are lots of alternatives, all with little flaws.

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So it’s tough to keep all this in your head.

At the moment, we get the Comcast triple play--a house/office phone, fairly okay Internet service and the big kahuna cable package on hundreds of channels, ilcuding dozens in Spanish, dozens of badly done Music Choice channels and for some pointless reason, the same channels in SD that I get in HD. 

Most people watch 16 cable channels with some regularity. I’d say for us, that whittles down to about 10, and possbily fewer. Without Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, we're not watching Comedy Central as much as we once were. But that DVR is a big draw.

When I threaten to quit, Comcast usually offers a better rate.  Right now I pay $200-and-something a month for the triple play. Comcast seems to make up the last two digits monthly.  $230?  $220?  Whatever. Its bills and its packages might as well be written in Russian. But for the Triple Play package it is roundly $2,800 year. That’s a lot.

We subscribe to Netflix, and I can get it through my subscription to Amazon Prime TV, and I have a Chromecast stick we rarely use.

We get authenticated HBO Go and Showtime services. We also subscribed, with redundancy, to HBO Now, for $14.99 a month, in a large part because I write this blog and wanted to watch how it worked. And we subscribe to CBS All Access for $6 a month and Hulu (with limited commercials), for $8 a month.  

I wish I had a Roku box, because I kind of root for the little guy and in the online content delivery biz, that’s them. Plus, from what I read and hear, it’s good, and plenty. I would be interested in Apple TV now because in its newest iteration its Siri-like thing finds what’s offered online by everybody, not just themselves. Amazon Prime TV’s voice ID will tell you what it has (“Birdman” is a recent example, for a fee) but not that HBO Now/Go also has”Birdman,” for free with an HBO Now  subscription.

I don’t care enough about sports to want to pay for it, except Major League Baseball, so I subscribe to MLB.tv.

For the last few years, I haven’t paid much attention to CNN, MSNBC, and (especially) Fox, except at times of real breaking news. Their hyperventilating reporting seems to distort what’s really important.

Their excesses--which are often newsworthy because they get exposure-- are easily discovered online from Media Matters, or outraged Twitter and Facebook posts. I used to think you could “tell” a newspaper reader from a non-reader. Now I think that about heavy cable-news watchers. But to me, just by avoiding Fox, I am the assassin in my personal version of “Killing Bill O’Reilly.” There's value in that.

CBSN, CNNGo, BBC, Vice, AP, Reuters  and some others offer ample video online, and I can get most of those via Amazon.

Totalling up I spend $99 a year for Amazon Prime Video, $130 a year for MLB.tv,  $180 a year for HBO Now and $96 a year for Hulu and Netflix each.  That’s rounded off, $600 a year, and I think I am comfortable with what I get for that.

I think the advice I would give myself is to cut the cord and be prepared to pay a lot more for Internet stand-alone service from Verizon or Comcast.

There are some other variables, but nothing big I can think of. But surely, readers out there have weighed the same issues. What do you say?


pj@mediapost.com

8 comments about "Help Me Cut The Cord".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 27, 2015 at 5:35 p.m.

    I couldn't do it, and neither can you, but that's not the point. Yes, my wife and I are addicted to enough cable channels that no amount of strategy could keep us happy cutting the cord. But younger people? Yes, they could adjust if their habits are not yet ingrained. The cord-nevers have it easy. And my friends well-outside the media biz have already described how they cut the cable. They just watch Netflix and Hulu and broadcast. For me, impossible, not enough. For you, also unlikely. But for many people, no problem.

  2. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com replied, November 28, 2015 at 10:34 a.m.

    That's what I think too, but i'm going to try it. Thanks for the advice, though....PJ

  3. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, November 28, 2015 at 10:36 a.m.

    . . . mainly because 2016 is a presidential election year and there will be a lot of awful-ness I won't want to miss. I hate to say I want to see the political ads or insipid commentarty, but I sorta have to. 

  4. Peter Losh from Undisclosed , November 30, 2015 at 9:32 a.m.

    I'm a baby boomer who cut the cord a little over 6 months ago. Easiest thing ever. I now stream high quality content, commercial-free, and pay a fraction of what I paid for my cable bundle.

    But don't expect to recreate your cable experience via an internet connection -- it doesn't work that way. I had grown to hate cable with its trashy reality shows and frequent commercial interruptions, so I was primed for something better. I resented the fact that I had to pay subscription fees to networks hammering me with incessant messages to buy.

    When I made the move, I already had an Amazon Fire TV box. I also purchased a Roku, which supports more apps, and even a device to run Kodi, giving me unrestricted access to the internet, viewable on my TV. Now I stream from my choice of three different devices, but of course you really need only one.

    There are loads of free apps for news, including all the major news services, international news, and local news. Don't let cable news stand in the way of your decision. There are free apps for nearly everything else as well -- simply browse Amazon apps or the Roku Cannel Store for an idea of what's available.

  5. Peter Losh from Undisclosed , November 30, 2015 at 9:39 a.m.

    For me, what sealed the decision to cut the cord was finding a low cost Internet provider. Comcast threatened to jack up my service rates, so I went with a small company subleasing AT&T lines. The cost is far lower than Comcast ot AT&T, and the connection speed and reliability is actually better than anything Comcast ever offered.

  6. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost, November 30, 2015 at 11:05 a.m.

    OMG, P.J., if you can simplify this for me, it would be great.... I'm an Amazon Prime and Netflix customer, also have Verizon FiOS double-play--(no landline). I only want FiOS for internet as it's the best here in NYC. I do have a Roku. How can I get out of the Verizon bundle?

  7. ida tarbell from s-t broadcasting, November 30, 2015 at 5:40 p.m.

    They're emphasizing some of the dumb norwegian parlance this time around on Fargo, season 2 , which they did not do last year.  The two cops, Ted Danson and Patrick (the Little Children's 'Prom King') Wilson, are father and son-in-law cops, who mostly just stand around jawing as the two gangs of insiders against outsiders from Kansas City, go at it. I saw that fat-faced butcher in two movies and this series in a single week when the miniseries first started.  He was one of Johnny Depp's (whitey Bulger's) henchmen in Black Mass.  I saw him playing a GI in Bridge of Spies.  He and his dopey wife, Kirsten Dunst, have taken that overbearing older son from the local corrupt Minnesota Krutsgarg or something family, prisoner, according to episode 7 last Monday.  Fatface called the family from a phone booth to let them know he's holding their jerk son prisoner, to set up tonight's (Monday)  episode.  Breaking Bad used a crippled son as a ploy in its 82 episodes over five years.  I disliked that cheap ploy, couldn't quite figure out what value it had to the drama, other than creating a misshapen variation on the Louds of the PBS series American Family 3 decades ago.  Now we've got another one of those in the Krutsgarg local Minnesota family's inept kid with the misshapen fingers.  The secret of the successful miniseries I'm now certain, is to find the most corrupt and inept gargoyles possible from a local setting, then make horrible, politically incorrect fun of them onscreen, something the twisted public eats up like manna these days. We're so tired of everyone being nice.  If they don't look right, treat them like dirt.  I have to say, I generally love it.

  8. ida tarbell from s-t broadcasting, November 30, 2015 at 5:48 p.m.

    If you're looking for unlikely uplift, however, you must see the earnest British Suffragettes I sort of grazed through last (Sun) night , after watching an entirely different version of Victor Frankenstein, with James McAvoy playing Frankenstein, and emphasizing a new role for Egor Unchained backed by a baying hound. Egor is a circus hunchback Victor Frankenstein rescues from a circus that abuses him, while a corrupt Javerts-like Scotland Yard detective tries to nail both Vic and Egor for trying to resurrect the dead with jolts of lightning. I got a free ticket to both 2 weeks ago after I complained that it was cold in the theater and the terrible movie I've now forgotten hadn't started on time. I went back to the theater and waited for the Usher to show up.She gave me the free pass I used last night. I was the only person in that screen.Incidentally, it was cold in all the theaters Sunday night. The pass was for my trouble with the screem two weeks ago. The instant she left, I walked out of that theater and grazedto another film.I grazed to Suffragettes last (Sun) night after Victor Frankenstein and watched it in its grueling entirety.It was Dickensesque in the sense that these women conspiracists were being abused on every level by their eternal enemy, MEN, from Commons Leader Lloyd George, who took testimony from the heroine of the film, then told the women later the vote was no dice. to the conspiracists themselves, one of whom was inevitably trampled by a jockeyed horse at a posh King's racing event the girls decided to terrorize near the end of the film. Her death by jockey and horse was the shot heard round the world for women seeking the vote in Britain in 1918.It was reported all over the world.Scotland Yard was in a conspiracy of its own, according to the film, to suppress this coterie of ten suffragettes who placed bombs in public mail dropboxes, and staged a vicious terrorist event against Illustrious Bond Street in London, throwing rocks through windows during a Black Friday in England, much as Black Lives Matter did this past Black Thursday on Chicago's Miracle Mile. Scotland Yard is shown worried sick that newspaper reports of the girls' activities were foiling their attempt to shut down the ladies vote movement.The trampling to death of the woman at the Posh Horse event is the last straw. Our heroine works under terrible duress from bosses who takesexual liberties with the women working at the unbearable fabric factory, while at home, husbands feel giving the vote will deny them their treasured spousal rights.Our heroine's hubby is at first vaguely supportive, but when things go bad, he tosses the wife out in the street as the law allowed him to then, denying her seeing her son, then, unable to take care of the child, adopts him to another couple without even consulting the wife.Its grim stuff and difficult to watch. But of course I recommend it to the sturdier lot among you!

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