More and more people are cutting the cord and choosing other ways to get their favorite shows instead of paying for a traditional cable package.
The options range from buying an antenna to adding streaming services. In some cases, consumers say they’re saving up to $100 a month. But experts warn: you should do your research before you cancel your current service because you could end up paying more.
I went through the process hoping to lower my $180 bill. I was paying for over 200 channels that I didn’t even use. So I wondered: Should I ditch cable and rely on a streaming service or use an antenna?
"That's been the topic lately and that's the buzzword: cutting the cord," says Jeff Vansyckle, IT supervisor at WZZM. As his bills skyrocketed to $180 dollars a month, he opted for both an antenna and a few streaming services.
"I've got Netflix, Hulu, regular and an antenna. So, I'm at about $90 with internet and streaming services."
For Jeff, switching was easy. But, if you're not familiar with the process, it can be confusing. We'll start with an antenna. "The outdoor antennas are the best. They have the best reception. And if you have multiple TVs, you're going to want better reception to get to those other TVs as well."
Here in West Michigan, all the television stations offer at least 3+ channels. Vansyckle says if you have a good antenna, you're easily going to get 35-45 channels.
That's the best-case scenario. You should do your own test at home. I found that most indoor antennas cost around $30 to $50. The one I bought says it has a 55 mile range. I took it to my house on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids. My friend Arlen Smith helped me set it up. Even though I’m in the TV business, I couldn’t figure out how to do it on my new “smart” TV!
Smith has been designing and installing audio/visual systems for 35 years, so I let him figure it out. First, you must scan your TV for available channels. "There are 3 channels under 3, there are 3 under 8. We’re not getting channel 13 at all," said Smith.
What? No Channel 13? That's not an option for me. "We're not getting 13 or 35, probably because there’s a big hill or building in the way."
Smith says it all depends on where you live. In this case, some of the TV stations have transmitters to the south. WZZM is to the North. He gets channel 13 great at his house, which is located on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids.
As for me, I ended up sticking with Comcast cable and chose a basic package with internet. I should note that the internet portion of my bill went up drastically, so I canceled my subscription altogether and negotiated a new deal a few days later. I previously paid over $180. Now, my bill is $80. I also added a streaming service, Sling TV, for $25. I get Hallmark, Lifetime, Disney and more.
Keep in mind, if you want to stream video, you will need internet, a smart TV or a device like a Firestick, Apple TV or Roku. "Which is a onetime purchase. But, if you have 2 or 3 TVs, you'll need one for every TV,” said Vansyckle. "Ultimately, we're not really cutting the cord, you're changing the cord."
I can’t express enough: shop around. There may be a better option than the one you’re getting with your current provider. I put together a hybrid service that allows me to get the channels I want and nothing more.
In response to this story, I asked the area’s top satellite and cable providers to respond. Here’s what DISH, DIRECT TV, Comcast/Xfinity, and Spectrum/Charter had to say about cutting the cord.
Sling TV: It became the first live over-the-top TV provider when DISH launched the service in 2015. With the introduction of Sling TV, DISH offers a TV solution for everyone, whether you're an urban dweller looking for a lower cost TV option with more choice and control (Sling TV) or if you live in a more rural area where satellite TV service makes the most sense (DISH).
XFINITY: We deliver high-speed data, video, voice, home security and home automation. We feel bundling services, like these, together offers a better value and experience than standalone services for most customers.
We understand different segments of customers have different needs and we offer a variety of packages to meet those needs. For example, for those considering "cutting the cord", we introduced Xfinity Instant TV. This new service allows customers to stream live sports, top shows, local news, and more on any device without a long-term commitment or TV box.
The service can be added for as low as $18, which includes local channels and the most commonly watched channels. Customers can pick different genre packs to build the channel lineup that best fits their needs.
Charter Spectrum: Spectrum added TV customers overall in the fourth quarter of 2017. Our investments in more HD and On Demand options, our guide and search functions and simple, nationally consistent packages and prices are helping us keep and even add new customers. The free Spectrum TV app gives customers more flexibility than ever to watch their favorite content on different devices and platforms.
Most customers tell us they see streaming services as a complement to their Spectrum TV package, and we want them to have the best experience. That is why we recently increased the starting speed of Spectrum Internet to 100 Mbps, and we're also working on integrating streaming services into our Spectrum TV set-top boxes.
Direct TV Now: is a great compliment to AT&T's broader video portfolio for those considering non-traditional options. This over-the-top (OTT) video product allows customers to stream live TV at home or on-the-go with a smartphone, tablet or compatible streaming device for your TV.
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