No, Not The Video Game
You may heard the term cord-cutting, but unless you are an avid tv nerd, you may not be familiar with the details.
Here’s a quick introduction to help you get started.
What Is A Cord-Cutter?
This means discontinuing Cable TV service by disconnecting the coaxial cable feed coming into the home.
The cord-cutting movement started as a counter-culture protest when techies figured out they could replace most, if not all, of broadcast and cable television with technological alternatives.
Note: The term can refer to broadband Cable TV or Satellite TV, or other traditional, subscription-based method for watching live TV.
Cord cutters have several motives:
Saving money – Cable fees have continued to creep upward and with fees for HD, multiple cable boxes, other add-ons, plus the phony mandatory service fees and fake taxes, it is not unusual to be stuck paying $50 to $100 for what used to be free, over-the-air television broadcasts.
More hardware viewing choices – Cord cutters want to watch TV programming on devices other than TV’s including smartphones, tablets, computers, and specialized electronics like video game consoles.
Traditional TV viewing is limited to actual TV equipment only.
A La Carte Services – Cable TV has a lot of additional services including sports passes, special interest channels, and local/regional shows, but they are grouped into inflexible bundles which means you often pay a lot more just to get the one or two programs you actually want.
Better Recording – Traditional Cable TV boxes with built-in digital video recording (DVR) features are large and clunky and have relatively limited hard drive storage for keeping a copy of shows you have watched, or want to watch, on demand.
Better Video and Audio Quality – Increasing image quality and sound requires extensive hardware and software upgrades in both the equipment they provide in your home and everything along the way.
It took forever for high definition channels to become available, yet many cable systems only have the minimum 720p HD resolution or the only slightly better 1080i. Forget about getting 1080p or actual 4K ultra-high def video.
How Does Cord Cutting Work?
Instead of delivering TV over a coaxial cable wire, TV shows and programs are sent as data over the Internet instead by streaming services for cord cutters.
In the same way that you can play video and listen to music with your computer, those Internet data streams can be the traditional or new TV content you want to watch.
To make this more than a science project, a lot of advanced technology had to mature and become cost effective.
We now have the fast Internet bandwidth to our homes, advanced low-cost hardware, and the sophisticated software necessary to make it all work.
None of this really existed just a few years ago, so that’s why this is a new and emerging alternative to standard Cable TV.
The Cake Is Still Baking
Cord-cutting is still in its infancy. That means there are are competing approaches, immature user interfaces, and a collection of apps that look different even though they do mostly the same thing.
Beware Fool’s Gold
I do want to caution you that if your primary motivation is to lower your monthly cable or satellite TV bill, you may be disappointed.
Cord Cutting has a lot of benefits, but depending upon what you want to keep watching, it may or may not save you very much money.
While Cable TV delivers everything you want with a single service, cord cutting may require you to subscribe to multiple services and use multiple hardware and software systems to replicate what you had.
The end result can be confusing, complicated, and not that much cheaper.
But don’t get me wrong, if you are unhappy with your cable or satellite provider (and who isn’t) and willing to be flexible, then giving the middle finger to corporate America is getting easier every day.
And the tech is still immature – the overall user interface and experience can be confusing, complicated, and disappointing.
Missing Channels and Content
Due primarily to legal licensing and business agreements, not technical issues, you can’t get all the TV stations and content you want from a single cord cutter service.
Local TV channels – for your local/regional news is problematic, along with a lot of sports coverage.
You can buy add-on services for network channels, local TV channels, and some or all the sports you want, but the incremental subscription costs add up quickly and you have to juggle multiple software apps and services to watch them.
Minimum Cord Cutter Hardware
This part is easy – if you don’t want to watch on an actual TV set, the only thing you need is a general purpose computing device and a good Internet connection.
Any modern smartphone, tablet, desktop, or laptop computer has the processing power, memory, and graphics chips to stream video and audio and play it in real time.
With the continuing increase in cellular network speeds and quality, if you have good reception, watching TV content on your smartphone or tablet is fine.
This is truly liberating. For a household where everyone has different viewing habits, likes and dislikes, no more fighting over the TV and remote control.
Kids or Grandma or Grandpa can retreat to the quiet of their own room to enjoy that teenage love story, soap opera, or lame comedy show that only they appreciate as they can watch on their own device.
The upcoming massive changeover to the newer 5G cellular network has the potential to make this a true game changer, stay tuned to see how that works out over the next few years.
Typical Cord Cutter Hardware
If you want to be a serious cord cutter, you’ll want to watch TV content on an actual TV. Why give up that awesome 77” screen and great sound system, just because you want to get rid of the cable box itself!
This does mean owning a newer TV (or buying one) that has built-in apps for watching streaming content.
These “smart TVs” are made by all the TV manufacturers – both name brands like LG, Sony, and Samsung; up and coming brands like Visio and TCL; and lots of unknown or store brands you may never have heard of.
The good news is there is no longer a “bad TV”. All televisions are good; the more expensive and name brand TV’s are better, but unlike the old days, nothing being sold for bargain basement prices is unusable junk.
Upgrading Older TV’s
If you have a perfectly fine dumb TV, you don’t have to rush out and replace it.
For prices ranging from $40 to $200, you can purchase add-on devices that connect to your existing TV and convert them into a SmartTV.
Amazon Fire Stick or FireTV, Google Chrome, Apple TV, and Roku are some of the most popular.
Most video game consoles also can be used. All that graphics horsepower to manipulate space ships or crazy monsters is more than up for the job.
Regardless of what you choose, simply look for devices that have the software, or apps, built-in to access popular cord-cutting services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, SlingTV, YouTube TV, etc.
SmartTV’s Can Be Dumb
With software and hardware rapidly changing, it hasn’t been easy for TV manufacturers to lead the charge in this area.
Most of the actual TV’s built-in “smarts” can be kinda dumb. Limited in the range of services they support, hard to use, poorly designed physical remote controls, and slow-or-never updated software.
Many avid cord-cutters choose to buy a streaming box or device and attach it to their TV bypassing the built-in “Smarts”, so keep that in mind.
If you prefer all the additional capabilities of an AppleTV or Roku, then don’t worry about the SmartTV apps and features if you are shopping for a new TV – spend your time and money on the TV itself.
If you have a multiple TV household, and the TV’s are different brands, it can be very confusing using different SmartTV apps on each one.
If you don’t want to be shaken with the reverberating yell of “How Do I get Netflix on this damn thing” at all hours of the day or night, consider making the small investment of hooking up the same exact media device to every single TV.
Setup For Success
Having worked with clients that cut the cord, and others that prefer to stay with traditional TV providers, I will advise you that the key to TV happiness is understanding all the options, setting your goals, and setting realistic expectations.
With a little flexibility in learning new apps and commands, a little bit of patience when things do work perfectly on the first try, and a willingness to endure a some trial and error, cord-cutting can be very enjoyable with unique benefits.
Flexibility in where and how you watch TV, cost savings, more choice and watch anywhere on anything is within your reach.