How to Cut the Cord - Save on Your Monthly Cable Bill

in cable •  4 months ago

Overview:
Are you ready to join the millions of people ditching costly cable packages but aren’t sure where to start? This ten minute post will provide you key information to start you on your journey along with comparisons of some of the devices and services out there. There are three key steps to take:

  1. Determine your Internet Needs
  2. Connect your TV to the Internet
  3. Build a package of low cost apps and free online services

STEP 1 - Your Internet Needs:
The first thing you need is internet access. All of the services we will walk through need an internet connection so you can stream or download shows. Based on your interest in cutting the cord, you probably have a bundle that includes both internet and TV and the costs have gotten too high.

What causes your cable bill to get so expensive is all of the added channels that get bundled in. TV packages and bundles are designed to meet profit targets for the cable company. This means they haven’t been tailored to your individual needs. You may be paying for channels you never watch and you also may be paying for more internet speed than you use. Our goal is to help you find the services that deliver the content you need and have an internet package that supports your experience. Anything more than that is where your money goes out the window.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The information and recommendations we provide are based on streaming TV and movies. If you also stream music, surf the web, or send and receive photos online, you will need to consider that added usage. Also, services can frequently change and other options may be available to you on a local or regional level. We recommend learning the concepts, exploring these options, and then calling the company to review plan specifics.

When it comes to selecting an internet plan, the important factors to weigh are price, download speed, and amount of data usage per month. You want to first figure out what speed and data usage you need, and then find a provider that best meets those needs. If you just shop for “the best deal”, you may end up buying more speed or data than you will even use.

Download Speed – How much data are you streaming each second?
The first thing to consider is what sort of content do you want to watch. Are you watching HD or do you have a 4K UHD TV? Are you streaming shows that have already aired or do you plan to stream Live TV?

If you are planning to stream HD content on demand, 5 Mbps of download speed will work for many of the services out there. If you instead want to stream Live TV you will need about 10 Mbps. If you want to stream in 4K UHD, you will need closer to 15 Mbps. All of these estimates are for using one device at a time. If your family will have multiple devices streaming at the same time, you will need to increase these amounts accordingly. While you don’t want to pay for more speed than you use, you definitely don’t want to buy too little. If you don’t have enough speed, it will directly impact your viewing experience with high lag or issues connecting altogether. Before you sign up for a plan, you may want to talk over your usage with a representative. Keep in mind though, they are in sales and will try to upsell you to a bundle with TV included.

Monthly Data Usage – How much data are you streaming each month?
As far as monthly data is concerned, streaming shows will use around 1 GB to 3 GB per hour for HD quality, and around 5 GB per hour for 4K UHD. While you likely don’t need unlimited access, streaming shows can quickly add up. If you usually watch 2 hours of TV per day, that works out to 60 hours per month. Even if you stream in HD and not 4K UHD, you would be up to 60 GB to 180 GB of data. Any additional data usage like sharing photos or videos by phone or tablet would also add onto this total.

Compare your options and costs
There are many national and regional internet services to choose from. Here is a list of some of the widely used ones. Package information is based on what was available at time of publishing this page and overall access and pricing can vary based on location. Use this as a guide, but then click through to their site to see what they offer in your area and gain more information on any promotions they are offering.

Frontier – Frontier offers lower cost cable options such as $25 for 12 Mbps, but their better overall value would be their Fiber Optic (FiOS) plans. At the time of this writing, they were offering a 150 Mbps plan for $40 per month. FiOS plans are not offered in all areas, so it is important to check and see if available in your service area.

Verizon FiOS – Verizon also offers FiOS plans, which cost $39.99 for up to 100 Mbps speeds. If FiOS isn’t offered in your area, they may also offer a DSL plan with up to 15 Mbps instead.

Spectrum – Spectrum offers traditional cable plans that can provide 60 Mbps of download speed for $44.99 and their Ultra Internet offers 100 Mbps for $89. While this does not offer the same value as a FiOS plan, this can be a great option if you do not have FiOS offered in your service area.

xfinity – xfinity offers a wide range of plans and lays them out side by side in terms of number of devices and viewing speed. There are budget options to choose from such as $29.99 for up to 15 Mbps, $39.99 for up to 60 Mbps, and even packages that exceed 1000 Mbps if your family uses multiple devices simultaneously including online gaming.

STEP 2 - Connect your TV to the Internet
If you already have a Smart TV, go ahead and skip down to section 3. These devices are only needed if you do not have a Smart TV.

Roku – Roku offers a range of products that start at $30 for easy access to channels and services and go all of the way up to $100 if you want to support 4K UHD, voice remote, and additional features. Roku provides you with some free channels and content as well as the ability to use paid services like Netflix or Hulu. They offer additional channels, like HBO or SHOWTIME that you can pay to add on. The affordability, ease of use, and customization options make Roku a great overall value.

Google Chromecast – At a price of $35, Google Chromecast is one of the lowest cost that you can find. Chromecast plugs into your TV via an HDMI port and then connects your TV to your computer or tablet. You can then use any of the services you have set up on your computer, smartphone or tablet like Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube. If you are comfortable playing your show on your computer, tablet, or phone wile viewing it on your TV, Chromecast is a very affordable option for you.

Amazon Fire TV – Amazon offers the Fire TV Stick for $40 (currently on sale for $29.99) or the Fire TV for $55 if you want to view in 4K UHD. These give you access to subscription services like Hulu and Netflix as well as Amazon Instant Video and Music. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you will also get their additional free content. If you already use these Amazon services, then the Fire TV Stick is a great option to consider.

Apple TV – Apple TV provides a great value for people who regularly use Apple products and services. At a price of $149 for HD or $179-$199 for 4K, it is the most expensive of these options. It uses the Apple TV App and lets you view shows that you have purchased or rented through the app. It also works with other services you have signed up for like Hulu or Netflix. You even have the ability to view content from your phone, including your photo library and videos. The remote even uses Siri which rounds out the Apple experience. If you love other Apple products and services, then Apple TV may well be worth the price.

STEP 3 - Build Your Streaming Package:

Important Consideration – Do you need to stream live content?
Many low cost and even free services will let you watch shows that have already aired. Finding services that let you stream Live TV is more challenging and can come with added costs. This is where some people end up paying too much or losing out on important shows. Before we walk through your streaming options, take a moment to think about how you want to watch Live TV.

Are their network channels like CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX that you like to watch live? Do you watch Local News or any Sports games like NBA and NCAA Basketball or NFL Football? If only one channel matters, you can save money by adding on an app or service with that channel only. If there are multiple channels you want to watch live though, you will want one of the expanded services below.

Network Apps – Free streaming and paid upgrades for live TV and sports
CBS – The free CBS app is available for download through your phone or tablet, your Smart TV, and even Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and Apple TV. You can watch full episodes on demand the day after they air. They also offer additional shows through CBS All Access for $5.99 a month. This service lets you stream CBS shows live, which even includes NFL on CBS (NFL not available on mobile phones). CBS All Access also lets you watch episodes from prior seasons as well as some new exclusive new shows like Star Trek: Discovery.

NBC – NBC has a free app available for download through your phone or tablet, your Smart TV, and even Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and Apple TV. You can also stream shows off of their website after they have aired at http://www.nbc.com. They also have a free NBC Sports app available for download or you can stream shows online at http://www.nbcsports.com/live, however both of these options require a paid network TV service with a cable or dish provider.

ABC – ABC also has a free app available for download, as well as the ability to stream episodes from the most recent season on http://abc.go.com/. Some shows require you to have network TV service with a cable or dish provider, so this will not give you as much content as the other networks do. In some cities you can also stream TV live, but with the same restriction about needing to have network TV service with another provider.

FOX – Similar to NBC, FOX offers a free app for download, as well as the ability to stream episodes from the most recent season on https://www.fox.com/shows/. They have a live TV option, however this feature requires a pay TV provider, similar to ABC. They also have a FOX Sports app or you can view on https://www.foxsportsgo.com/, but this also requires a paid network TV service.

Live TV and Sports – Streaming with Hulu and Sling TV
Hulu – Hulu offers its basic streaming service for $7.99 per month which lets you watch shows from its library. This includes shows from current seasons, prior seasons, a wide variety of channels and even some movies. While there are many shows you can choose from, it does not include live programming. For $39.99 per month, Hulu with Live TV provides you all of the content you will find in Hulu’s streaming library plus Live Local TV and Regional Sports Networks. Hulu offers a free 7 day trial for this service.

Sling TV – Sling TV starts with the basic Orange Package at $20 per month. This includes a wide variety of channels, some of them specific to where you live. You can also add on “Extras” which are groups of similar channels. These Extras, like Comedy or Kids, generally cost an added $5 per month. Sling TV does not have an extensive library that you are streaming from, instead you watch shows as they air. For $5 more per month, you can add on a cloud based DVR so you can record shows and view them on your own schedule. Sling TV also offers a free 7 day trial.

Live TV and Sports – HD Antennas
HD Antennas – An HD Antenna may seem like an old school or outdated approach, as you are actually buying an antenna and connecting it to your TV. There are multiple designs to choose from which actually look much nicer than the rabbit ears or even bulky rooftop mounted antennas. The advantage of an HD Antenna is that it is a one time cost to buy the antenna, between $10 and $100 depending on how powerful of one you would like, and then you can watch Live TV with no monthly cost.

Here is a link to an FCC page that lets you view what channels you can pick up in your area, and generally what sort of signal strength or quality you may expect. This can be a great gauge for determining how strong an antenna you may want to get.

https://www.fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps

After you get an idea of how strong an antenna you would like, here are three different popular choices that are affordable for the indicated range.

1byone 25 Mile Range Antenna, on sale for $9.99
1byone 50 Mile Range Antenna, on sale for $21.99
Mohu Leaf 60 Mile Range Antenna, on sale for $59.99

Streaming additional shows, movies, and original content
Netflix – Netflix has one of the largest archives of TV episodes and movies to stream, including their original content like Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black. It is very low cost at $7.99 per month or $10.99 per month for HD quality. You usually won’t find new releases or episodes from current seasons, so Netflix is a great addition to the other services above.

How to bring it all together and build a package for you
Here are a few packages that you can put together, based on the information previously shared in these pages. In each of these examples, we will assume you do not have an internet enabled TV and include a device to connect your TV. If any these packages meets your needs, sign up for the services you do not already have and disregard any of the services you don’t need. There is no one right way to do this, but use this framework as your guide.

Example 1: Streaming Network Channels on Demand, No Live TV

Internet Connection: Verizon FiOS 100 Mbps – $39.99 per month
Connecting TV to Wi-Fi: Roku Express – $30 one time
Streaming TV: Free Network Apps (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) – $0 per month
Projected one time costs: $30
Projected monthly costs: $39.99

Example 2: Streaming Network Channels on Demand with Live TV through Antenna

Internet Connection: Verizon FiOS 100 Mbps – $39.99 per month
Connecting TV to Wi-Fi: Roku Express – $30 one time click here
Live TV: 1byone 25 Mile Range Antenna – $9.99 one time click here
Streaming TV: Free Network Apps (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX)- $0 per month
Projected one time costs: $39.99
Projected monthly costs: $39.99

Example 3: Streaming with Live TV on any device

Internet Connection: Verizon FiOS 100 Mbps – $39.99 per month
Connecting TV to Wi-Fi: Roku Express – $30 one time
Live TV and Streaming TV: Hulu with Live TV – $39.99 per month
Projected one time costs: $30.00
Projected monthly costs: $79.98

Example 4: Streaming Expanded Content, Channels, and Movies

Internet Connection: Verizon FiOS 100 Mbps – $39.99 per month
Connecting TV to Wi-Fi: Roku Express – $30 one time
Streaming TV: Sling TV, Blue Package – $25 per month
Add Cloud DVR – $5 per month
Add HBO – $15 per month
Add SHOWTIME – $10 per month
Streaming Movies: Netflix Standard Plan – $10.99 per month
Projected one time costs: $30.00
Projected monthly costs: $105.98

In Closing
These examples show you how you can create your own package of free and paid services, tailored to your needs. Every service you pay for needs a reason to be in your package. Why buy a Roku if you already have a Smart TV? Why pay for Hulu if you only watch shows you can get for free on the CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX apps?

We hope this has given you the tools to understand how to cut the cord without giving up the shows you want. If you have the right package in place, you can even save money while adding on more shows. It’s all about finding the right services that deliver the best value, and not buying more than you need.

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