Technology is rapidly changing. For the most up-to-date guide to cord-cutting, check out our article on cable TV alternatives.
A recent study by The Diffusion Group reported in USA Today said that around 7% of pay television subscribers were “highly likely” to cancel their service in the next six months.
The cost of “triple play” services offered by phone and cable companies has increased about 6.3% annually for the past three years, according to Macquarie Capital analyst Kevin Smithen.
Overall inflation during that period was down around 2%.
“Cord cutting” has gained traction recently, as major cable providers Comcast, TimeWarner, Cablevision, and Charter lost a net 320,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2013.
According to Digital Trends, by 2016, an estimated 9 million households will ditch cable altogether.
If you have been thinking about cutting the cord, here’s what you should know about hardware, content, and possible set-ups.
HD Antennas – allow you to get over-the-air HD broadcasts for free as long as you’re within a 30-mile or so radius of the transmitter and aren’t hindered by mountains or tall buildings.
These can cost anywhere from $20 to $500 depending on amplification abilities.
Roku – a small box that connects to your television and wireless (or wired) computer network, allowing you to watch Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon content, plus other free and paid options.
Roku boxes cost $50 to $100, depending on the model.
Smart TVs– Panasonic and Samsung are two of the manufacturers that make televisions with internet access built in. You connect them to your wireless network and launch apps with the remote.
Content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Blockbuster, Pandora, and other services can be accessed with smart TVs.
EyeTV – a device that picks up broadcast signals so you can watch broadcast TV on your iPad or iPhone by using a free app.
Apple TV – a front-end iTunes device that allows you to download music and movies and play them over your TV.
Apple TV connects to Apple iCloud service, but there is no TV tuner or DVR capability.
Boxee – from D-link, Boxee lets you organize shows and watch them on your TV. It also includes a live TV antenna so you can bring in broadcast television.
You can also use it for web access, apps, and files.
Game Consoles – Netflix lets you play movies through PlayStation 3 or Xbox.
You can also get TV tuners that let you turn your game consoles into home entertainment devices.
Netflix – a favorite gateway for cord cutters who don’t mind getting TV shows after they’re aired.
You get unlimited streaming of movies and television shows, and you can use it with Roku and other devices. It costs $7.99 per month (first month free).
YouTube – can be accessed through your computer, iOS or Android device, and also through devices like Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3.
iTunes – sells television shows and sells or rents movies.
You can download TV shows for $1.99 per episode (which can add up quickly) but there are some free TV shows, as well as discounted season passes for some series.
Hulu – a joint venture of Disney, Fox, and NBC Universal, Hulu makes you watch commercials during TV shows and movies even on Hulu Premium, which costs $7.99 per month.
Some Hulu content (like “The Daily Show”) can be hard to find elsewhere.
Amazon Instant Video – a service that’s free for Amazon Prime members, which costs $79 per year and gets you free two-day shipping for qualifying Amazon purchases.
PlayOn – is Windows software that lets you play Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and others via PlayStation 3, Wii, or Xbox 360 for $7.99 per month or $39.99 annually.
Your Public Library – a source for TV and movies on DVD. Selection depends on your library’s choices, of course, but when you return them on time, they’re free.
Here are 5 possible configurations for cutting the cable.
1. Hulu Plus / Netflix Streaming / Amazon Prime / Your Computer – Roughly $23 per month gets you an awful lot of television and movie choices, though you’re stuck watching them on your computer.
Hulu Plus offers many popular television programs the day after they air.
2. Netflix / Internet-Ready TV / Non-Cable ISP – Getting internet service from a company other than the cable company can save you money, even over “triple-play” deals.
If you have AT&T U-verse, you can get selected television shows for free, or you can upgrade for more options.
3. EyeTV Mobile / iPad / Netflix – EyeTV Mobile uses tuner technology that lets you watch broadcast television on your iPad or iPhone with the free EyeTV Mobile app.
The device costs $100 and isn’t available everywhere, so you need to check coverage maps on the EyeTV website.
4. Apple TV / Hulu Plus / Netflix / iTunes – This combination saves significantly over the cost of cable, depending on how many episodes or seasons of shows you end up buying on iTunes.
5. HD Antenna / DVD Player / TV Set / Your Library – This is about as cheap as it gets, because everything’s a one-time expense (unless you let your DVD checkouts become overdue).
It requires more planning, and you need to be within range of broadcast towers, but you don’t need an internet connection.
What You’ll Have a Hard Time Getting
The main objection of many potential cord cutters is to giving up live events (like awards shows) and live sports. Plus, there aren’t any good options for getting HBO content until well after it has aired.
With sports, there are options where you can pay for season passes, like with MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NHL Game Center.
CBS has offered March Madness on Demand streaming for free to PCs and iOS devices, but cable games require authentication through pay TV providers.
Additionally, many streaming live sports packages are subjects to blackouts based on local and cable broadcasts, so be sure you know exactly what you’ll give up if you’re a sports fan looking to cut the cord.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.