Will Cutting the Cord Really Save You Money?
JEFFERSON GRAHAM | Saturday, March 11, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — It seems that barely a day goes by without yet another announcement about a new entertainment streaming service, which raises the question: At what point do we start spending more dollars on streaming than cable TV?
The streaming services were supposed to be an on-demand, low-cost answer to all those hundreds of channels that we pay for but rarely watch on cable TV.
The “cutting the cord” movement began as a way to free ourselves from those huge cable bills and packages that offer hundreds of channels. We watch few of them — in fact, the average viewer tunes in to only 17, according to Nielsen.
Why not just pay for what we want, and see entertainment on demand, when we want? That’s what “cutting the cord” is all about. Ditching the bundles, hidden taxes and fees (mostly sports costs) that are driving up the costs of cable.
This week, two new subscription services were announced — Boomerang from Time Warner, offering classics from the Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera and MGM libraries, and BritBox from the BBC library of British drama.
Add those two, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Amazon, Filmstruck, Sling TV and more, and you could easily end up paying just as much as you do now with your cable bill.
If we could ditch that monthly $100-plus cable subscription for a streaming service or two, wouldn’t that be a better deal?
Sure, if we only pared ourselves down to free TV with an antenna and Netflix, then we’d be in great shape, at $10 a month.
I would argue that we’d also have to add in the high-speed internet charge to watch the stuff, and that would add another $40-$50.
(Serious cord-cutters disagree with me on this — they say we’d all be paying for the internet anyway, and the charge shouldn’t be counted.)
In a debate Thursday on Facebook Live, Luke Bouma, the owner of Cordcutternews.com, argued that the average person who ditched their cable was saving $100 monthly on their bill. I don’t disagree. But looking into the future, my point is, if you add many streaming services, your bill could get just as high as cable.
On the entertainment front, is Netflix really enough? With Hulu, you get access to the latest network TV shows from NBC, ABC and Fox, for $12 monthly, without commercials. And many of us love the idea of HBO Now on-demand, with access to the entire library of HBO shows, from “The Sopranos” to “Games of Thrones.”
Add another $15 monthly for HBO.
So now we’re at $90 a month. Which is about on par with what we currently pay for cable.
The monthly services — Netflix, Hulu, Boomerang, CBS All-Access — are priced in the $5-$12 range.
The “skinny bundle” is another animal, in the $20-$35 range, aimed at a pure cable replacement. The switch is that instead of getting the 1,000-channel bundle, you get only the handful of channels you want. YouTube TV is launching with its $35 offering in the spring, and Sling TV, Play Station and DirecTV offer their bundles now.
It’s hard to see how with a skinny bundle, plus services such as Netflix, HBO Now and a few others, we won’t end up paying as much as we do now with cable.
And we all know how easy it is to sign up — but darn impossible to stop the charges when we want to cancel. You generally can’t email the services; you have to call and wait on hold forever.
So maybe the idea of just having one master bill — from your pay-TV provider — isn’t so bad after all.
It may be a little cheaper today, but looking into the crystal ball, we’re seeing a cloudy, pricey future for all things subscriptions.
Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post: Your ultimate guide to cutting cable and saving money on streaming TV