cutting the cord, my saga!
My cord cutting saga began in January of this year. After receiving yet another $250 + bill from my cable company, I'd had finally officially had enough, and reached my breaking point. As any prudent consumer would do, I contacted my cable provider, Verizon Fios, and figured I'd give them the "hey I've been a loyal customer for X number of years" pitch, in order to get some relief from my ever increasing cable bill.
Unfortunately, my interaction with Verizon Fios customer service did not end with most favorable results, as I ran into a customer service agent who was extremely unsympathetic to my concerns, and basically told me that as a consumer, I was free to explore my various cost-concious options for in-home entertainment; that and also that my service was due to increase $20.00 per month in August, WTF! Challenge accepted customer service rep!
The very next day, I called Verizon Fios and cancelled my service, and began the arduous task of disconnecting HD DVR and HD converter boxes, along with the requisite coax cables, from six televisions, what a pain in the ass! There was no better feeling than dropping-off all of the cable box converters and remote controls to the Verizon Fios office (pictured), it definitely felt liberating! But now what?
About two weeks prior to the final straw with Verizon Fios, I began exploring some of the streaming options that were available on the market. I started to test 3 different streaming options, SlingTV, DirecTV Now, and YouTube TV. When looking into streaming options, the first thing that you need to ask yourself is, how much TV do you actually watch? There were two factors that drove-up the price of my cable bill; first, with 6 HD converter / DVR boxes, between my equipment fees and taxes, I was already paying about $120 every month before premium channel costs and internet. I can also say that we had a TV channel package that was way more than we needed, as we didn't watch 1 tenth of all the channels available to us. So getting rid of the recurring equipment costs and taxes, and scaling back the number of unnecessary channels, was my main focus.
Let me first start by saying, that if you only watch a handful of network television shows on the major networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX, and you don't have a need to watch live TV, and can wait a day or two to see an episode, Hulu might be a viable option for you And at $7.95 per month, not counting what you would spend for your internet, you can get your TV at a real bargain. No matter what streaming service you choose, the only hardware cost that you will incur is for whichever specific streaming device or Smart TV that you choose to receive your streaming content. For me, since I am an Amazon employee, it just made sense to go with the Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV line of products, as I could get them at a bit of an employee discount. And the positive, that hardware cost is only a one-time cost, not recurring! Hulu wasn't a good option for me, because I like watching live TV, and receiving local news broadcasts, so it was immediately crossed off my list for consideration.
YouTube TV only gave me a passing interest, just for comparison sake, but the YouTube platform is still in the formative stages and shows some promise. $40 per month, for 60 channels, and a cloud-based DVR. The YouTube product does allow for up to 6 user accounts to be created for one household, but live local network channels will probably only be available in larger markets.
SlingTV is a product offered by Dish Network. SlingTV offers live TV, has an ala carte channel selection process by which you can choose your level of channel content, and can add on premium channels at an additional cost. SlingTV DVR works great, is very seamless, and easy to use. The only drawback for me with SlingTV, is that is did not offer live, local, network channels in my geographic area. This will vary by location, as local TV channels my be offered as part of the SlingTV basic channel line-up in larger metropolitan areas like New York City. Local channels can be added to the SlingTV service by adding on a device called an AirTV box. The AirTV box hooks up to an internal HD antenna, and is integrated with the SlingTV service, so that the local channels in your area will be integrated with your SlingTV viewing guide. The AirTV box runs about $120, and you will also need to purchase an internal or external HD antennae which can run an additional $20 to $100 depending on the brand and range of the antenna. The streamed network channels directly through the SlingTV platform had excellent clarity, however, local channel reception could be pixelated and spotty on occasion. So, a lot of add-ons to get a fully functional and seamless viewing experience, including local channels, via the SlingTV service. And isn't the point to cutting the cord, getting rid of all the extra peripherals and equipment? For that reason, SlingTV did not make the cut. SlingTV service runs between $25 and $40 per month, depending on the level of service and channels selected, and allows for up to 4 simultaneous streams depending on service level.
DirecTV Now, owned by DirecTV and AT&T, seemed to offer the best combination of value and product offerings. When I first tried the DirecTV Now service, many of the service features were still in the Beta testing stage, like their cloud DVR solution. Luckily, because of my involvement in Amazon's Beta testing program, I was able to gain early access to the Beta DirecTV app through Fire Stick and FireTV. In its' infancy, the DirecTV service could best be described as a trainwreck, as nothing really worked like it was supposed to. The streams were choppy, the cloud DVR function worked sporadically and didn't have the functionality to record network programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX; this was most likely due to licensing agreements that had yet to be completed. Network outages were commonplace, as unannounced upgrades to the streaming platform were being performed, or max users were putting excessive strain on the DirecTV Now servers during peak viewing periods. DirecTV Now couldn't even get the local channels right, as we went from having local Baltimore network channels, to District of Columbia local network channels, to New York local network channels, and finally back to Baltimore local network channels. Very frustrating to say the least, and meanwhile I had to take the unimpressed, "I told you so" looks from my better-half, who gave up cable, kicking and screaming, and was against the move to streaming services the whole time, smh.
I utilized the beta feedback platform and continued to bug the heck out of DirecTV Now customer service, asked for service refunds after periods of outages, posted to DirecTV Now service forums, and eventually after about a month of trials and tribulations, DirecTV Now finally got their act together. The Cloud DVR is included with the monthly fee, however, you do need to pay $5 additional for an extra, third simultaneous stream. A few television packages are available ranging between $45 to $75, with add-on premium channels available at additional cost. I opted to add HBO, Showtime, and Starz, and along with a $20.00 discount for having a wireless account with AT&T, puts my monthly service cost around $60, not including internet service. Remember, with cable, my equipment charges and taxes alone totaled $120.
But can we ever really sever ties completely with the cable companies? Right now, the answer is no, as you still need internet to facilitate all of the wonderful streaming options available. And cable companies are already hip to the "cutting the cord" trend as they have started to offer their own streaming options as an alternative, and will soon begin reserving their fastest internet speeds for customers bundling their services like cable, phone, and internet. I opted to go with Xfinity / Comcast, and their 1 GB internet option, as with upwards of 3 simultaneous streams, along with gaming consoles potentially being played at the same time, I certainly didn't want to compromise streaming quality. The Xfinity 1 GB internet is costing me approximately $130, so about $190 total now for my television viewing and internet, as compared to $290 that I would have been paying with Verizon Fios, with a lot less premium channel content.
Hopefully, my saga with cutting the cord has given you some good insight on what to expect and the various streaming options that are available; there are many more streaming services that I didn't touch on in this post. My household is still on the extreme side, when it comes to channel viewing options. Your selections, options, and costs could be a whole lot less. For instance, opting for Hulu and a 150 mbs internet connection, could cost as low at $40 per month, depending on incentive deals offered through your local cable companies for internet service. So happy hunting, happy viewing, and hopefully you will soon be joining the ranks of the cord cutters. And just think, the money you save, can be re-invested back into your watch hobby, LOL.