As part of this switch over, we installed an over-the-air antenna. This allows us to pick up a large number of local channels. We live close enough to the Des Moines metro area that we can pick up strong signals from a lot of stations in Des Moines. (It’s worth noting that this is aided by the fact that there’s a repeater tower within five miles of our house, which means the signals are strong.) This includes the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS – and a large number of additional channels of varying quality, including an all-children’s channel and a channel that seems to be nothing but a loop of the weather forecast.
It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.
Cord cutting simply means canceling your pay-TV service. Cord cutting has been a growing trend since 2009, when over-the-air broadcast signals switched from analog to digital. People began to realize that they could now get the vast majority of their favorite TV shows in beautiful HD using a simple television antenna rather than paying monthly fees to a TV provider.
Another thing to consider is if you can set up antenna TV to catch local channels. While it might not work for everyone or everywhere, if there's a network TV show you just have to see live then this is the cheapest option. Digital TV antennas are easy to find with designs ready for home and apartments -- check out our guide for more info on how to choose the right one.
A Nielsen report showed that during the fourth quarter of 2011, the number of people paying for television had dropped by 15 million people (a rate of 1.5 percent), and the number of cable subscribers dropped by 2.9 million. A 2012 Deloitte report said 9% of television households dropped cable service during 2011 and an additional 11% planned to cancel their service. Sanford Bernstein estimates 400,000 dropped pay video services during the second quarter of 2012, up from 340,000 in 2011. One reason for the drop was college students' returning home for the summer, while the companies made up for the loss in other quarters. However, the number of new homes paying for television service is less than the total number of new homes. Another possible reason is services, such as time shifting and live recording capabilities, that were once exclusive to pay television services, are now being offered to cord cutters. Although the number of subscribers usually increases in the third quarter, in 2012 only 30,000 people added pay television service, according to a study by the International Strategy & Investment Group. Cable lost 340,000 subscribers (with Time Warner Cable accounting for 140,000 of that number) and satellite gained only 50,000; telephone companies added 320 subscribers. Throughout 2012, pay television added only 46,000 new subscribers, out of 974,000 new households overall, according to SNL Kagan. 84.7 percent of households subscribed, compared to 87.3 percent in early 2010.
By the time you factor in functionality, premium channels, etc., most of these cord cutting options fall short in their ability to even keep up with what Comcast can provide a household. People paying over $200 for cable are also paying for their voice lines as well as their high speed internet, which, mind you, is required to even sustain these cord cutting offerings.
*XFINITY Digital Starter TV: Offer ends 09/30/14. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Limited to new residential customers. Requires subscription to Digital Starter TV service. Equipment, installation, taxes, and fees, including Broadcast TV Fee (currently up to $1.50/mo.) extra, such charges and fees subject to change during and after the promotion. After 12 months, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Pick a Premium offer limited to Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and HBO. Not available to customers who previously subscribed to the selected premium or with any packages which include the selected premium. After 12 months, the regular monthly service charge for each selected premium channel applies. Comcast's current monthly service charges range, based on area, as follows: Digital Starter TV, from $50.99 to $71.99, and Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and HBO, from $14.95 to $19.99 each (pricing subject to change). TV service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. Limited Basic service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand™ selections subject to charge indicated at the time of purchase. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month's recurring service charge and standard installation up to $500. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2014 Comcast. All rights reserved.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
Also, a little note, because my family uses ATT Unlimited for their cell phone service. I only pay $10/month for DirecTV Now. And every other package that I may want to try is $25 less than the general public (e.g. the "Just Right" package for me would cost $25, vs. $50 for the general public; the "Go Big" package is $35 for me, $60 for most others). Also, the premium channel HBO only costs me and anyone else just $5 more per month. I haven't experienced the "inconsistent video quality [and] a suboptimal interface" that you describe, but then again, I have 1 Gbit speed for my Internet connection. Even if I didn't have that speed, I think for the price of $15/month with live TV, and HBO to boot, it's a great deal, and DTV Now is getting better month-by-month. Yes, DVR is in beta, but it is going to happen.
Love your story Ron P. I laughed out loud when I got to where indirect tv gave you the impetus. It is too bad that there is so much evil greed in this world. Even beyond the outrageous satellite and cable costs that is why even with streaming services many of us have to pay for a load of channels we don’t need. We get about half an hour of content per hour, so even with all of the ad revenue they also charge us a ton to send their ads to us. I do not trust them to not run a lot of these costs up when they get us again stuck using their services. If it isn’t collusion it is in effect the same thing. Evil.
The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time.