Cord Cutter Guide pt 2 – Services Overview

Cable services have long been out there. Starting out as a natural way to extend broadcast TV viewing, they offered the chance of watching TV without ads. While more and more channels surged, the cable companies slowly added those new channels. All through the analog-cable era the one challenge that cable encountered was how to squeeze more channels through the coax wires. As digital options and better compression developed, the chance to get more and more channels increased. The cable companies remained with a model where the receiver (the set-top box) was the one device decompressing the signal into whatever channels you paid to see. A few more years passed and satellite technology combined with TiVo enabled a new generation of devices and DVR services… but the model remained the same.

Ultimate cord cutter guide

You paid for a basic set of channels and there were some additional packages, which you could add-on. That was it.

With so many channels per subscription, and the option to just watch some services online, the market started to shift into demanding an a-la-carte type of service where you would choose what channels you would watch. This triggered a cultural shift. We are at a point where younger audiences no longer seek watching TV sourced from cable companies.

And it’s rubbing off everyone else… like me.

Tech savvy audiences want to watch whatever content they want without having to pay for what they are not interested in. There are multiple flavors in this audience: the pay very little to watch, the pay as you go, the pay to DVR from and watch from anywhere, etc. We all have different definitions of what content is worth paying for. The common denominator is always “I want to pay for what I watch, no more, no less”.

Back to the business at hand, the big question is what do you do to get into the cord cutting bandwagon?

Step #1 – Can You Cut The Cord Soon Enough?

First of all, you need to know whether you are on a timed contract. Companies like Comcast, AT&T, Warner Cable, etc love to keep their customers time-trapped so that even if they leave, the companies still make a profit out of it. They love to present this to you as “a discounted rate as long as you stay with us for X long”. While they may or may not have a way to enforce the payment of such early termination fees (ETF), the reality is that you still may want to leave…

This guide will walk you through the options you have to kick that cable company you use out of your home and replace it with services that will save you anywhere from 50% to 95% of what you were originally paying for similar, if not the same services.

Step #2 – How much will it cost to stop services?

Bundle savings have a way to bite you in the rear. If you have internet and cable services from a single provider. In my case, it was AT&T, I had a bundle that was giving me an extra saving on every monthly bill. Find out from your provider how your internet would be affected if you were to cut one of the services completely. Especially when retaining internet access.

I had internet access, landline, and cable through AT&T U-Verse. I could cut one if I wanted, but cutting two would de-bundle my services and I would have to pay the “list price”. They gave me several options:

  1. Pay a list price for internet access, this would also add a monthly bandwidth cap of 1 Tb (1 terabyte – or 1000 gigabytes). Before I did not have this cap.
  2. Keep “basic TV” (which is not basic cable) and keep my current internet price and avoid the monthly cap. But there was a price for this service. This would mean that I would still be paying for TV service from AT&T and I would only have broadcast channels for about $20 a month.
  3. Keep phone landline bundled with internet and keep the internet service. Which would not cut the landline monthly fee.

In the end it’s all a matter of numbers. Just do the math, right? Well in doing so; it turned out that the option for de-bundling and eliminating the landline and the cable completely still made sense. The only question was whether I would go over the cap every month or not. As it turns out, I am way under the cap. I monitored during my trial.

Step #3 – Choose Services

Once you resolved the ETF and de-bundling conundrum, you can move on to choosing a service (or combination of services) that will cover your needs. This particular step is the main deterrent for making the change. This step requires of a deep analysis to see how you would cover for all the programs you would watch. I will break it down for you easily so you can follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of the programs you watch and what channels have those shows on. If you already use a DVR for recording these shows, you can go to recordings and see what is scheduled to record. Please be careful because depending on the device you have for DVR, shows that are not in season may or may not show up in this list. In addition to the shows you record, remember to also list the shows that you watch from time to time. You want to make sure that you can watch all the shows you normally watch.
  2. Review the list of service providers and whether they offer these channels and or programs. You may end up choosing for a combination of services to cover your needs. For this step’s sake, list all services that it takes to cover all your shows, even if multiple services cover a specific show, list all services that do so. This will come useful in step D where you will end up crossing some of these up.
  3. Do you time-shift your watching of programming? If you do, you need to find out if the services you’ve chosen have a DVR service, On-Demand service or any other alternate way of watching after then fact. If they don’t. Are you willing to watch live TV so you don’t miss your favorite programs? Time-shift watching features are very fluid in the current market. Some services have already announced availability while others are beta-testing and others have not even said anything about this service. Be aware that nobody calls this service for what it is (time-shifting) contractual implications that they may have with the content producers. Some names for this service are recordings, on demand, watch list, my watch list, favorites, available now, etc.
  4. The device you use matters to you and the people you will be sharing this service with. Cord cutting has an added benefit of allowing you to watch these services on other screens that may not have been available before. You could watch on smartphones, tablets, computers, even gaming consoles. Think about this in terms of what you do now or what you may do in the short-term. Devices change, and these services will adapt. Do not make a 5 year plan. This will help you resolve the change immediately. What devices will you watch these programs on? Are you a Google home? An Amazon home? Independently Roku? Have a Playstation or an Xbox? Will you stream or cast from your computer to the TV? Avoid using a TV completely? Some devices are as low as $25 for a one time purchase price. The prices do go up from there. Normally you should expect to spend $30 – $100 for a stand alone device such as a Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, etc. Have in mind that the higher resolution you buy for, not only the higher the price of the device, but the more data that will be streamed into the device using more bytes-per-second for each image.
  5. Choose and buy devices to watch. You may want to complement your devices with something different or you may want to buy one device for every screen. In any case, now is the time to see what services have the programming you want to cover and out of those services what devices are supported in which devices. For example I already had an Xbox One on our living room big-screen TV, so I didn’t need to buy a device for it, but it had to be combined with whatever I purchased for the TVs on the other rooms.

All these questions are important to answer. Depending on your answers, you will either choose one or another service. Some services are very similar to the options you have today, others are nothing like it. The idea here is to choose what you can use and still save a decent chunk of change at the end of the month.

Step #4 – Subscribe To Services And Monitor Your Total Data Used

At this point you do not kiss the cable company goodbye, you subscribe to those services you plan on using. Most services offer a free-trial period (they will vary from service to service). Usually it’s one week or more. Give yourself one week with the free-trial option and then decide if this is for you.

This could be too much of a change for some people. You may not want to do this after all. As services evolve, you may be able to reevaluate at a later time.

While you evaluate, you also need to watch out for how much data you are using. You do not want to go over your monthly data cap, because you would have to pay overages. It turns out that my data usage was nowhere near my data cap.

Step #5 – Cut That Cord Now And Kiss The Cable Company Goodbye!

If you are ready, cut the cord and never look back! Call the cable company and let them know that starting immediately you do not want to have their services. You may need to ship back the tuner(s) or set top boxes you were using. Some companies like AT&T have an agreement with UPS where you can turn in the box at any UPS store as long as you have already stopped the service and you fill out a form for them. This is part of the cancellation process. They will let you know what you need to do with their devices.

Step #6 – What Other Services Can I Replace with Cord Cutting?

The next best thing to cut; if you have not cut it already is your phone landline. The landline is usually, but not always, bundled with your cable services. This is also a good opportunity to cut the cord as well. Follow the steps in the article for changing your landline into a $0 monthly expense with my guide here.

Step #7 – Reevaluate after 6 months

This is a shifting market and some devices are dirt-cheap. A better service may be offered on a different platform. You may want to move from one platform to another. All of a sudden, a new platform could appear and have better services. In any case, be on the lookout.

With all the money you save; if a more convenient platform appears, you can easily buy the devices required. You will still be able to switch over while saving on your yearly bill.

To go to the next part of this cord cutter guide, follow the link into “Cord Cutter Guide pt 3 – Turn Your Landline Into a Free Phone Number

About Diego Samuilov

Editor in Chief/Founder Diego Samuilov is an executive, consultant, IT strategist and book, e-book and web published author. Diego has worked in Microsoft’s environments since 1990. Since then, he has successfully filled many positions related to the Software Development lifecycle. Having worked as a developer, analyst, technical lead, project lead, auditor and, since 1996 a project manager, manager, director and VP in the Software Development, Server, Desktop and Mobile environments. Diego is very passionate about the software development process, which has played a great part in his skills development. Since the introduction of the first ever PDA (the Apple Newton MessagePad) in 1994 and Windows CE in 1998 he has pioneered and pushed the envelope in the field of mobile software development. He has developed many solutions used in mobile markets, desktop and server environments. He participates in public and private developer community events. He actively collaborates with the community at support forums and blogs. Diego is the author of "Windows Phone for Everyone" available [HERE].