My son, Ross Putman, has lived in Los Angeles since 2008. Like many members of the Millennial generation, he’s always looking for a way to cut costs and get a better deal. Also like other Millennials, he’s proficient in using computers and the Internet.
Recently, Ross decided that his monthly charges for broadband and TV service were becoming unbearable, so he decided to “cut the cord” and switch to streaming video, plus free, over-the-air HDTV programs. I pitched in to help by shipping him a Mohu Leaf Plus indoor TV antenna (about $75). This model has scored consistently well in my antenna tests.
Now that the changes have been made and the antenna is in place, how is his cord-cutting experiment going? Ross was kind enough to answer a few questions about the process, and I’ll share them here.
PP. Who was your cable TV service provider originally?
A. Our service provider was Time Warner Cable, SoCal. We had the basic package with standard broadband internet, an HD DVR, and no premium channels. It cost $90/month for the first year, as part of a promotional deal. When that period ended, the price skyrocketed to $140.
PP. What were your viewing habits? What channels did you watch on a regular basis? About how many hours a week did you watch? How many were ‘premium?’
A. We realized fairly quickly that we only watched AMC (for Mad Men and Breaking Bad), Comedy Central (we would DVR the Colbert Report nightly), FX (literally just to watch Louis C.K.), and IFC to watch Portlandia, as well as the odd movie here and there. I watch football, which is on network channels anyways, and sometimes we would turn on the TV just to have it in the background. But on the whole, our habits were fairly limited, especially considering the price we were paying.
PP. What made you decide to drop cable TV channel service?
A. We decided to drop cable after our bill skyrocketed and we did the math: All the shows we love are available the next day for $1.99/episode on Amazon Streaming. If there are four episodes a month while the series is on, that’s a little under $8/month for our favorite shows. So even if we’re watching three shows at a time (which is really the max), that’s $24/month for the programming we want, plus our subscriptions and $40/month for cable internet, which we still get through Time Warner. Hulu and Netflix are $16/month total, so that means we’re paying a maximum of $80 instead of $140 and still get to watch all the programming we love. Sometimes, that number is as low as $60.
PP. How do you get channels now? Do you stream to a Blu-ray player, or a dedicated receiver, like Roku or Apple TV?
A. We now use a Roku for streaming and have subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. Even with all this, it’s still only $80/month at the peak for programming, plus all the additional things we get through Hulu– for example, Comedy Central shows like Colbert, which we watch, are streaming for free the next day. We have a Blu-Ray player, though we canceled our disc service from Netflix and generally “rent” movies off Amazon Prime (which tend to range between free and $2.99 apiece) when we want to watch them. Our broadband service still comes from Time Warner Cable.
PP. Do you time-shift at all? Do you stream video over other devices, such as computers, tablets, and/or phones?
A. We no longer time-shift, which isn’t a problem since we don’t watch network television. All our cable shows are on Amazon or Hulu. As for streaming on other devices, we don’t have the time in our busy schedules to do so, but we own a Kindle Fire and an iPhone.
PP. Which over-the-air channels do you watch on a regular basis?
A. We only watch over the air for football. NBC, CBS, and Fox.
PP. Which streaming services do you use?
A. We use Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Crackle to stream video.
PP. How often do you watch movies? Do you watch them on DVD or Blu-ray? Do you stream them?
A. We got to the movies more than we watch them at home, though I’m probably an outlier since I work in the industry. We watch a movie maybe once a week, almost always on some streaming device. We either watch what’s free on Netflix, or we pay for it on Amazon (generally $2.99). No discs.
PP. How satisfactory is your new selection of channels and the quality and reliability of Internet streaming?
A. While we miss the cable channels a bit, we’ve made sure we have access to all our favorite shows. Our internet and streaming are both very reliable, and our antenna picks up all channels available perfectly. (Editor’s note: The actual total is 27 major channels and over 130 minor channels.)
PP. What would you say about the overall experience of cord-cutting compared to previous cable TV viewing, and how much money has it saved you?
A. After cutting the cord, we realized how little TV we actually watched. Many times, we’d just turn on the TV “to have it on,” rather than to watch something specific. For the most part, we lost nothing by cutting the cord. We’re still able to watch our favorite shows on a pay-per-view basis, and network TV covers my main category: Sports. We’re saving somewhere between $20 and $50/month, which really adds up over a whole year. We don’t really miss it. Worst case scenario, we go over to a friend’s house to watch things, which is more social and enjoyable anyway. That’s what we did with the Breaking Bad season finale. Until Apple TV starts offering channels a la carte, this seems like the way to go.
This article also appears on the Display Central Web site.
Posted by Pete Putman, October 29, 2012 9:43 AM
About Pete PutmanPeter Putman is the president of ROAM Consulting L.L.C. His company provides training, marketing communications, and product testing/development services to manufacturers, dealers, and end-users of displays, display interfaces, and related products.
Pete edits and publishes HDTVexpert.com, a Web blog focused on digital TV, HDTV, and display technologies. He is also a columnist for Pro AV magazine, the leading trade publication for commercial AV systems integrators.