The pandemicmade 2020 a year like no other, but one thing that remained constant is thatpeople continued to drop their cable subscriptions. The number of people whocut the cord increased in 2020 compared to 2019, bringing the total number ofcord-cutters in the United States to 31.2 million.
Whether or not this was part of somelarger trend or somehow stimulated by the pandemic and the seemingly endlessquarantines remains to be seen. Yet one thing remains clear: the cablecompanies are in trouble.
However, just because "everyoneelse" is doing it doesn't mean you need to as well. There are still plentyof reasons why you might want to hang onto your paid cable plan.
Read on to get a full status update onthe cable industry, as well as everything you need to know about cord-cuttingso you can figure out if this is the right move for you in 2021.
The State of Cable
Before going too far into the detailsof each argument, here are some stats to help you understand just how serious athreat cord-cutting is to cable companies.
The Case for Cutting the Cord
The case for cutting the cord is astrong one. Here are the main reasons people decide to say goodbye to theircable company:
Many people cut the cord because of the cost of cable TV,which seems to go up every year. Comcast customers received notification inlate 2020 that video service fees would increaseby $5 and box fees would go up by $2.50.
If this were the only time thishappened, it might not be that big of an issue. However, the reality is thatthe cost of a cable TV subscription has skyrocketed over the past twenty years,increasing an average of 5 percent per year. This increase has considerablyoutpaced inflation, which, according to Business Insider, averaged around 2percent per year during the same period.
Interestingly, Comcast also introduceddata caps and higher internet prices, suggesting it's still struggling tounderstand why people started turning away from them in the first place.
Currently, the average cost of a cable TV subscription is $107.Once you get above one hundred dollars, five bucks make a big difference,especially when added every year.
More Choice and Freedom
Cable TV plans may give you access tohundreds of different channels, but streaming platforms give you far more andbetter choices regarding content.
For example, Hulu is the go-to spotfor hit television shows that are either currently running or off the air.Netflix has some fantastic original content, and Disney+ unlocks not onlyDisney classics but also Pixar (Toy Story, Finding Nemo), Marvel (Spiderman,The Avengers), and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) movies.
Streaming also gives you the chance toonly pay for what you want. If you don't want Disney shows, then don't getDisney+. Cable doesn't really do this. Instead, you need to choose a packagethat most fits your interests and then deal with all the extra content thatcomes with it.
This one is admittedly a bit of ajudgment call. Still, there's an argument to be made that the content producedfor streaming services is better than the alternative, i.e., traditional cableTV and movies.
Part of the reason for this is that streamingservices, seeking to remain competitive, are pouring money into originalprogram development. The Queen's Gambit (Netflix), Tiger King:Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (Netflix), The Mandalorian (Disney+),and Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) were among the most popular showsacross any platform in 2020, and countless others have gained critical acclaim.
Plus, this is where all the money isgoing. Netflix spends billions per year producing content, and Disney announcedtowards the end of 2020 an impressive gamut of Star Wars related shows thatwill keep fans busy for many months and years to come.
Of course, there is plenty of goodcontent on cable, but it does seem that the focus is shifting to streamingplatforms.
Another significant advantage ofcutting the cord is that you can say goodbye for the most part to the worstpart about cable TV: the ads.
It's estimated we spend around four years of our lives watchingadvertisements. Considering the vast majority of them are silly, bordering onstupid, this fact often fills people with a burning frustration that couldalmost be called anger.
Netflix, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, andDisney Plus do not have any advertisements, which is a huge boost. The cheapestHulu plan, which costs $7 a month (or zero if you also have Spotify Premium),does include ads, but you can upgrade to the next level, which costs around $14a month and get rid of the advertisements.
YouTube TV and other live TV streamingservices show advertisements since they work in a similar way to cable.However, both of these services have a cloud-based DVR service that allows youto record your favorite shows or pause live TV so that you can skip over theadvertisements when you watch. Be aware that YouTube TV will sometimes imposeads on you that you can't skip, so you can't completely escape them.
Cutting the cord probably won'teliminate corporate messaging from your life, but it will reduce it. That'soften more than enough of an improvement for those sick of cable and its manyantics.
Watch from Anywhere
Another benefit of streaming is thatyou can watch content from anywhere using your phone, computer, or tablet. Allstreaming services have apps, which is great for those who travel a lot orcommute you can even download content off the web to watch it later withoutan internet connection.
Some cable companies are adapting andcoming up with their own apps that let you access your subscription fromanywhere, but for the most part, to watch cable TV, you need to be at home.
Lastly, streaming services are anexcellent option because they allow you to share accounts. For example, Netflix's$15 a month plan allows you to make up to six accounts and stream using fourdifferent screens at a time.
This makes it incredibly easy to savemoney. You can get together with some of your friends and have each one sign upfor a different service. Then, all you need to do is swap passwords, anddepending on how many of you there are, you can get five or six streamingservices for the price of one. This is an excellent opportunity that certainlyhelps make streaming a much more attractive option than cable.
With cable, if you want to share yoursubscription with someone, you need to invite them to your home.
How to Watch TV For Free
If the idea of cutting cable out ofyour life is appealing, but you want to take things a step further by avoidingpaid streaming services, there are a few options out there that will allow youto watch TV for free.
Even if you don't mind paying forstreaming, adding these services to your list of video content sources willprovide you with an even wider selection of things to watch without costing youmore money.
Use a TV Antenna
Probably the best way to watch TV forfree is to buy an antenna. These cost between $30-150, which is an upfrontexpense, but you can get up to 30 or sometimes even 50 channels at noadditional cost once you have it.
This is because many channels,especially the mainstay networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX, all broadcasttheir signal digitally. Your antenna will pick it up, and you can gethigh-definition programming for free.
For some, this might be all you need.For others, it's an excellent way to complement your streaming packages sinceit gives you access to local channels, which often have live sports, as well assome additional programming you'd have to pay for if you had cable.
Free Streaming Services
Another thing you can do is relyprimarily on the sites that allow you to stream for free. In truth, the contenton these platforms isn't amazing - you get what you pay for - but there aresome hidden gems in there that might make it worth it. Some examples include Sony Crackleand Tubi TV.
Free Trials and Rentals
You can also take advantage ofpromotions that give you access to streaming videos for free. For example,there are often videos on iTunes that you can rent for free, and sometimesthere are some excellent finds.
Another option is to sign up for freetrial periods for different services. Most give you a month free so that youcan try it out, but you could cancel your subscription before the month is upand then sign up for another one using a different email.
This takes a bit of work on your partbut for some, getting free content is worth the effort.
Use a Friend's Account
Another way to watch TV for free issimply to mooch off your friends' accounts. There's a good chance you knowpeople who pay for streaming services, and perhaps you can lay on some of thatcharm to help you get access to that account without having to pay anything.
This might seem a bit strange butthink about it. If your friend gets the service anyway, what's the harm ingiving you access to it? Maybe you can work out some other type of transactionto make sure everything stays fair.
The Case for Sticking With Cable
Clearly, there is a compellingargument for ditching cable. Value has gone down, and there are loads ofalternatives. However, cutting the cord isn't necessarily a home run.
Make sure to keep in mind thefollowing points about why you should stick with cable before you cancel yoursubscription and start using something else.
Probably the best thing that cableoffers is that it puts all of your entertainment in one spot. All you need todo is turn on your TV, open the guide, select a show, and watch. To get themost out of streaming services, you need to have several, and switching betweenthem and managing each one can be, for some, a real challenge.
Most cable companies have On Demandservices, so if you are bored of what's on cable, you can most likely findsomething else. And once again, everything takes place within the friendlyconfines of your cable system.
Having everything in one spot is oftenthe main reason people choose to stick with cable. It's up to you to decide ifthis is the best thing to do or merely the result of people's general apathytowards trying something new.
Is It Actually Cheaper?
When cord-cutting first became athing, it was most definitely cheaper. There were only one or a few streamingservices, and those who cut cable did so knowing they would have access to lesscontent.
However, as the trend has become morewidespread, people are cutting the cord and expecting the same amount of value fromtheir new services. If you take this approach, it's unlikely that switchingfrom cable will really be cheaper.
For starters, to watch TV solely overthe internet, you need to have a solid internet connection, which will cost you$50 per month or more. From there, you need to sign up for streaming servicesthat are available in 2021.
If you want a live TV option, such asYouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV, that's going to be about $60 per month. Netflix'sbest plan costs $15 per month, Disney+ costs $7 per month, Hulu with ads is $7per month, Amazon Prime is $13 per month, and HBO Max is $14 per month.
So, if you get a live TV service andone streaming service, you're already up to $130-$140 per month if we includeyour internet cost.
Of course, you likely have internetanyway, so this isn't an entirely accurate representation of the cost ofcord-cutting. Still, if you are like most people and have two or threestreaming services on top of a live TV option, then you're likely spendingaround $100 per month, roughly the same as you would pay for cable.
In these instances, the decision tocut the cord can no longer be about price. You may find that you prefer theexperience streaming platforms offer, but switching doesn't save you money.
So, if you want to cut the cord in2021 and save money, you need to resist the FOMO and accept that there is somecontent you won't be able to access.
One way to keep things cheap whilemaintaining access to multiple platforms is to share them with friends andfamily. This can dramatically reduce the cost of your monthly bills while notdenying you access to all the great content that's out there.
Lastly, one of the key advantages ofcable TV is that it provides you with access to live broadcasts, which refersmainly to sports in this day and age.
Of course, there are other ways towatch live sports, such as streaming online (but this is illegal) and signingup for a cable alternative such as YouTube TV. Most people find that cable isstill the best if you're most interested in watching live sports, as it's whereyou can get ESPN and its supporting networks.
In 2021, it's becoming increasinglypopular for some live events to stream directly on Hulu or Amazon Prime, butthis is still not the norm. Relying on this will cause you to miss out on somelive events. If these are important to you, you will need to figure out whatyour alternative will be since cutting cable will make things harder.
How to Save Money on Your Cable Bill
If you do decide to stick with cable,that doesn't mean you must pay more money. There are plenty of ways to findsavings and reduce your monthly bill without downgrading your service.
We've outlined some of the mosteffective below:
Take Advantage of Promotional Offers
To attract new customers, mostcompanies use promotional pricing, which means you get access to special dealswhen you sign up for the first time.
Unfortunately, most companies alsoraise the price when your promotional period ends, which usually happens afterone or two years.
This is frustrating, but it's also anopportunity for you to save. Set yourself a reminder, and when the promotionalperiod ends, call your cable company and let them know you'd like to extend it.If they say it's not possible, remind them that you can always switchcompanies. That usually gets their attention and makes it easier for them tomagically find a deal that at first didn't exist.
Another option is to go ahead andchange. Switching companies is a pain, but if you time it right, you won't bewithout service, and you can save money by changing companies and making use ofintroductory promotions that keep costs low.
Most people don't realize that theycan negotiate with cable companies. You can work with a sales representative tobuild the package you want and save some money.
However, when doing this, rememberthat you are in control. You possess the most valuable bargaining chip - youcan always take your business elsewhere - and it's essential you make thisknown to cable companies so that they don't take advantage of you.
Often, if you let the company know youare planning to switch, they will be able to get authorization from their bossto give you a discount or add things to your package for free, so you'll bepaying the same but getting more for it.
Bundle With Other Services
Lastly, cable companies also offerother services, such as wireless, home phone, and the internet. The reality isthat you can often save a fair bit of money when you group multiple services,especially if you can do so as part of a promotion.
Plus, the convenience of working withjust one company for all your home services is tough to beat, and it's a bigreason why so many people wind up sticking with cable despite all thealternatives available to them.
Television has become an importantpart of our lives, but not so important that it's worth spending a fortune on asubscription. Those who want to stick with cable can find savings, and thosefed up have other options. Either way, you should now have all the informationyou need to decide what will be best for you.