Some people hear the term “cord cutter”, and visions of babies being born come to mind, while still others envision a nefarious man in an unmarked van going around and severing lines on telephone poles. However, these days to be a cord cutter means something not so unsavory; it simply means cutting the ties that bind us to cable television and satellite providers.
By the time I had first heard the phrase cord cutter, I had already become one. One of the many ways my family cut back on expenses during the great recession in 2007 was to cancel our cable bill. At that time there were few streaming video options available. Netflix had just come onto the scene, and back then they had a better selection of DVDs via their mail order service than they did streaming video; never-the-less, my family signed up because $9.00 a month was cheaper than the $60.00 a month we had been previously paying for our cable service.
For many people, cord cutting has allowed them to enjoy similar savings. One only needs to visit the communities that have built up around the trend such as reddit’s /r/cordcutters subreddit to see that those who frequent it initially chose to get rid of their cable/satellite subscriptions due to the rising cost of their monthly bill. While browsing through the community, I found that one user said they saved as much as $110.00 a month by getting rid of their cable subscription.
I, like many people my age, grew up watching cable TV. I can remember watching the very first music video on MTV when the channel launched. If I wanted to watch a television show, I had to make sure I was there when it aired or program a VCR to record it for me. We were tied to the television schedule, and there were many times when I missed episodes of my favorite show because I couldn’t be there when it aired. I also experienced the rise of the video rental store and made many trips to them. Now I have access to whole seasons of TV shows with the click of mouse, and I can choose from a huge selection of movies without ever leaving home. Many other members of the cord cutter community also say that the reason they chose to stay cord cutters was because they enjoyed the convenience of being able to watch what they wished to watch, when they wanted to watch it.
My own family has not had cable television for the last ten years. Instead, we utilize the various streaming services available on the internet; we, too, are cord cutters. Cord cutting has become something of a phenomenon with people of all ages joining the trend. When one joins cord cutting communities, they will find a veritable cross-section of people who are choosing to leave cable behind and are instead turning to the cornucopia of streaming services available to them for entertainment. Aside from Netflix, which has only grown larger over the years, people can get their entertainment from other providers such as Amazon and Hulu. Even companies, which traditionally were only available through cable or satellite, such as HBO and Starz, are now offering streaming services. One can even subscribe to services such as Youtube TV, PlayStation Vue, Fubo TV, and Sling TV, all of which will mimic the cable experience by offering both an on-screen programming guide as well as a DVR (digital video recorder) in their streaming packages.
Many people have also rediscovered free over-the-air channels, which are available to anyone who buys an antenna and connects it to their television. Companies such as HD Homerun offer devices that are called TV Tuners to which a person can connect both their antenna and router, and it will allow owners to have access to those same over-the-air channels anywhere on their home network. The company also provides DVR software so that a person can record programming to watch when it is convenient for them.
With so many options available, one might wonder if it is possible to save money by cutting the cord and subscribing to the various services. The resounding answer is yes! People can save money because there are so many choices; a person does not have to subscribe to every service all the time, only the ones which currently interest them. For example, in my own household we generally only subscribe to HBO when new “Game of Thrones” episodes are available. We will watch those and any other programs that catch our interest and then cancel our subscription when we feel we have enjoyed all they have to offer.
There is also home media library software such as Plex and Emby which provides not only a way to organize a personal media collection but also allows a person to stream their collection while away from home. If someone has a DVD or Bluray collection, they can easily make digital copies of them using a home computer, and both Plex and Emby will allow users to have a nice organized interface for their copies. They also both offer support for TV Tuners with a built in DVR. Each piece of software provides apps for streaming boxes such as the Roku and the Amazon Fire TV as well as phone and tablet applications so that users can have access to their home media no matter where they are.
Sports is the one genre of entertainment television which has lagged in the cord cutting phenomenon. For a long time, networks like ESPN and FSN even refused to acknowledge the cord cutting trend, and because of that they were very reluctant to provide over-the-top streaming access to consumers. Eventually the drop in the amount of cable TV subscribers led them to rethink that view. And now, with rise of services like Fubo TV, Youtube TV and others which strive to simulate a traditional cable service, this is becoming less and less of an issue. My own husband has found that he was able to have his sports needs fulfilled with a subscription to Fubo TV.
In recent years, cord cutting has become even more prolific, with some younger people even being called “cord nevers” since they have never subscribed to a cable or satellite service at all. Today, the children of cord cutters are growing up without cable. Many of them tell stories about their children’s first reactions to having advertisements interrupt their viewing experience, something they had not previously experienced simply because the services their parents subscribe to such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu offer an ad-free viewing experience. Even media companies, which previously only worked with traditional cable/satellite companies, are now choosing to offer stand-alone streaming packages to consumers. For example, both Disney and Fox News have plans to offer a stand-alone streaming service. It seems unlikely that this trend will stop any time soon.
Cord cutting is not subscribing to every single service available; doing so would likely cost you more than you were previously spending on cable. It is not a way to rebel against the big corporations that run the media companies. It is not going dark and disconnecting from the world at large; it is a way to save money and take advantage of the many media provider choices which are now available to consumers.
Cord cutting is having a choice of what to watch when I wish to watch it. It is paying for only what I am consuming instead of paying for a huge cable package when I might only actually watch a handful of channels. It is no longer being tied to a television schedule to view the show of my choice. Instead I can choose to sit down, and binge watch an entire series, or I can watch it an episode at time without having to be concerned that I might miss one. Cord cutting is freedom.