I’m not about to predict the imminent demise of cable TV and satellite services, but a couple of recent announcements are sure putting pressure on them by making it easier and, in some cases, more affordable to cut the cord.
AT&T just announced that it’s including free HBO with its highest tiered unlimited data plan while Amazon said that it will start streaming NFL games to customers who subscribe to the $99 a year Amazon Prime service that also includes free two-day shipping and other benefits. Verizon already streams football to its wireless subscribers, while CBS and NBC have the rights to stream the games they broadcast.
None of these announcements are purely altruistic. Amazon benefits in at least two ways from getting more prime members. There is the membership fee and then there’s the incentive to shop at Amazon for the free and fast shipping. Prime membership also encourages people to buy other devices from Amazon. Verizon and AT&T make plenty of money from their wireless subscribers, especially those who have top-tier services like their unlimited data plans.
If you are paying for wireless anyway, you may as well consider taking advantage of streaming options if they don’t add significantly to your bill.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still have a Comcast cable subscription. I may be part of a dying breed. One reason is because I’m a news junkie and, so far, even though there are ways to watch them online, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News still require some type of subscription or a cable or other paid service. And, because I use Comcast as my internet provider, the extra cost for TV service is relatively low.
Cord cutting is increasingly common among millennials but I’m also hearing from some baby boomers who have taken the plunge. In July, research firm GFK reported that 25 percent of U.S. households don’t subscribe to cable or satellite, with 17 percent of U.S. TV households relying on over-the-air broadcast, up from 15 percent in 2015. Another 6 percent said they only use internet services, up from 4 percent the year before.
In addition to getting HBO free if you have the highest AT&T Wireless plan, you can also get it a la carte by subscribing to HBO Now for $15 a month and watching it via the web, on a mobile device or some connected TVs or TV attached-devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV stick and some game consoles.
Many TV shows can be watched online on services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime video. Some can be watched for free on the networks’ own websites or for a monthly fee in the case of CBS All Access. CBS News (where I serve as on-air technology analyst) has a free streaming news service called CBSN. Also consider Sling TV and DirecTV Now. These are online-only services that bundle multiple channels for a single fee. Sling starts at $30 a month for 30 channels including ESPN, CNN and Disney. There is also a $25 and $40 package with more channels. DirecTV now has packages starting at $35 a month up to $70 for 120-plus channels.
There are numerous sports sites and apps that allow you to watch online, enabling fans to enjoy virtually all professional baseball, basketball and football games. The easiest way to find them is to search for MLB, NFL, NBA or whatever sports you’re interested in. You can also watch some college sports online.
Before you cut the cord, consider what you would have to pay for all of the “over the top” services you might want to stream. You might be better off sticking with what you have or finding another option.
Increasing competition has caused some companies to offer lower-cost options or bundling deals that can save money if you link your TV service with your internet or phone service. AT&T, which now owns DirecTV, for example, is taking $25 off if you have certain smartphone packages. Most cable companies offer a “double play” or “triple play” deal if you subscribe.
Finally, don’t hesitate to negotiate with your provider. It pays to shop around, but it also can pay to call your provider to see if they can make you a better offer. Many providers will cut you a deal if they think you’re likely to drop their service. Some actually have “retention” departments that specialize in trying to lure customers into keeping their service in exchange for unadvertised discounts.
And here’s a blast from the past. Consider watching over-the-air TV through an antenna. You don’t necessarily have to install it on your roof. I plugged an Antop Amplified Indoor/Outdoor antenna into one of my sets and could watch all my local stations, even though the antenna was indoors and I live quite far from any of the transmitters. There are even digital video recorders that work with antennas. You can estimate your likely reception and get other information for cord cutters at the links at larrysworld.com/cordcutting.
Published at Thu, 06 Apr 2017 15:00:10 +0000