There was a time when I would never be able to consider life without cable. The options were plentiful, sort of like the cocktail hour at my wedding—which, come to think of it, I couldn’t find time to enjoy. (Thanks, photographers!)
When my wife and I moved into our new home two years ago, I spent my first full morning waiting for the cable guy to show up. I mean, what else were we supposed to do with our lives? The installation went quickly and my life was normal again—oh, the glory.
But as the bills began to pile up—thanks, utility company and oil delivery service!—I seriously began to consider scrapping it. Believe me, it was a struggle. I spent evenings lying in bed using my iPhone as a virtual psychologist. “Oh, dear Siri, should I cut the cord?”
Finally I decided to bid adios to cable. Of course, I kept the internet—I mean, who can live without internet? Eventually I realized that all the night sweats and nightmares keeping me up were all for naught.
We could do this!
Below is a list of every service and device we use to enjoy this oh-so-sweet, albeit-oversaturated Golden Age of Television. Be forewarned, however: Cutting the cord is not for everyone, especially if you’re a sports fan, like myself. If you want to save money, you’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way. Good luck eschewing cable.
How To “Cut The Cord”
Step 1: I called Cablevision, now owned by Altice, and said I didn’t need its cable service anymore but wanted to hold onto the Internet. I was still in the throws of my introductory offer and donating about $130 of my salary to James Dolan, the (former) cable guy and hapless Knicks owner (I digress). I was able to cut my monthly bill to $61 for a package that included the Internet and basic channels, which I can watch via the Optimum app.
Step 2: I subscribed to Sling. Sling is an internet-only form of cable that gives users a library of ubiquitous cable channels: CNN, Food Network, History, HGTV and the like. But what it also offers is Fox sports affiliates like YES Network, which solved my Yankees problem. My package also offers NBC Network and Fox Sports 1, which helps with my reoccurring soccer addiction. Sling now offers three packages with differing monthly rates: orange (30+ channels including ESPN for $20), Blue (40+channels including YES for $25), and Orange + Blue (all channels for $40). Since I’m a Yankees fan, I went Blue. Sling offers on-demand options so you can watch shows after they air, and the service is currently in the midst of introducing a DVR option. It also offers movie rentals and, best of all, you can watch Sling wherever you are via its smartphone app. Sling offers a seven-day free trial if you want to go for a test run before telling your cable provider that you’re taking your business elsewhere.
Step 3: We decided to keep Netflix, because at $9.99 per month, it’s incredibly affordable considering its worthwhile library of shows. We probably spend more time watching Netflix than cable through Sling. Now with an option to download movies and shows, Netflix makes it easy for users with data limits to indulge in its content, whether on the train or in the backseat of a car during a road trip.
Step 4: If you don’t go with Sling, another option may be Hulu. The service ranges from $7.99 to $11.99 monthly, with the bottom-of-the-barrel fee offering limited commercial interruptions. It has deals with such networks as ABC, Fox and NBC, allowing users to watch old and current episodes of some of their favorite shows on traditional network TV. Hulu, like Netflix, has invested millions in original content and boasts shows from a plethora of cable channels.
Step 5: If you already have Amazon Prime for two-day deliveries, then make sure you take advantage of its vast content library. Amazon Prime allows subscribers to watch a tremendous amount of shows and movies for no additional charge. Amazon is also in the business of making original content, and has found success in such shows as Transparent. Of course, even those programs that aren’t critically acclaimed (The Man in the High Castle) are well worth watching. We hear Sneaky Pete is amazing, but we just haven’t had the time to get around to it. Remember, Prime isn’t just for quick deliveries.
Step 6: To solve your impending Game of Thrones problem if you cancel cable, you’ll have to subscribe to HBO Now, which is $14.99 per month. This allows you to voraciously consume old shows like The Sopranos and Band of Brothers, while enjoying modern standouts like Veep, Girls, only the first season of True Detective, and the aforementioned fantasy drama Game of Thrones, with season 7 set to air this summer. Showtime has a similar streaming service, but the monthly price depends on which device you’re using.
That brings us to…
Step 7: Now, what do you use to watch everything on? First, take a deep breath. Here’s all the devices we own: an Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku 2, Firestick and Chromecast. Oh, and one of our TVs is a smart TV. We primarily use the Roku 2, which came free with Sling, because it’s the fastest of all the devices we own, and has an incredible amount of streaming channels, such as Netflix and Sling.
This sounds like a lot—and it is. It’s not easy to “cut the cord,” but when you get used to it, you realize the typical cable subscription is not the end-all-be-all.
If you’re exhausted after reading through all these steps and worry “cutting the cord” will be even more tiresome, realize this: You don’t need to subscribe to everything. If you’re a light TV viewer, perhaps go with Hulu and Netflix. If you want cable channels like FX and CNN, go Sling. Our combined price for Optimum internet, Sling and Netflix is around $90. That’s $40 less than my introductory free from Optimum, which was on the verge of expiring.
If you’re a millennial with a generous baby-boomer parent with HBO, kindly ask for their account so you can watch HBO Go. Or you can split streaming services with friends and family. It’s all about what works for you.
As they say: May the Force be with you.
Update: Hi again. I’ve received some feedback since the article was published, which I figured I’d pass along. Here’s some additional options: purchase an HD antenna to watch over-the-air networks like CBS, FOX, NBC. The antennas vary because some can either be placed indoors our outdoors. They also vary in terms of range. There are several websites that can help you find TV transmitters near you, that way you can decide on the best HD antenna. (I considered buying an HD antenna but decided to stick with my internet provider’s streaming option.) One reader from California mentioned some other benefits to cutting the cord, such as no long-term contracts or cable box rental fees. Also, as others have noted, there’s other streaming devices you can use besides the ones I mentioned. Roku has a number of options, including a stick that plugs into your TV. So long for now.