Everything You Need to Know About Cordcutting

BY: DEREK REIMHERR

I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with cable companies for a while. Who hasn't? You get locked into contracts, have random price hikes, and often your apartment/home only has one provider option.

Because of this, I've been working on cutting the cord for a while. In fact, since high school, I’ve only had a full TV lineup for one year. Instead, I’ve had Hulu and Netflix since 2009 and 2010 (uninterrupted, mind you). I got Prime Video when it debuted with an Amazon Prime subscription. So when Maggie and I moved to Atlanta, I was chomping at the bit to take it a step further: no cable contract. Luckily for us, our new apartment complex is wired for Comcast, AT&T, AND Google Fiber.

There are several things you need to know before we get started:

  • You NEED a good internet connection to reliably use streaming for everything. I would say around 100 MB/s is a solid speed. The streaming companies say 30 MB/s but I don’t think that’s good enough.
  • Depending on the promos for cable companies, cutting the cord entirely may not be cheaper. For example, Comcast often offers basic channels and HBO with 75 MB/s internet at a cheaper rate than just getting the internet.
  • If you live with someone (roommates, significant other), don't start making changes before chatting. They may not care - Maggie didn't - but be safe and ask.
  • If you’re doing any kind of streaming, you need a streaming device. This could be a Roku, Chromecast, gaming console, or Smart TV. Before you pick your path, know the platform compatibilities of the streaming service.

So, why do people even care about cord cutting, especially if it might not be cheaper? The biggest reason is the flexibility - streaming services don't have contracts. Comcast often has 3-year agreements and DirecTV is usually 2 years. Don't even get me started on Charter or Time Warner.

Assuming that cordcutting involves some type of television access (whether live or on-demand), there are 3 distinct ways to get TV:

Antenna

Yes, these still exist. And yes, they can get you a good number of channels. Plus, they’re not ugly anymore; take a look at this Vansky transparent antenna. Essentially, you set up one of these bad boys, plug it into your TV, and BOOM, free HDTV. The issues are they usually only pick up channels broadcasting within 50 miles or so and you’re stuck with live TV ads. This Lifehacker article has some more info if you’re interested. 

On-demand streaming TV

These are the options most people are familiar with. Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime are the primary ones. You pay anywhere between $8 (the monthly cost of an annual Amazon Prime membership) to $20 (HBO Now) for access. Set up an account and turn on your app and you’re rolling. Some are better than others, but keep in mind that you can always stop and start service based around the release of your must-see shows (like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black).

Live TV streaming services

These services are the primary focus of this article today. Most people trying to cut the cord are looking for ways to get live TV without a cable subscription. In the past 2 years, several options have popped up like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.


All that said, there are several areas of concern when cordcutting that many people don’t think about or consider.

Okay, but how am I going to watch sports?
Many people don’t care about live sports. For someone like me who’s an Atlanta Falcons fan and a diehard University of Georgia Bulldogs fan, sports channels are required. These people are looking to have live TV at least in the fall and winter. This was the biggest motivator for me to cut the cord - I wasn’t going to pay $200 (or more) a month for Comcast’s internet + TV sports package. If you’re interested in sports, look closely at a streaming service’s channel lineup before making the jump.

But what about ads?
This can be tricky. Even though I’m in marketing, I can’t stand TV ads, so being able to fast forward (or avoid them altogether) was important. Some plans from the big on-demand services let you avoid ads, but any live TV options and first-party streaming apps (like CW or AMC) cram them down your throat. Luckily, several of the live TV streaming services have DVR with commercial-skipping features.

I heard Google Fiber was coming and it’s gonna be awesome!
Don’t get your hopes up. I was thrilled when I learned our new apartment was pre-wired for Google Fiber. I got on the wait list immediately knowing it would be 2-3 months until we saw a technician. That’s okay, I can wait for such a good deal. Unfortunately, at the 3-month mark, Google still didn’t have an ETA on my technician. I dug around and found that Google has more or less given up on their Fiber network rollout. They were hit with lawsuits from AT&T and Comcast for appropriating existing cable infrastructure and then realized they were unprepared to do the work themselves.

I’ve read rumors they’re working on some new wireless TV technology, but I would wager that’s at least 3 years out. If you’re in a city like Atlanta, Nashville, or Louisville waiting on Google Fiber, don’t hold your breath.


Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to meet the biggest Live TV contenders. For more in-depth overviews comparing specific channel breakdowns, check out the below articles. Keep in mind that channel lineup will differ slightly based on where you live.

Hulu Live TV

Source: Hulu 

Source: Hulu 

  • Cost: $40
  • Channel lineup: Put in your Zip Code to find out
  • Sports: All ESPN and Fox channels, NBC Sports, and CBS Sports
  • DVR: 50 hours, 200 hours with Enhanced subscription.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: Yes
  • Devices: Apple and Android mobile, Xbox One, 4th Gen Apple TV, and Chromecast
  • Value prop: Includes normal Hulu subscription. Pay $5 more for no-commercials plan with on-demand shows.

Hulu Live TV is pushing to be the best option out there. The main issue? The number of platforms are super limited. You can’t use it with Fire Stick, Smart TVs, Roku, or Sony/Nintendo gaming consoles. Heck, it isn’t even on desktop yet. Additionally, if you watch a bunch of shows, the DVR is rather restrictive without an upgrade. There are also reports that the interface isn’t user friendly. However, it’s still in Beta. When it goes live on Roku or PlayStation, I’ll seriously look into it.

Sling TV

Source: CNET

Source: CNET

  • Cost: $20-$40
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package - more info
  • Sports: ESPN + Fox and NBC regional channels with Sling Blue or combined package
  • DVR: Yes, if you’re a beta customer and only available on Roku, Android, and Amazon devices.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS mobile devices, Xbox One (but not 360), Amazon devices, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: The cheapest option at $20 a month.

Sling TV’s biggest advantage was its “first” status. I used Sling Blue ($25) last fall during football season, but I found the stream to be extremely buggy. The video would frequently freeze with the audio continuing to play. I usually had to back out of the app and reopen it once every 30 minutes on average. To its credit, it has some of the most available devices. So if you’re looking for a cheap Live TV option, this could be it.

DirecTV Now

Source: TheVerge

Source: TheVerge

  • Cost: $35-$70
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package -more info
  • Sports: Most channels in basic $35 package
  • DVR: No
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, Amazon devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: Easy transition from cable and no data usage if using AT&T for your phone provider.

To be fair, I have no experience with DirecTV. Personally, I find that these packages have the most bloat. Plus, the upper limit is quite expensive. While there isn’t any DVR option, many channels have a “3 day catchup” feature which is nice, but still doesn’t compare to the perks of a true DVR.

YouTube TV

Source: TechSpot

Source: TechSpot

  • Cost: $35
  • Channel lineup: One package - more info. No HBO integration.
  • Sports: Most channels included, but no NFL Network.
  • DVR: Yes, recorded videos expire after 9 months with unlimited storage.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, and Chromecast
  • Value prop: Free Chromecast after you pay for your first month and the most DVR storage.
  • CAVEAT: Only available in certain cities - more info

YouTube TV is the newest addition to the bunch and is still rolling out. Many expect it’ll have the best adoption rate due to the massive existing audience YouTube has. Plus, in addition to live TV, you’ll get access to YouTube Red original programming (not that there’s anything great there yet). However, HBO and YouTube aren’t playing nice. That’s not a huge deal, but it means you’ll have to get a separate HBO subscription to watch Silicon Valley or Veep.

Playstation Vue

Source: Destructoid

Source: Destructoid

  • Cost: $40-$75
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package - more info
  • Sports: Most channels in basic $40 package. Everything included in the $45 package
  • DVR: Yes, tag shows as “My Shows” and every future occurrence will be recorded. Recorded videos expire in 28 days.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: Yes
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, Amazon devices, Apple TV, PS4, Roku, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: Has the most compatible devices and a great DVR system.

Recently, PS Vue increased its price making it the most expensive option. However, keep in mind you have a built-in DVR which I found is the absolute best version out of all the streaming services. The main issue this service has is the PlayStation tag - it confuses consumers. As you can see, it actually has the most available devices with the only exceptions being other video game consoles (Xbox and Wii/Switch). Additionally, PS Vue provides the most access to NFL games. Only Sling TV can compare, unless you have someone’s NFL pass for streaming in an internet browser.


So who’s the winner? For me, it was PlayStation Vue. The biggest factor is that it has the best DVR. Yes, YouTube TV has more storage, but you can’t skip commercials on recorded shows which is (in my opinion) the ENTIRE POINT of DVR. Hulu TV could be the move for us in the future, but I’m not going to buy any additional streaming devices (Chromecast, in this case).

With all of this being said, what does an actual cordcutting mix look like? I’ll give you our breakdown and explain some of our choices:

  • Internet: AT&T Gigabit Fiber - $80/month
  • Streaming services:
    • Netflix Ultra - $12/month
    • Hulu Ad Free - $12/month
  • TV service: PlayStation Vue Ultra - $65/month
  • Total: $170

Now, if $170 sounds like a lot, it is. But keep in mind a couple things. For starters, I’m getting the faster internet available to a residential property. You could easily save $30 a month by getting 100 MB/s internet. Secondly, I plan to cancel both of our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions once we finish original programming shows like Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, and Sherlock. I can always start them back up later when a new season drops. Finally, I’m paying for the most expensive Vue plan because of HBO. When we’ve finished Silicon Valley and the newest season of Game of Thrones, I’ll drop down to the $45 package. In theory, you could be paying $100 for decent internet and a Live TV streaming service with sports and DVR.

And remember, the biggest reason to cut the cord is this: it’s totally flexible. Aside from my internet plan, I can drop any of these services at any time or change my subscription. THAT’S why we cut the cord.

So, do you have any questions before you take the leap? I’m happy to help out. Drop us a comment below, send us an email or shoot us a message on Instagram.