Cord cutting and cord shaving tips

As part of my recent reduction in cable TV service, I’ve been reading tips on cord cutting or cord shaving. Of course, advice varies. Some articles make too many assumptions, such as thinking everyone cares about HBO/”Game of Thrones.” Other articles assume everyone wants to pay for every streaming service possible, defeating the cost-savings rationale of cord cutting. And of course, cable TV companies make it difficult to compare various cable and broadband package costs.

On that note, I thought I’d offer my own broad suggestions for cord cutting, or at least cord shaving. While it’s not perfect, it’ll hopefully help someone.

Get a TV antenna or ask for the cable company’s “lifeline” package

Since most TV viewers will likely want or need broadcast TV channels, it’d be advisable to resolve that first. Fortunately, digital antennas are fairly inexpensive.

However, if you don’t want to mess with an antenna, cable companies offer a little-advertised package of just the over-the-air TV channels. It’s usually called “lifeline,” “basic,” or “limited basic.” With Comcast, their broadband Internet packages usually offer the broadcast TV channels for only $5-$10 more.

Stick to three streaming services at the most

I’d suggest paying for no more than three streaming services. If any more than that are needed, I’d suggest either buying the shows on DVD/digital video or keeping a conventional cable TV subscription. Of course, you can also check out DVDs from the public library for free. Redbox DVD/Blu-Ray rental kiosks are also pretty cheap.

These days, every Tom, Dick, and Hulu are trying to start their own streaming services to cash in on the popularity of Netflix and HBO Now; see CBS’ “All Access” service. However, it’s not feasible to go from paying for a cable TV package to paying a la carte for a large number of streaming services. That’s especially if all of those services add up to about what cable TV would cost. Since the whole idea of cord cutting/cord shaving is to reduce the cost of television services, it’s best to stick with several streaming services tops.

Recommended streaming services

Netflix app on mobile device
Flickr photo by Shardayyy (CC BY)

Unless you have more specific streaming needs, here’s my recommended streaming services for cord cutters:

Netflix or Amazon

While both services offer their own unique programming, there’s some degree of overlap or material duplication between the two. So, just pick one (unless going with an optional third service; see below).

Hulu

Hulu offers a range of broadcast and some cable TV programming on demand, some of it up as soon as a day after broadcast.

An optional third streaming service of your choice

  • HBO Now. If you’re a big fan of HBO’s shows, you’ll want their streaming service. Ideally, you’re not just paying for a single show like “Game of Thrones.” But if that’s the case, you can at least cancel the service once the season’s over.
  • Sling TV. Fans of basic cable TV, cartoons, casual sports coverage, or reality shows will be interested in this service. Sling TV runs a bit pricier than the other services at $20/month. However, it offers streaming of various basic cable channels, including: ESPN, Cartoon Network, Food Network, HGTV, TNT, TBS, and CNN. For an extra fee, other service tiers are available. These include sports packages, children’s programming packages (including Boomerang and Disney XD), and non-English channels.
  • Netflix or Amazon. For those that want Netflix and Amazon, you could just subscribe to all three major streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu).
  • CBS All Access. For those that’re really big CBS fans, there’s this streaming service, which offers some CBS shows not available on Hulu or other services.
  • A specific sports streaming service. For dedicated fans of a specific sport, you can buy one of the major sports leagues’ streaming services. NHL All Access (formerly Gamecenter) offers streaming during hockey season for $25/month, or $140/year. However, most of these services black out locally televised games, or games carried on a national network (including cable channels).

What streaming services are you using?

(Updated 5/12/17)

One comment

  1. Came for tips on shaving my beard. Was disappointed.

    I’ll throw Fandor out there too. It’s about $10 a month and really does offer some films that are not available anywhere else. Also will mention that with Hulu Plus at $10/month, you get access to about 1,000 films in the Criterion Collection.

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