Big news came out yesterday: Verizon FiOS is dipping its toe into the concept of a la carte channel selection ("Skinny Bundles") for cable customers. They claim to be interested in giving customers more choice (cough *bullshit*). Or they're finally reacting to 3.74 million Americans who have canceled their cable subscriptions from 2008 to 2012 (read more here). Whatever the reason, It's a step in the right direction -- but is it enough?
Verizon's "Skinny Bundle" option would cost $55 and include basic channels, plus two additional "channel packs" which contain 10-17 channels each. [Interestingly, according to a Nielsen study (read here) conducted last year, the average TV household only watches about 17 channels every year since 2008. 17 channels!]
But anyway this is all well and good, but $55 a month is still a little steep, especially since you and I know this price doesn't include your DVR, additional cable boxes and all the taxes and fees that go along with with an account. (Read more about it on CNET.com here.)
Bottom line: I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately. Should I quit cable?
It would be hard. Really hard. I love TV. I love freedom. I love my DVR (like, serious, irrational love).
But it is getting ridiculous. $100 a month (and climbing) for a bunch of channels I never use? I currently watch about 5 cable channels regularly: AMC, HBO, SHO, FX and Bravo, in addition to ABC, NBC and FOX. OK so I would miss the news, but guess what? I could buy this clever device from Amazon.com and get basic cable for FREE:
[You basically just need to check here to find out where the closest transmitter tower is. You can use an indoor antenna if you are within 25 miles of a tower; otherwise, you'll need an outdoor one.]
You'll also need internet access through your TV or you'll be watching everything on your laptop or tablet and that would be dreadful. Maybe you already have a Smart TV. Otherwise, you'll need to get AppleTV, Roku or a Chromecast. I personally have one Smart TV and a Chromecast so I should be covered. [Visit Amazon.com here to buy a Chromecast for like $35.]
The other thing you'll need are subscriptions to your favorite channels. The rub for some channels like HBO, Fox, ABC and FX that have apps is you need your cable account log in to access. You will no longer have that.
Here are the online subscriptions you can get to access your fave shows:
- HuluPlus: As of right now, a H+ account costs $7.99 a month. That will get you access to just about any show on network TV, as well as some cable shows.
- Amazon Prime: Amazon Prime is "prime"arily known for the shipping service. You pay $99 a year and get free shipping for the year. What comes with this is also streaming TV, movies and music. The TV shows aren't current, but like Netflix they are delving into producing original series, like Transparent and Alpha House.
- Netflix: Netflix doesn't have a great selection of movies, but has a handful of fantastic original series like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Bloodline. That subscription is $7.99 a month as well.
- HBO NOW: HBO is the first channel to come out with the opportunity to buy an independent subscription to their programming. This is huge. I could probably give up Showtime, but HBO is my bread and butter. HBO NOW is about $15 a month. I think as of now it only works on an iPad or iPhone or AppleTV.
- Freeloading/sharing: This is where having friends comes in handy. Sharing is caring; and sharing online log-in information is the equivalent of caring for elderly parents. (That might be a little dramatic.) But anyway, check with your friends. There's nothing wrong with swapping some accounts. You buy Hulu, I buy Netflix. You buy Amazon Prime, I buy HBO Now. You get cable and I'll just freeload off your account. We're all family here.
The one huge bummer of ditching cable is sports. Although I have to note here, that for die-hard sports fans, you have to order special packages anyway and if you are doing that, you probably have no issue paying for cable in the first place.
And I can't attest to all of them but I know you can purchase packages from the MLB, NBA and NHL for similar prices to what you'd pay your cable company. The NFL is trickier. They have an audio package you can buy but because of all their crazy licensing, don't have a video package. You'll have to go to your nearest sports bar to catch those games. Same with college sports. I don't really care about that stuff because I usually go somewhere social to watch sports, but for you round-the-clock sports fanatics, this might be the reason you have to forgive cable for giving you a black eye and accept them for what they are.
[For a great article from Time of how the above subscriptions compare to the cost of cable and what your savings could add up to be, click here.]
OK people, so as much as there are signs some cable companies might be on the verge of offering a la carte cable options, we are also about to see four of the biggest -- and most hated -- cable companies merge: Comcast and Time Warner, and AT&T and DirecTV. If this happens, prices are bound to go up, and customer service will continue to decline. Danger! Danger!
Why do they hate us so much? Click here to find out why. Or watch Funny or Die's visual representation of it here:
So yes, I'm going to quit cable.
Not yet, but soon. Very soon.