Above: When you cut the cord, you can enjoy TV on your own terms. Photo by Pixabay.
Those of us of a certain age remember walking across the room to change channels by turning the selector knob on the TV. Remember the “clicks” as you passed each channel?
Today, “click” has a totally different meaning. We click a mouse or tap a screen to get TV content on computers or devices or push buttons on our TV remotes to get hundreds of channels we mostly don’t watch.
Or, we push a button or two to record a program, even a sporting event, to watch on our schedule. The whole idea of being someplace at a specific time to watch a TV show is breaking apart.
And watching it on a TV? That’s another idea that’s fading fast.
If you’ve made the journey from the 15-inch-wide piece-of-furniture TV and test patterns to the 65-inch flat screen HDTV, you may think you’ve reached the final frontier. You haven’t, but the next step is closer than you think.
Today’s technology for delivering video content — we still call it TV — offers you greater selectivity from among more choices and a much better viewing experience. And the best part of it all is that it’s not that complicated. My goal is to help you better understand what you need to do if you want to cut the cord from your cable or satellite provider.
As you start to think about cutting the cord, you need to keep two things in mind:
- You may not necessarily save money, but you will be able to align your “TV budget” with your viewing needs.
- You’re not going to replicate your cable/satellite experience. You’ll be moving on to something different and, hopefully, better.
What do you watch?
I don’t know anyone who watches half the channels offered by cable and satellite. You probably break your viewing choices along the following lines: news, weather, sports, network programming, special interests and movies. For that final category, you may turn to premium channels, such as HBO and Showtime, or programming not even associated with TV, such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and a host of others.
In this age of technology, the first thing you might want to do is get a piece of paper and a pen and write down the channels or types of programming you watch. Your list could include “over-the-air” broadcast channels, such as the local affiliates of TV networks; sports programming; news, including business news and weather; foreign-language programming; special interest programming, etc.
Do you watch any of the premium programming for movies? Do you subscribe to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or other services for movies and other programming? Or do you use On-Demand from your cable provider for free or paid programming and movies?
Who will provide it?
After you compile your list, you can start to look at the streaming services to see who carries your programs. At this stage, we recommend that you put aside how they’ll deliver — or stream — the content. Your goal here is to see who offers the most content you want to watch and what packages you might be able to add to their offerings to give you all that you want.
This is where streaming will differ from cable or satellite. Each provider gives you choices and tiers of service that allow you to add more programming. With streaming, you can have more than one service to get the programming you want.
Feel free to mix and match. If you have cable and a Netflix, Amazon or Hulu subscription, you’re already doing it. In the Atlanta metro area, there’s a good chance you can get your local network TV stations by over-the-air broadcast; that’s something you pay for with your cable and satellite and with some streaming services.
Here are seven streaming providers to help you with your research:
These are not the only ones, but one or more might work for you, based on their programming and pricing. You’ll be able to get premium channels and services, plus DVR capabilities, through most, if not all, of them. You can go beyond their websites to check out their customer reviews.
How will I watch it?
To be clear, you may cut the cable-TV cord from your cable provider, but you will still need an internet connection. Depending on where you live, that may be your current provider, but you’ll only buy internet access. Netflix recommends a download speed of 5 megabits per second (MBPS) to watch a movie on HD-quality TVs and 25 MBPS for Ultra HD quality. The more TVs and devices you have and the higher the quality you want, the faster the connection you’ll need, and the more that will cost.
Also keep in mind that the more HD programming you stream, the more data you will use, and your internet provider will monitor that. They offer packages based on speed and your monthly data use, and you’ll need to take that into account.
If you have a Smart TV that’s connected to your in-home Wi-Fi network, you’re in business. If you don’t have a Wi-Fi network or have one that’s capable of delivering a strong signal to all the TVs, computers, phones and tablets in your home, you’ll need to have one installed. That’s a subject for another discussion.
With a Smart TV on your network, you just need your TV’s remote to access streaming. If you have a flat screen TV with HD capability and a HDMI port (most new TVs have multiple HDMI ports), you can connect boxes from the content provider. The box, known as the casting device, has an antenna to access your Wi-Fi network, and the HDMI connection is the best way to carry the content to your TV.
At this point, you’ll control your TV like you do now. Casting devices have their own remote-control systems, which can also control your TV on/off and sound volume, but you can also use universal remotes and remotes that run through your mobile devices. Any remote that works with your Wi-Fi can be programmed to control TVs in multiple rooms.
Better living after the cord
People who’ve cut the cord report a better viewing experience. They say they can change channels faster, access programming guides more easily and enjoy better quality (as long as they have the technology).
Finally, if you really want to cut your costs way down and are happy with over-the-air TV, you can buy HDTV antennae for your HDTV TVs. As long as you have good reception, you will get an exceptional picture — and a bonus; many HDTV broadcasters have side channels that can provide extra programming.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll be taking advantage of the flexibility advancing technology offers to live life on your terms.