Well, that title isn’t entirely truthful— I never had one to begin with.
When I moved into my first NYC apartment almost a year ago, the first topic of business was getting the internet hooked up… of course. My journey began with a trip over to my local Best Buy to purchase a wireless router/ modem, upon which I discovered a TimeWarner rep with a table set up to assist in new customer acquisition.
Now, purchasing cable internet in most places these days is akin to grabbing a beer at a college frat party… there are few options, none of which are very good. Alas, crappy beer is better than no beer at all, so I signed on the dotted line and and cracked open a can of TimeWarner’s finest. Before doing so, I accepted this gentleman’s offer to pitch me on the conglomerate’s cable television package. (Who can resist a good sales pitch?) About a minute in I remember drifting off, thinking to myself, “People still pay for this stuff?”
I could write a 20 page article alone on how much I hate the oligopolistic cable internet machine in the United States, but I’m not going to do that here. What I do need to say, is that cable internet and television in this country is a huge scam. I’m not discovering a new element here. It’s a fairly publicized topic these days that given the embarrassing lack of competition coupled with a growing necessity for their services, cable companies win. The customer loses. With all the “promotional offers” and “discount extensions”, at the end of the day it’s near impossible to know exactly what you should be expected to pay after any given billing cycle. That’s why, in my view, one should limit contractual agreement with any given provider to a bare minimum.
Back to Best Buy. “No, I don’t need that. Just the internet.” No I didn’t care about the 6 free months of HBO, or the added DVR system. That’s what I told him and, thankfully, he was cool with it, thus ending his pitch. So how could one possibly replace all of this fancy media? Simple answer: the internet.
This is what blows my mind about people who still pay for cable. The internet as we know it today is the largest source of free entertainment content that has ever existed. We live in an infinitely expanding universe, and I’m convinced that said expansion is at least partially attributed to internet growth. Don’t get me wrong… I still pay for some content online. But unlike cable television, the content I pay for is advertisement free and at my disposable 24/7. I watch what I want, when I want, where I want. It is possible to cut the cord, and here I am going to outline a few options that will assist in transition.
Paid Streaming Services:
There are a number of them… most of which are pretty solid. I’m going to list three of the big guns here… one of which is a hybrid (paid and/ or unpaid).
Obviously… Netflix is the Goliath in this game. As far as paid streaming services go online, you can’t beat ‘em. They have loads of high quality television, movies, documentaries, all available at click of the mouse. For $8.99/ month customers are granted access to all of Netflix’s online streaming content which can also be shared with friends and family. Do I pay $8.99 a month for Netflix? Absolutely not. I split the service with a friend and haven’t had any streaming issues whatsoever. Whether you’re splitting costs or not, their service is still a great deal. Netflix is packed with timeless favorites, and has now begun to delve into original content as well.
Here are a few of my own recommendations for Netflix original content:
House of Cards
Kevin Spacey led political thriller that chronicles power hungry Washington DC from the convoluted brain of a Democratic South Carolina senator. First non-TV network series to win an Emmy. Definitely worth checking out… thank me later.
An interesting move here… Netflix actually purchased this series from Fox in 2011 after it was taken off the air five years prior. A classic dysfunctional family story filled to the brim with hilarious, smart dialogue. I for one was stoked when this show got a second chance, and viewers agree.
Orange Is The New Black
I will admit, I’ve never actually watched this show. But it seems like I can’t go anywhere these days without someone telling me about it. From what I’ve received: women’s prison story based on a memoir of a similar name, that has been wildly popular with critics and fans alike. I will say, I love the cast on this one… lots of familiar names and faces.
Amazon Prime Video
This service is definitely more limited content-wise relative to Netflix, but it’s still a winner. One of the main ways Amazon beats Netflix in this space is HBO content. The massive online retailer has signed on several older HBO original series for users to stream, with plans to release more in the future. This makes Amazon the exclusive online distributor for HBO (beyond HBO GO of course), a major competitive advantage over other streaming services.
Some have argued that Amazon Prime Video is just an accessory to the overall package that Prime offers, but they seem to be making a serious bid at gaining viewers through video content… and it’s working, with about 34% of all homes with a connected consumer electronics device subscribing to the service. Prime costs $99 a year, unless you’re a student in which case it’s half that. At that price, for what you’re getting, Prime is definitely a viable option for cable replacement.
Want to cut paid services all together? You’re in luck. The internet has a wealth of free content just waiting to be viewed. Here are a few free cable replacement options.
I cannot emphasize Youtube enough as a replacement for television. It seems crazy at first, but Youtube isn’t all videos of cats and idiots getting hurt these days. The site has evolved immensely since its early days, and there is actually a ton of free, network quality entertainment to be had here.
Google has made it easier and easier for individuals to monetize their content on the video site, and we have seen a massive surge of consistently high quality video series that will have you second guessing that monthly payment to big cable company X. Trying to pick up a new skill? Youtube is loaded with instructional videos on everything from juggling bowling pins, to computer programming, to that DIY project your wife has been nagging you about. Looking for something with a little more entertainment value? No problem. There are tons of independently funded projects that air weekly on Youtube, created by professional actors and directors. On Youtube there is something for everyone. Find some of my favorites below:
Some of the best web series of this past year: http://variety.com/gallery/top-10-web-series-of-2013/
Probably the single best video learning resource on the internet, all free Youtube vids: https://www.khanacademy.org/
Daily crowd ranked/ curated video source: www.reddit.com/r/videos
I’ll be brief here. Vimeo is very similar to Youtube, but the videos are generally are filmed in higher definition overall. It’s a lot smaller content-wise, but it’s certainly something to check out.
Hulu is similar to Netflix in its approach, but differs mainly in content offering and interface. Hulu has streaming rights to series from ABC, Fox, NBC, TBS, WWE among others, while offering paid and unpaid services. The paid service offers significantly more content than the latter, though both iterations display commercials (kind of annoying). I don’t personally find the need to use Hulu’s paid service, but those I know who do seem to praise its offering. Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month or $95.88 per year, and has it’s fair share of original content like its competitors.
Live sports streaming really is the last area cable companies have a stronghold on, but their grip is weakening. With some sports, you can actually pay to view online. I personally subscribe to MLB.tv, a service that airs all Major League Baseball games throughout the season. It costs $110 for the entire regular season, 162 games… not bad. Compare that to MLB Network on cable which charges upwards of $60 plus… per month! It’s mind-blowing that cable still gets away with charging these types of rates but, again, the customer base is definitely starting to turn.
Not all sports broadcasts have online options autonomous of big cable, but there are ways to get around this still. There are countless numbers of sites that air pirated streams of live sports, available for free through peer to peer connections. These sites definitely exist within the gray area of legality, but as long as you use services that don’t require actually downloading anything, you’re pretty much in the clear. I had learned all about these sites while studying abroad in Spain, and they became a lifesaver when the NFL Playoffs came around. They can be shotty at times, with streams going in and out, but it’s still better than missing Tom Brady throw a 60 yard rocket pass into the end zone with a minute and a half left (yes, I’m a huge Patriots fan). I’m not going to list any specific sources on here, but finding a reliable source is as simple as searching for something like “Patriots live stream” on game day.
Well there you have it folks. I’ve only breached the surface on how the internet has replaced cable television for me… I could probably write a book on the topic. Regardless, I definitely recommend giving the sans-cable lifestyle a shot. The resources I’ve listed here only represent some direct replacements for the type of content television provides. That being said, ever since I cut the cord I find myself spending much more of my time reading (internet and paperback) and generally just exploring the world around me. This is time that may have been otherwise spent mindlessly clicking through the boob tube. So put the remote down, save your money, and enjoy your life. Remember, there is a world outside of the glowing screen affixed to your living room wall. Go see for yourself!
Sign up for our newsletter
Like this article? Sign up for our free newsletter and we’ll send you a weekly email of our best blogs, deals and money tips to help you live a richer life.