A Cord Cutting Guide for Beginners
Cord cutting has become increasingly popular in recent years, but if you’re new to the game, you may be wondering: what is it and why should you consider it? Cord cutting simply refers to canceling or “cutting the cord” on Cable TV in favor of internet-based streaming options. Many people cancel their cable subscription to save money; why pay for expensive bundles or channels you never use? Cord cutting is also a great option to get what you want – when you want; essentially, an a la carte selection of your favorite channels, movies, and TV shows.
If you’re one of the many people interested in alternatives to one-size-fits-all cable packages, check out this cord-cutting guide to learn what you need to cut the cord in your home and the pros and cons of making the switch.
Cord Cutting is on the Rise
Many cord-cutting enthusiasts consider 2007 as the start of the massive migration away from cable. What happened in 2007? That’s when Netflix switched from their popular DVD-by-mail service to the now ubiquitous instant video streaming. Of course, other streaming-service heavyweights like Hulu and Amazon had a hand in the rise and evolution of streaming.
As streaming services continue to evolve and become more readily available, an increasing number of people are cutting the cord in favor of cable tv alternatives. According to PC Mag: as of 2015, 7.3 percent of US households are cord cutters. This means you can expect cord-cutting options to continue to evolve, while cable companies continue to fight back to maintain their customer base.
What You Need to Cut the Cord
If you want to ditch cable, you need a way to access Internet-streaming services. Luckily, this isn’t a stretch for most, since the majority of people already have reliable, high-speed Internet in their homes. If you already get your Internet service through your cable package, call your provider and change your plan. This should save you some money right away.
After that, you need the appropriate equipment to watch content from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus. Luckily, there are several easy ways to make this happen.
Smart TVs come with pre-installed apps for the most popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more. Smart TVs are a clutter-free addition to your home entertainment center. Because you have already have almost everything you need, you eliminate set-top boxes and extra cables, which leaves you more room for wireless speaker systems and accessories.
If you don’t have a smart TV and don’t want to buy one, don’t worry, there are a number of options to access streaming services on your TV.
Connect Your Computer to Your TV
Since you can access the popular streaming sites from your computer, this is another easy option. When you connect your computer to your TV, you can watch movies and shows on the big screen.
There are a few different ways to connect your computer to your TV (with and without wires). The setup depends on your personal preference, hardware, and budget. To learn about the different options, check out this easy-to-follow guide: how to connect your computer to your TV.
Streaming Sticks and Set-Top Boxes
If you don’t have a smart TV and can’t or don’t want to connect your computer to your TV, there are several other options to help you cut the cord and access the channels and programs you want to watch.
If you’re a devout Macbook, iPhone or iPad user, Apple TV is probably your go-to option. Apple TV is a sleek, set-top box with a remote control which features voice-activated search. In addition to pre-installed apps, users can access their movies, music, and TV shows and stream to the TV from Apple devices via AirPlay.
Apple TV is easy to setup: Connect the set-top box to your TV using your HDMI port. Once it’s plugged in, follow the on-screen prompts to set up your Wi-Fi network and sign in to your iTunes account.
Roku is an easy-to-use streaming device that lets you access tons of content. In addition to its older models, Roku recently rolled out five new options: the Roku Express, Roku Express +, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere +, and Roku Ultra (best choice for 4K video). If you’re not a fan of set-top boxes, there’s also the Roku streaming stick.
Roku is easy to install; plug the cord into the HDMI port on your TV, follow the on-screen prompts, and activate your device. With hundreds of channels and a universal search feature, Roku is an excellent, relatively inexpensive option for cord cutters.
With Chromecast, you can cast video from your mobile phone, tablet, or computer to your tv, and use your mobile device as a remote control. Chromecast is inexpensive, and the puck-shaped dongle plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. Unlike Roku and Apple TV, you don’t download or install apps on your Chromecast; the apps live on your computer or device.
While Chromecast gives you the ability to stream from apps like Netflix and Hulu, it also allows you to access your own content. If you use Chromecast with younity for example, you can set up your own home media server to access all of your media and stream it to your TV. Learn more about Chromecast integration with younity.
Want to see how Chromecast stacks up against Roku and Apple TV? Check out these side-by-side comparisons:
Amazon Fire TV Stick
This is another compact streaming device that packs a big punch. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has a similar design to the Roku Streaming Stick, and plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port. As you may have guessed, the Amazon Fire TV Stick gives you access to all the video content available on Amazon Instant Video, but you need to pay for an Amazon Prime subscription in order to stream video. You can also rent and purchase movies and TV shows from Amazon, directly from your Fire TV Stick.
If you want access to more content, you can download additional apps like Netflix, YouTube, HBO NOW, and Hulu Plus.
Cord Cutting: Channels and Streaming Services
Now that you’ve got your Smart TV or streaming device, it’s time to pick out which channels and subscriptions you want. You may be thinking, “why do I need to choose?” or “I want to all of them!” But remember, saving money is the name of the game and that requires some planning. Besides the free channels like YouTube, Crackle, and Vimeo, most streaming services require a subscription.
Netflix is a staple among cord cutters, and the good news is, the streaming service is very budget friendly. It costs $9.99 a month to stream high-definition video on up to two screens at a time. The premium plan gives you HD video, Ultra HD video, and lets you watch on up to four screens at a time for $11.99 a month.
The only downside to Netflix is the movie and TV show selection is constantly changing, but despite that, Netflix is a must-have app for any cord-cutting movie buff or TV binge-watcher.
Since you’re ditching your cable package, you don’t want to miss episodes of your favorite shows. With Hulu Plus, you can watch current shows the day after new episodes air on cable. The subscription service costs $7.99 per month with commercials or $11.99 for commercial-free streaming. Not to be outdone by Netflix and Amazon, Hulu has also added its own lineup of original shows. It’s an excellent addition to your cord-cutting toolkit.
Note: CBS shows are not currently available on Hulu, so if you want to watch shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” you can sign up for CBS All Access for $5.99 a month.
Amazon Instant Video
With Netflix and Hulu, you may have all the movie and TV show content you need. If you want to add an additional option, however, Amazon Instant Video gives you access to a slew of movies and TV shows and you can also rent shows and movies directly from your computer, Smart TV, or Streaming Device.
Plus, with your Prime subscription, you’re eligible for free two-day shipping on Amazon.
HBO, Showtime, Starz
When you cut your cable, you lose access to the premium channels. If you mainly watch movies, you may do fine with just Netflix. If you’re a “Game of Thrones” or “Homeland” fan, however, you may want to shell out the additional cash to stay up to date on your favorite shows.
For $14.99 a month, you can access HBO movies, specials, and original series.
You can get Showtime on Apple TV or Roku for $11 per month. If you subscribe to Hulu’s $8 per month plan, you can get Showtime for an additional $9/month.
Starz standalone streaming service is slightly less expensive than its counterparts at only $8.99 per month.
Cord Cutting for Sports Fans
Some sports fans are reluctant to cut the cord because cable is the easiest way to watch local and regional sports. If you’re considering cord cutting, don’t worry, there are some great options to make sure you don’t miss any of the action from your favorite teams.
For $20 per month (for the basic package), you can watch ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, and TNT. If you want to watch Fox Sports and the NFL Network, you can upgrade your Sling TV package for $25 a month. There’s also a Sports Extra Package that gives you the SEC Network, ESPNU, and ESPNews.
In addition to sports channels, Sling TV also offers AMC, Food Network, A&E, History, HGTV, IFC, Disney, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, ABC Family, and Lifetime.
Sport-Specific Streaming Services
If you’re a diehard fan of a specific team or sport, you can pay for subscription-based apps for NBA, MLB, and NFL. With NBA League Pass, for example, you can choose to watch a single team, multiple teams, or single games.
Check out the options for your favorite sport:
Note: Make sure you read the fine print for all of these subscription services, some have blackouts for local games and playoffs.
Cord Cutting vs Cable: How Much Will You Save?
As much as we wish we could tell you an exact dollar amount for cord cutting vs cable, it comes down to which streaming services you select. If you’re only interested in Netflix and Hulu, you’ll pay about $24 a month and definitely save a pretty penny compared to the average cable package ($99/month). If you’re a sports fan who only wants Sling TV, you’ll also pay less than $30 per month. As you continue to add channels, the price will go up, but depending on which shows and movies you want to stream, you may still be well under the bundled cable package. With a little bit of research and some careful planning, you can save lots of money per month.
For more insight on the numbers, check out this cord-cutting calculator.
Besides saving money, the biggest advantage of cord cutting is freedom. You’re free to choose and pay for the channels/services you want, and you’re not forced to pay for superfluous channels you never use. That alone makes cord cutting a more modern, forward-thinking entertainment option.
younity: The Best Cord-Cutting App You’re Not Using
We’ve talked about how to select different channels to stream content available online, but we’re missing a piece of the puzzle. What about your own content? If you have a large collection of movies, home videos, GoPro videos, and music, you need a way to access your media and watch it on the big screen. This just adds another element to the ultimate entertainment center we want to help you build.
younity is a mobile app that lets you access all of the videos, music, photos, and documents from your computer. When you install younity on your computer and download the app on your phone, you can access all your media, and you can watch it on your TV with Apple AirPlay or Chromecast. younity can help you step up your cord-cutting game!