SUMMER SAVINGS EVENT
Save throughout the site
SHOP NOW
Main Content

Cutting The Cord Buying Guide

Ditch cable and watch the majority of your programming over the internet, by cutting the cord!

Cutting the Cord: How to Live Without Cable

One of the easiest ways to save money on your monthly bills is by "cutting the cord." Cord cutters are viewers who have ditched the traditional cable or satellite setup, and use today's connected technologies to watch TV and movies through other channels (both literally and figuratively).
In simple terms, cutting the cord is the act of getting your primary programming over the internet, instead of through a cable box or satellite receiver. This is possible thanks to a combination of widespread, affordable broadband internet; streaming services like Netflix and Hulu; and internet-connected devices like the Roku player and Smart TVs.
The most common reason for cutting the cord is a desire to save money. Recent figures show that the average US household pays nearly $220 a month for their cable TV package (including internet). For many, that's more than all other monthly utility bills combined. If you're someone who doesn't watch much TV, that's a steep price to pay for access to a few favorite programs.
Cutting the cord has the answer, but it does require a little effort to get started. Want to know how to cut the cord? Here's our comprehensive guide.

Getting Started: Internet Requirements

The foundation of any successful cord-cutting lifestyle is a good internet connection. Since most of the media will be delivered via the internet, it's important that your internet is both fast and strong.
Both Netflix and the FCC recommend a minimum download speed of 5-8 Mbps (Megabits per second) for adequate streaming of HD content with no interruptions and minimal buffering. The average cable or DSL internet connection should be able to provide these speeds at a reasonable price. If you're not sure what your average internet speed is, you can check it at Speedtest.net.
If you watch a lot of TV, or have an entire family that will be watching across multiple devices, you'll want an internet plan with speeds higher than that minimum recommendation, along with a very high or unlimited data cap. Streaming an hour of video will require anywhere between 0.7 and 3 GB an hour, depending on resolution and video quality. Combine your regular internet tasks with video streaming, and it can be easy to break even a high data cap like 250 GB per month.
When connecting your devices, a wired connection is best, ensuring a solid, consistent xxx. However, a good wireless connection will work as well (spotty Wi-Fi will lead to a dropped signal, interrupting your viewing). For the best wireless connection, invest in a high-end router or a mesh network system.

Types of Services

With a suitable internet plan decided upon, it's time to figure out which services you'll need in order to get all of the content you want to watch. Cord cutters get their content one (or a combination of all of three) ways: Over-the-air broadcasts, streaming services with monthly subscription fees, or pay-per episode digital downloads.
Over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts are exactly what they sound like: tuning in channels "over the air," with a dedicated TV antenna, like all households used to do before HDTV became the standard. Many consumers don't realize that this is even still an option, but it's a great way to get your local channels.
Most viewers in the USA are within range of broadcast towers, and can easily tune into broadcasts of ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and more local channels. These are high definition broadcasts, so they'll look just as good as the picture from cable—sometimes even better.
The only equipment you'll need to receive OTA broadcasts is a TV antenna. Viewers in areas with strong signals can pull in channels with a simple set-top antenna (aka bunny ears), while those farther from the broadcast towers may need to upgrade to a rooftop antenna. You can find out a little more about what channels are available in your area and how strong their signals are by using the FCC's DTV reception map.
An antenna can get you your favorite network shows, but you'll have to watch them live. What if you're a fan of cable programming or prefer to DVR shows to rewatch on your own time? That's where streaming services come in.
A streaming video service is the provider through which you'll get your content—think of it like the modern version of a cable channel. Today, there are more than a dozen streaming services, each offering something slightly different. Which streaming service is the best for you? That will depend on what programs you're hoping to watch and how you want to watch them.

Streaming services can fall into three different types:

Live TV Streaming Service

These replicate the cable/satellite experience, giving access to popular networks like HGTV, AMC, Discovery Channel, on a set schedule. This is a great choice if you want to ease into cord cutting or need the ability to watch live sports. Most live streaming services also offer a cloud DVR service, so you can still record your favorite programs to watch later. The most popular live TV app is Sling TV.

Subscription On-Demand Streaming

A concept popularized by Netflix, these apps offer a large catalog of TV shows and movies that you can watch at any time, as often as you'd like. A monthly subscription fee gets you access to the entire catalog. Hulu is another popular subscription-based streaming service.

On-Demand Renting and Purchasing

This is how you'll be able to watch movies or TV shows that you can't find in either of the previous services. These services let you pay a one-time fee to rent (or purchase) a movie or individual TV show episodes, without requiring a monthly subscription. They're the digital version of a video rental store. The top places to do this are Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Vudu.
There is some overlap between the services that each app offers—Hulu has a live TV option, and Amazon Prime Video offers a subscription-based on-demand catalog as well. Some of the other most popular streaming services include HBO Max, Disney+, and CBS All Access. Each of these services includes the parent brand's entire back catalog of TV shows and movies, and a quick look at each of their lists of titles should give you an idea if you'd like to subscribe.
A combination of these tactics should give you access to every show or movie you'd ever want to watch. One of the great things about cutting the cord is that you don't have to pay for things you'll never watch. For instance, instead of paying for the 500 channel cable package just to get the National Geographic channel, you can now get all of their programming via a $6.99/month Disney+ subscription. By combining various services, you only pay for what you want—which usually costs much less than a two-year commitment to a cable company. Let's take a look:
  • Netflix: $13.99
  • Hulu: $5.99
  • HBO Max: $14.99
  • Disney+: $6.99
  • SlingTV: $30
  • Pluto TV: Free
That adds up to about $72 a month, and gives you access to thousands of TV shows and movies, whenever and wherever you want. Factor in the average cost of broadband internet—which is usually between $30 to $70—and you're still well under $150 a month. Over the course of a year, an average viewer might save up to $1000, while still getting access to a massive library of programming. That's enough to buy a nice new 4K LED TV for every 2-year cable commitment you avoid.
And that brings us to another major benefit of cutting the cord: no long-term contracts. Every streaming app on the market today can be subscribed to on a per-month basis, with easy cancellation policies and no need to sign an annual contract.

Device Types

The final step in becoming a cord cutter is determining how you'll watch all of this content you now have access to. One of the great things about using streaming TV is the flexibility it gives you in how and where you can watch. The first cord cutters did most of their viewing on their computers, since that was where the apps were. But today, you can watch streaming video on any internet-connected device: your smartphone, a computer, a TV—even some high-end refrigerators!

Here's a rundown of the most popular options.

Smart TVs

The simplest way for a viewer to become a cord cutter is with a Smart TV. Today, nearly every new TV on the market is a Smart TV. These TVs can connect directly to the internet, and run the apps needed for cutting the cord. Smart TVs have an operating system not unlike the one on your smartphone; they come with popular streaming TV apps already installed, and offer the option to install additional apps. Accessing those apps is often as easy as pressing a single button on the remote control. Learn more about the feature available TV features in our TV buying guide.

Media Streaming Devices

If you don't have a Smart TV and don't want to upgrade to one (we're trying to save money, after all) you can opt for one of the many media streaming devices on the market today. These are small, low-power and low-cost devices that connect to your TV via HDMI cable, adding internet capability.
The most popular streaming media players are the Apple TV and Roku devices. Streaming media players connect to the internet either with a wireless or wired connection, and allow you to download and use apps like the ones discussed previously.
Another option is to use other devices you might already own, which can also act as streaming media players. All recent PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles can act as players for Netflix, Hulu, and many other streaming apps. Most recent Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray players also have this capability. Using a device that you already own will cut out an additional up-front cost, and keep one more remote out of your cluttered family room. Learn more about this and other Blu-ray player features in our Blu-ray player buying guide.

Putting it all together

With a suitable combination of internet service, app subscriptions, and streaming device, you're ready to cut the cord. As with adopting any other new technology, there's bound to be a learning curve as you get used to this new way of watching. It might not be as convenient as relying on cable, but many cord-cutters find that any inconvenience is outweighed by the cost savings and the ability to watch their favorite content anywhere, at any time.
It's easy to give cord-cutting a trial run, and can even be done for free. Every streaming service mentioned in this article offers a free trial that lasts for at least a week, giving you plenty of time for a test run. If you already have a smart device, a trial will not cost you a thing. And as always, if you have any questions about any of the services or products needed to cut the cord, please contact us at 800-860-3577.
Last updated: November 18, 2020

What Our Customers Say About Us

See All Customer Testimonials
  • The guys did a great job. I've never had appliances delivered or installed so well or with so much care. THANK YOU!!!
    Kevin S. - Naperville, IL
    May 30, 2021
Loading