Viewers cut cable cord
WASHINGTON — When Mary Sherwood was injured in a motorcycle accident two years ago, she knew she'd have to make room in her budget for the unexpected medical bills. Her $115-per-month cable subscription was the first thing to go.
But even though Sherwood can afford to renew the subscription now, she isn't interested. The 34-year-old account supervisor from Lee's Summit, Mo., is one of a small but growing number of Americans who choose to forgo cable or satellite television in favor of streaming video on the Internet — for a fraction of the cost.
For about $23 a month, Sherwood can watch all of her favorite programs through the streaming subscription services Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.
To catch Kansas City Chiefs football games, she tunes into free over-the-air network TV using a low-cost “rabbit ears” digital antenna, which sells for as little as $8.
“Once you make the switch, I don't know why you would want to go back,” Sherwood said.
The vast majority of Americans — 95 percent — still watch television using traditional cable or satellite options, according to Nielsen. But the number of households that choose to opt out of cable or satellite TV is on the rise, from 2 million in 2007 to 5 million in 2013, Nielsen's data show.
“This scares the bejesus out of the cable and satellite people,” said Jim Barry, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Va. “I think it's going to change the business model.”
Rapid advances in streaming technology and faster broadband speeds make the transition easier than ever for those looking to “cut the cord.” Consumers can get high-definition images and a la carte content with few or no commercials. And streaming allows viewers to watch television anywhere they go, on laptops, smartphones or tablets.
Catching on to the trend, cable and satellite companies have begun to offer “watch anywhere” services that allow subscribers to get live TV and streaming content on their mobile devices.
Online streaming services upped the ante, in turn, by producing original programming — popular shows such as “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” — available only to Netflix subscribers via the Internet.
Cord-cutting won't work for everyone, however. Streaming isn't ideal if you watch a lot of live television, whether you're a sports addict or news junkie, or if you just can't wait until tomorrow to catch the latest “Breaking Bad” episode. And premium channels such as HBO or Showtime are available only through cable or satellite.
“At this point, (cord-cutting) is not a realistic option for most households just because the amount of choice that they want is not going to be available online. But it's only growing, so I think that cable companies are definitely aware of this and reacting to it,” said Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the director of its Technology Policy Program.
As a result, consumers might see lower prices and more choice in the future, Brito said.
A main driver behind the high cost of cable and satellite in recent years is the expensive license fees networks pay sports leagues to broadcast their games. The cost gets passed on to consumers to pay for the “bundles” of channels they get with their cable satellite subscriptions, whether they plan to watch sports or not.
The Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN, held preliminary talks recently to offer its channels through a Web-TV provider such as Google or Sony, Bloomberg reported last month. But even if such an online-only package became an option, it likely would be very pricey.
The first step, if you're ready to cut the cord, is to see whether you can get good, free over-the-air reception, either with an antenna or online subscription service such as Aereo.
Aereo relies on tiny antennas in the company's data centers that pick up local channels' signals and beam them over the Internet to customers. For a monthly membership of $8 to $12, Aereo customers can watch channels streaming live online or save them on virtual digital video recorders for later.
Although it's available in only a handful of cities — Miami, Boston, Houston, New York, Salt Lake City and Atlanta — Aereo is expanding soon to Kansas City, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and other metro areas.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- American Eagle notches $61.6M 4Q profit
- Concurrent Technologies focuses on developing batteries for renewable energy, electric cars
- Oil glut forces producers to seek out more storage tanks
- Impact fees garner support from state community leaders
- Trade deals good way to add jobs, CEOs say
- PNC Bank to cut financing of mountaintop removal coal companies
- Profit increases 12% at Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Auto industry slows for bad weather, but stays on course
- Company proposes building 2 gas-fired power plants in West Virginia
- Markets ‘flutter’ day after records