My family hasn’t had cable for seven years – and we’re in good company. Today one out of every seven families has cut the cord, according to research by the Pew Research Center. And the pace of cutting out cable has increased dramatically every year, predicted to reach one in five families by 2018. Cable companies and television networks are afraid of this trend. Check out this fear-mongering article by Cox on how cutting cable will cost you more (no it won’t, and you don’t need a smart TV. Plus their prices are exaggerated). Disney saw its stock hit last year as the market is fearing the cord-cutting trends impacts on ESPN and their other television networks.
Here’s an awesome infographic on cable cutting, from an article on Business Insider.
In this article, I’ll tell you my family’s cable story. In future articles, I’ll go over tips on how to cut cable, how to counter common objections you or your family may have, and show you the financial lessons cutting the cord will teach you and your family.
When I was growing up, all my friends had cable – and boy was I jealous. We only had over the air TV, with a limit of half an hour of TV on weekdays. I missed out on all the shows that the kids were talking about at school. When we finally got cable when I was 16, I was so happy to finally be able to watch the things I’d only heard or read about. Then when I moved out into my condo at 20, I got cable myself.
And then quickly cancelled it within a few months. Oh my god, no wonder my parents didn’t want this! It was so expensive and there was never anything on to watch. Plus, I was working full time and going to school full time, there was no time in the day to sit around and watch TV. I was paying so much money every month for nothing!
Now my husband’s situation growing up was completely different. Not only did he have cable from the time he was a little kid, he had the premium cable package (complete with HBO, where he watched shows a little kid shouldn’t see). There were no limits on his TV watching, so he became a connoisseur of cable. You name the show, or the movie, and he’s seen it. When he moved into the condo he was not that happy about the lack of cable. But fortunately he loved me and we were able to work it out. We went to the library a lot and Blockbuster (remember that place?).
When I cut cable the first time it was in the year 2000 – back before video streaming. There was no Netflix online, only DVD’s you could get through the mail. There was no Redbox, only Blockbuster where you paid a small fortune to rent a movie. Amazon was a company that sold books, not streaming video. No Roku, fire stick, or Apple TV as an option. Instead there were good old fashioned rabbit ear antenna and renting movies. God I sound old (now get off my lawn!).
Eventually our oldest son was born. Now in addition to renting movies we found ourselves turning on PBS quite often for him to watch the kids shows. And we picked up many VHS tapes of fun shows for him to watch over and over again, which is just what toddlers love to do. A few years later we moved out of the condo into a house. There was more room in the budget, and one day someone from AT&T came down the street to tell us about the UVerse connection they had just installed. They were offering a great bargain and we took it. After all, having cable would be a lot of fun. There were some shows that I missed watching, especially Food Network. And the deal came with three DVR’s along with some premium channels.
The deal was good for a year. Within that time my middle son was born. We got rid of the premium channels when the deal expired but kept all the cool cable channels for a few years. There was a rough limit on the amount of TV we let the kids watch but it was pretty high-a few hours a day. And my husband was happy because he had missed cable much more than I had. I enjoyed the Food Network and a few other shows but otherwise I really didn’t care very much about it.
After a few years I got sick and tired of paying that huge goddamn bill every month. It seemed like the cost just kept marching up, and up, relentlessly higher. Plus, my oldest son was starting to watch superhero shows, and my youngest (at the time) was imitating them. I really didn’t like the way he would reenact the fighting of the show and decided to take control once more and cancel cable.
I didn’t mind it being gone, but my husband was bummed and my oldest son was sad. So I went in search of alternatives so they would still have fun things to watch. Blockbuster was gone now, but we could grab a movie at the Redbox for only $1 a week at the time. DVD’s were big now, not VHS tapes, and it was possible to pick them up for cheap. I pointed out to my husband that we could rent a movie every week and buy several movies every month and still come nowhere near the cost of cable.
Also there was a new kid on the block – Netflix streaming. Now this was a game changer. The company had been around since 1997 doing their DVD by mail service, which we had tried in the past but found we never remembered to mail the DVD’s back. But with this cool new (hey, at the time it was new – old lady moment again) technology we could stream movies legally to our house! The streaming started in 2007, at first limited to only a few titles and a certain number of hours. But by the time we tapped into it the number of hours’ limit was gone and the titles had expanded massively.
Side note – if you read the article linked above you’ll see that Netflix stock at the time was $22.71 a share before the Great recession. As of this writing its over $100 a share. Ah, to be able to go back in time!
Hulu was also founded around the same time in March of 2007. Amazon’s streaming service wouldn’t come along until 2011, though. Thanks to Netflix and Hulu, cutting cable the second time was a much different experience than the first time. We were able to still rent from the Redbox, and buy some DVD’s, but adding in the streaming meant we could keep up on TV shows and have access to more movies than we could ever watch. Eventually we also picked up a Roku as a Christmas gift which expanded our choices even more.
Next time, I’ll go into 11 tips on how you too can cut cable, how to counter common objections your family may raise, and what financial lessons you can learn from analyzing this expense.
Have you and your family cut cable? What’s your story? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at Liz@chiefmomofficer.org.