Cord cutters are living the dream, right? No astronomical cable bill, watching pretty much whatever they want, getting loads of free local channels, and making their own decisions about what comes into their homes. That’s actually all pretty true. However, it does take the right kind of person to be a true cord cutter. Think you’re ready for the leap? Ready to cut the cable and watch TV for free?
Are you the right candidate for cutting the cord and getting rid of cable TV?
Ditching cable TV isn’t actually for everyone. Some people don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to cut the cable in order to watch TV for free. Many of them will find sticking with their current cable provider to be much easier and a better fit for them in the long run. If cost isn’t an issue for you, and the following points don’t really apply to you, just know that cutting the cord might not be for you.
Also realize that there are ways to test the waters with cord cutting, and that you don’t have to go all-in if you’re not ready. Cord shaving is fast becoming both a great entry point into the cord cutter lifestyle as well as a legitimate permanent answer for many families.
If, however, you’re ready to go all-in with cutting costs, having greater control over your content, and having fun learning some new things in the process…read on!
First, find out if cord cutting is right for you before diving in. Determine if you really want free TV or just cheap TV. Be creative about where you get your content, and spend your money wisely to get the best entertainment bang for your buck.
Here are a few points to consider when deciding to go down the cord cutter path. You don’t necessarily need to say “Yes” to every one of these topics, but the more you are comfortable with, the better your cord cutting experience will be.
Be OK with a little inconvenience, at least for a little while
One thing that cable companies do well once they have you all set up and in their system is to make things easy and convenient for most consumers. If you can use their remote and don’t mind their user experience (menus, etc), then consuming cable TV is dead simple.
Cutting the cord and watching TV without a cable provider, on the other hand, can be challenging for some. This is especially true when you’re trying to get as much content as you can for free. If you’re the kind of person who is OK with a little bit of inconvenience while you learn something new, however, you should be just fine. You should know that this is one of the biggest factors in determining how happy you’ll be when you decide to jump in and start watching TV cable-free.
If you don’t mind a little bit of “failure” while you learn how to connect different devices, such as a digital TV converter and an external antenna to watch live, local TV, then you’ll be fine. If you enjoy the challenge of figuring out new user interfaces and menus, this experience is right for you.
You shouldn’t be afraid of a little trial and error
If the inconvenience of switching away from cable doesn’t worry you, then the idea of a little trial and error shouldn’t bother you at all. Just be aware that to dial in the best experience possible will require some fiddling and customization. Most of the time this just means tweaking some settings and trying different connections. It also just means that you’ve already gotten your basic experience working, and now you’re looking for something even better.
It might also include downloading free apps and trying them out for a while before determining whether you cycle them into your normal content-consuming routine or you decide to ditch them as unnecessary, unhelpful, or downright annoying.
The amount of trial and error that you go through with your content streaming experience is all up to you. If you get your family’s entertainment all sorted out early on and never want to tweak a thing…you can do that too.
You should be OK with purchasing some (mostly inexpensive) hardware and devices
While one of the main benefits of ditching cable TV is the potential to find substantial cost savings, be aware that you may have to spend a little bit of money at the outset to get going. Most of the devices and services you’ll end up with are far less expensive than a cable TV subscription in the long run. However, that depends on what experience you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
It’s also very possible to nickel and dime yourself to death with this process. So, be careful about the devices, apps, and services that you’re acquiring. Most people will be very happy with a good TV, and a streaming device, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, or Apple TV. You might also need a digital TV converter and antenna. This setup, along with a DVD / Blu-ray player, will allow an almost endless supply of home entertainment.
You should enjoy learning new things
Don’t be afraid of the time it will take to get your home entertainment and streaming setup exactly how you want it. Some apps are confusing. Some manufacturer’s instructions are ridiculous. Someone, somewhere, WILL give you the wrong advice on an Internet forum, and you WILL lose hours or days of your life trying to figure something out. If you accept all of this and roll with it, you will have an infinitely better time setting up your family’s perfect home entertainment.
Do you really want free TV or just way cheaper TV?
What’s the difference, really?
The main difference between free TV and cheap TV is probably the amount of content that you have control over. If you can find enough free content that’s suitable for you, your family, or whatever your household situation might be, then you might never need to get a streaming content subscription. You might be just fine with over the air digital channels and free apps with a streaming device.
Keep in mind that there may also be a difference in user experience with the paid services offering a more polished look and feel in regards to their menus and screens. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though anymore as many free apps and services are getting better and better all the time. As the freebie content streaming services make more and more money with ads, they’re able to hire more and better developers to support their interfaces, which is a great thing.
What can you watch for free?
To be honest, if you’re creative, there is an almost endless amount of content out there for free. There are some specific circumstances where this is definitely not true. Sports streaming, for instance, remains one of the most difficult nuts to crack when it comes to free TV content. If you’re not a huge sports fan, and you can be a little less picky about the shows you watch, there’s a lot out there for you.
You can find everything from classic TV shows to more recent movies and even comedy specials and more. Between free apps like Pluto, internet sites like YouTube, and ad-supported services all over the place, it’s fairly easy to find something for every taste.
For the best free TV experience, however, there are some things to consider.
How to get the best out of free TV
Reset your expectations
This may sound awful, but the more you can lower your expectations for the content streaming experience the more you’ll be impressed with the quality of offerings, and the more you’ll enjoy the overall experience. Hear me out…this doesn’t mean that you should expect an awful user experience. Not at all. You might just want to place your expectations on the quality of the content itself, rather than the delivery of it.
Know that you won’t be watching the latest Netflix series and talking about it
at work in the Zoom chat the next morning. However, you might just be turning your friends and co-workers on to an amazing episode of The Dick Van Dyke show.
Get comfortable with commercials again
If you’re a non-commercial snob, get over it quick. Most of the really good free content services have to be supported somehow. Most of them make money through ads. If you can get used to either running to the kitchen for a beverage refill or getting through a few rounds of Bananagrams, the commercials seem to melt away.
Mine your world for content sources
This one is more important than you can ever imagine. Aside from the standards mentioned above (Pluto, YouTube, etc), if you can be creative about finding content, you’ll never be at a loss for something to watch. Explore the collections of friends on Plex, but do it legally. Visit your local library and rent DVDs for dirt cheap or free. Find out if your library allows a free account to Kanopy. Read lots of cord-cutter articles online (start here first of course). There’s a quickly growing vault of knowledge around this community.
What to spend your money on
Just because you’re looking to save money on your entertainment experience, you don’t necessarily have to skimp on the experience itself. There are some places where a well-spent dollar can make a huge difference.
A good TV
Your TV is probably the most important part of the equation. Make sure you buy the TV that fits your budget, your living space, and your expectations the best. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to get a quality TV experience, but if you can allocate the funds to get the best TV for your situation, you’ll be very satisfied in the long run.
The sound setup is also a very important factor. A really nice soundbar can make a world of difference, especially if you’re into action movies, sci-fi, or music-related content. For some, this might be more important than the TV itself. Luckily, there are some wonderful sound solutions available at reasonable prices.
A solid internet connection
A decent internet connection. While this is crucial to a smooth streaming experience, don’t get suckered into the ultimate internet package by your ISP if you don’t need it. Your location, your household internet usage, and other factors all come into play, but for most people streaming one or two connections, 50mbps is sufficient. Many times you’ll be able to get by on much less.
A good antenna
If you’ll be watching over the air digital channels, you’ll also want a good antenna to make sure you can pick up as many channels as possible. This one can be tricky, but a little research will help you find the right one for you.
Cut the cable and watch TV for free wrap up
You CAN enjoy content for free, no matter who you are or what your household looks like…it is possible. It’s important that you think hard about whether ditching cable is right for you or not. For most people, the answer will be, “yes.” But if you’re not interested in learning a new way to watch TV, and you don’t really care all that much about the monthly cable expense, you may want to just stick with the way things are.
One of the great things about free TV is that you can always give it a shot, and if you end up not loving it, you can always switch back to cable…they WILL take your money. And they may even give you a better rate for coming back.
If you do decide to jump in and try it out, good luck! You may be well on your way to home entertainment freedom.