The Beginner’s Guide to Cord Cutting 2020
Written by: Luke Bouma
If you’re new to the world of cord cutting, it can seem daunting and complicated, especially with so many services and devices competing for your attention. However, now more than ever, consumers are leaving traditional cable providers behind and opting for a streaming service. A recent eMarketer report projects that there will be 45 million cord cutters in the US this year, and that number will increase by 20% by 2022.
Not only are more consumers cutting the cord, but they’re also saving money from the switch. According to a Leichtman Research Group study, the average cord cutter can save about $1,300 per year depending on the services they choose after canceling a cable subscription.
We’re here to help you join the millions who have already cut the cord so you can enjoy your favorite entertainment for less. To help you cross that finish line – and say goodbye to cable in the process – let us show you the simple step-by-step way to becoming a cord cutter.
In this guide
- Establish Your Monthly Costs
- Find the Content You Want
- Choose Your Streaming Equipment
- Check Your Internet Speed
- Compare Costs to Your Cable Bill
- Try Our Team’s Tips and Favorites
- Celebrate Your Switch
Establish Your Monthly Costs
To find out if cord cutting is right for you, a good place to start is your monthly cable or satellite bill: How much are you currently paying for the content? When you factor in your monthly costs, don’t forget to include any equipment rentals fees for gear like DVRs or satellite dishes.
Many cord cutters use a combination of services to access the content they love, so if the overall cost is a concern, it makes sense to compare those total monthly costs to what you’re currently paying for cable or satellite. And once you have a rough idea of how much your current service costs each month, you can use that as a benchmark when comparing various cord-cutting options.
Cord cutting can often offer a more focused, customized viewing experience than the quantity-over-quality approach of most cable and satellite options, but getting the most bang for your buck means knowing what you want to watch.
Find the Content You Want
With a better idea of the content you love to watch, you can make more informed choices about which services to check out and which ones to ignore. You can start with a list of old and new faves you want to keep watching. If sports are a big concern, don’t forget to include leagues or specific teams you like to follow.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide for Sports Fans
Armed with your list of favorite content, it’s now time to survey the landscape and see what cord-cutting options make the most sense for your personal viewing tastes and preferences. They’re often available to watch in more places, too, with many services supporting a wide range of devices, so you can keep watching your shows on your phone or tablet around the house or on the go. While the world of cord cutting is constantly evolving, there are two key categories to consider: live TV and on-demand streaming.
What are Live TV Streaming Services?
Live TV services let you watch shows, sports, and other programs on your favorite channels in real-time. If you find yourself wanting to keep up with live TV, there are several options out there, many with different packages to help you better customize your options. Instead of tiers that just pile on hundreds of channels (and a heftier bill), many live TV streaming services offer plans that cater to certain tastes, like sports or music.
There are several options to choose from, but the good news is that many offer solid free trials and preview periods, so you can give them a test-drive to see which one best suits your needs. Worried you will miss your DVR? Don’t! All these services offer a built-in DVR option, so you will never miss your favorite show. And if you need more information, we’ve reviewed many of the most popular live TV services.
|AT&T TV||fuboTV||Hulu with Live TV||Philo||Sling TV||YouTube TV|
|Sign up now||Start a 7-day free trial||Start a 7-day free trial||Start a 7-day free trial||Sign up now||Start a 7-day free trial|
|Starts at $49.99/mo.*||Starts at $54.99/mo.*||Starts at $54.99/mo.*||Starts at $20/mo.*||Starts at $30/mo.*||Starts at $49.99/mo.*|
|70+ channels||99+ channels||72+ channels||59 channels||32+ channels||70+ channels|
|500 hours of DVR storage||30 hours of DVR storage||50 hours of DVR storage||Unlimited DVR storage for 30 days||10 hours of DVR storage||Unlimited DVR storage|
|Good for easy self-install set up||Good for national and international sports content||Good for live TV, on-demand, originals, and more||Good for entertainment on a budget||Good for for a la carte live TV||Good for recording all your favorite shows|
*Streaming prices and features are valid as of 4/22/20.
What are On-Demand Streaming Services?
On-demand streaming services let you decide what shows or movies you want to watch and when. There’s no shortage of services to choose from, but it’s a good idea to start your cord cutting journey by taking a look at some of the bigger options out there. And like the live TV streaming services, many on this list include free trial periods.
|Amazon Prime Video||Apple TV+||Disney+||Hulu||Netflix|
|Start a free 30-day trial||Start a free 7-day trial||Start a free 7-day trial||Start a free 30-day trial||Start a free 30-day trial|
|Starts at $8.99/mo.*||Starts at $4.99/mo.*||Starts at $6.99/mo.*||Starts at $5.99/mo.*||Starts at $8.99/mo.*|
|Enjoy shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse, and Downton Abbey||Enjoy shows like The Morning Show, See, and Dickinson||Enjoy shows like The Mandalorian, The Simpsons, and The Imagineering Story||Enjoy shows like Killing Eve, 30 Rock, and This Is Us||Enjoy shows like Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and The Crown|
|Good for Prime members and those who frequently rent or buy titles||Good for content with a star-studded cast||Good for Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar fans||Good for those who still want to follow current TV shows, but don’t necessarily need to watch them live as they air||Good for a growing library of original titles that rivals major networks and movie studios|
*Streaming prices and features are valid as of 4/22/20.
Choose Your Streaming Equipment
Once you’ve figured out which service (or services) you’re interested in, a good next step is finding the streaming device that best matches your needs. If you have a smart TV, check to see if it supports the apps and services you’re interested in. And if it’s lacking support, there are plenty of capable add-on options to choose from.
What Streaming Device Makes the Most Sense?
When deciding what device makes the most sense for you, one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a streaming device are app support and ease of use. After all, a well-equipped streaming device that’s a pain to actually use may not offer the most pleasant viewing experience.
One of the more popular options is Roku, which offers a variety of streaming devices at several price points. Some are more barebones, for perhaps a secondary TV in the home, while higher-end options are better suited for 4K, HDR-capable sets.
Related Reading: Roku Ultra vs Roku Streaming Stick+: Which is Right For You?
Meanwhile, Fire TV and Android TV are also popular and capable streaming platforms that support a wide range of apps and services. The Android TV-based Shield TV Pro from NVIDIA, for example, is a capable streaming device that boasts some impressive gaming credentials through its GeForce Now streaming support.
If you own a lot of Apple gear or have a sizable content library stored up through iTunes, an Apple TV might be a good fit. In addition to being a capable and approachable streaming device, Apple’s new Arcade service upgrades the Apple TV’s gaming capabilities considerably.
Can I Use an Antenna to Stream Local Channels?
An over-the-air (OTA) antenna is often a major part of the cord-cutting experience since it’s an affordable way to pick up local stations for free. To find out what’s available in your area, and what type of antenna you’ll need, you can enter your address at sites like NoCable.org. They’ll tell you what channels you should receive based on your location and should make it easier to know where to place your antenna.
Simple indoor antennas can be found for well under $50. Meanwhile, outdoor solutions are often more rugged and can receive signals from farther away, but tend to be a bit more expensive and have more involved installation procedures.
Check Your Internet Speed
If you’re planning on cutting the cord, and moving your TV viewing from cable or satellite to the internet, it’s worth making sure your current connection can handle the added traffic. Higher quality video, like 4K HDR, typically requires faster internet speeds, and if you have a whole household of potential streamers, you’ll need to keep that in mind as well. Various services have their own speed recommendations, but it basically boils down to this: The faster, the better.
For example, Hulu says 16 Mbps should be enough for 4K content, while 1080p (HD) content needs around 6 Mbps. Netflix recommends 25 Mbps for its 4K streams and 5 Mbps for 1080p, but many streaming services offer quality settings that can be adjusted manually or automatically if you’re concerned about speed or hitting a monthly data cap.
Speaking of data caps, it’s worth checking with your internet provider to see if there’s a monthly usage limit for your current plan, since streaming does take up a significant amount of internet data, especially with multiple streams in the same home. Data caps vary by internet provider, and some don’t have caps at all, but a ceiling of around 1TB per month should give you enough room to start streaming comfortably.
Related Reading: How to Stay Under Your Data Cap When You Cut the Cord
Compare Costs to Your Cable Bill
Once you’ve picked your services, selected a streaming device, and perhaps an antenna or other hardware, it’s time to add up your costs and see how cord cutting costs compare to your current cable or satellite bill.
Again, when you’re adding costs up, don’t forget any equipment rental fees and other monthly charges tacked on to your current bill. If the streaming options are too costly, or you’re not satisfied with how much you’re saving, it might be worth re-evaluating which types of content you’re prioritizing and which services best provide them. For example, maybe a $5 add-on package to a live streaming service gets you most of the channels you’d want and makes more sense than adding a whole other streaming package to your arsenal.