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Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015

Jared Newman | Jan. 22, 2015
Given the tagline at the top of this column, you might think I'm a diehard cord-cutting advocate. But while I personally abandoned cable TV years ago, and hope the trend of others doing the same will bring lower prices and more choice to everyone, I don't think it's the best solution for everyone.

To ease the transition, you may be able to buy individual episodes of your favorite shows shortly after they air, and chances are the cost will be less than what you would have paid for a full-blown cable subscription.

Does your provider bundle for cheaper anyway?

One of the arguments you often hear against cord cutting is that the cost of a TV and Internet bundle isn't much greater than Internet alone. But whether this is true for you is entirely dependent on the market you live in.

In my experience with Time Warner Cable, I've never been offered TV for less than $30 above my current Internet service, and that's for an introductory rate that doesn't include DVR or multiple cable boxes. With just Netflix, various free streaming apps and over-the-air broadcasts, I'm still saving $240 per year, and I never have to worry about renegotiating with the cable company to keep my prices reasonable.

Can you mooch off a parent, friend or relative?

This gets into ethically and legally murky territory, but many networks now offer heaps of content online. All they require is a login and password from a pay-TV provider, which you could theoretically borrow from someone who knows and trusts you. The protections against password-sharing are usually pretty low, so if you don't have a conscience about it, it's a good way to fill in a few gaps in your streaming catalog.

Can you fulfill your entertainment needs elsewhere?

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Most nights, you're hardly paying attention to the TV anyway. Instead, you're playing games on your iPad, or scrolling through Facebook on your laptop. And when people want to watch something, often times they'll just tune in through their own personal devices instead of the big screen.

This has certainly been the case in our house, as the rise of smartphones and tablets has made TV less of a necessity. There's simply no shortage of other entertainment options, and for a fraction of the price.

Do you like just having TV on in the background?

The biggest blind spot for streaming video, in my opinion, is the idea of "passive viewing," as services like Netflix and Amazon Prime always make you choose what you want to watch. This often means that the TV is turned off, as the process of finding something to have on in the background can be exhausting. The situation is improving through new apps and the upcoming Sling TV, but your options for passive viewing will be much more limited without satellite or cable.

How close are you to broadcast towers?

It's hard to understate the importance of over-the-air broadcasts if you're a cord cutter. They're you're ticket to prime-time network shows and live NFL games on Sundays. But before you go out and grab an antenna, check out Plug in your address, and it'll tell you how far away your nearest broadcast towers are and in which direction, so you can figure out which channels you'll get. You should be fine with a basic $10 to $20 antenna if you're within 20 miles or so of major network stations.


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