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'Cutting the cord' on cable

Watch all the TV you want—and save

Created date

May 4th, 2017
Scissors cutting a cable cord.

Scissors cutting a cable cord.

How much television do you watch? According to a recent Neilsen study, the average American household with a typical cable package receives 189 channels but watches fewer than 18. That’s less than 10% of the available channels—meaning a whopping 90% are going mostly or entirely unwatched. 

And it’s not just the nuisance of sifting through dozens of unwanted channels that has television consumers frustrated. They’re paying higher prices for “bundles” or packages that include services they don’t use, like premium channels and home phone lines. In an effort to gain control of their media consumption and lower their monthly costs, more and more customers are “cutting the cord,” or cancelling their cable subscriptions. Instead, they’re choosing more convenient sources that match their viewing and spending preferences.

Two questions

There are numerous ways to “cut the cord,” which means you can find the perfect solution to fit your life. But before you start making any choices, you need to answer two important questions: What do you want to watch, and how do you want to watch it?

The first question is simple. Make a list of the shows and channels that you enjoy and break them into “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”—just like you might when buying a house, car, or any other major purchase. All streaming services should provide a list of the programming they offer, so you’ll be able to easily see if your must-have shows and channels are available. 

The second question is a little more complicated. If live sporting events are on your “must-have” list, or you can’t miss the live broadcast of your favorite drama, you’ll want to select a service that includes same-time programming. However, if you don’t mind enjoying game highlights on YouTube or waiting until the next day to watch the newest Game of Thrones episode, then you are free to choose a service without live broadcasting capability.

Depending on how you answered both of these questions, you can decide whether you want to simply downgrade your cable subscription or cancel it altogether. So now that you know what you want to watch and how you want to watch it, what are your cord-cutting options?


Originally a mail-order DVD rental service, Netflix was the first company to offer a robust online streaming catalogue and introduce the concept of “binge-watching.” For a monthly fee, its 93 million customers can stream all types of movies and television series, including a wide range of original content, straight to their preferred device. Netflix does not include live broadcasts. 


Hulu is an on-demand TV and movie streaming service. Customers pay a monthly fee and enjoy access to a selection of television series, films, and original content. Like Netflix, Hulu does not include live broadcasts—but it does offer current-season episodes of TV shows on a short delay. You can think of it like a DVR with unlimited space.

Amazon Prime Video

Are you an Amazon Prime member? If so, your $99 annual fee gets you access to the site’s large library of movies and TV shows to stream directly on your preferred device. This service includes a selection of basic and premium cable shows, classic and newly released films, and a slate of award-winning original content. Amazon Prime Video does not include live broadcasts.

Sling TV

Finally—it’s a streaming service for live television! Sling TV comes the closest to replacing a traditional cable subscription with real-time and on-demand programming from up to 50 popular channels, including live sports. Sling TV offers tiered packages for a monthly fee, with the option to add extra channel bundles (like premium and kids channels) for an additional fee. 

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now is a newer streaming service that is reportedly still getting its sea legs but has plenty of potential. Similar to Sling TV, this service provides over 120 channels of live and on-demand programming for a tiered monthly fee, with options to add more channels à la carte. Just be sure to research the location-specific differences in DirecTV Now’s channel offerings.

Keep in mind that the services listed above are in no way an exhaustive inventory of available streaming options. If you don’t see a solution to match your specific needs, it’s likely that the right fit is out there. 

Additionally, all of the services listed above are simply that: services. They all require an internet connection and some kind of device—like Chromecast, AppleTV, or Roku—to stream the content on your television. You can also now purchase a smart TV, with many of these services built in, just waiting for you to log on.