Everyone Else Is Cutting the Cord, So Why Aren’t You?

Joel Lee 08-09-2016

I cut the cord (dropped cable TV and switched to online streaming services) back in 2013 and haven’t looked back since. This is a trend that’s been growing for quite a while now Online Streams Are Destroying Cable TV and These 3 Stats Prove It Online streaming services are beating the heck out of cable, satellite, and other forms of TV. Here are some mind-blowing stats that prove it. Read More and it’s becoming clear that people just aren’t happy with cable anymore.


In fact, the second quarter of 2016 alone saw over 800,000 pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. jump ship for better alternatives — and not only is it the biggest quarterly loss that the pay-TV industry has ever seen, but there’s still a “gradual increase in the decline rate”.

But this is somewhat misleading. Between Comcast and DirecTV, there are still over 40 million pay-TV subscribers in the U.S., which means cord-cutters are still a tiny minority. Why aren’t people cutting the cord? Here’s why.

Slow Internet Speeds and Data Caps

In order to cut pay-TV, you have only two options: either you stop watching anything but free network TV OR you pay for an alternative — and since most cord-cutters still want to watch TV, most of them opt for the latter.

At this time, the only alternative to pay-TV is TV-over-internet and the sad truth is that TV-over-internet requires a lot of bandwidth and data Why Do Data Caps Exist and How Can You Bypass Them? ISP and mobile data caps are frustrating, but why do they exist? Here's how to bypass your data cap and enjoy limitless internet. Read More if you want anything close to an enjoyable experience.

How much bandwidth and how much data do you need? Well, based on Netflix’s estimates and recommendations:

  • About 5 MB per minute on Low quality.
  • About 12 MB per minute on Medium quality.
  • About 50 MB per minute on HD quality.
  • About 115 MB per minute on Ultra HD quality.

In my case, I’m paying $70 per month for “up to 25 Mbps” bandwidth from Comcast, which translates as 3 MB per second (or 180 MB per minute). That’s my theoretical best speed. Internet performance can dip at peak hours, and when it does, it impacts my video streaming experience.

If you have a monthly cap on data, it gets even worse (unless you’re enrolled in something like T-Mobile’s Binge-On program T-Mobile Allows Unlimited Netflix, And That's Bad News For All of Us Allowing Netflix to stream even when you're data is maxed sounds great, doesn't it? But this could spell doom for the future of the Internet as we know it. Read More ), and let’s not forget that a lot of folks around the country can’t afford or don’t have access to high-speed internet. For them, cutting the cord doesn’t make sense.

Poor Coverage of Live Events

Perhaps the biggest pitfall of cutting the cord 7 Pitfalls of Cord-Cutting You Should Consider First Before you cut the cord to save yourself some money, there are a few things you should be aware of. Read More , the one that keeps getting repeated over and over again, is the fact that television still dominates the realm of live event coverage: news, sports, concerts, award shows, etc.



To be fair, producers have been catching on and are now more likely to provide online streams that you can tune into. For example, you can watch Major League Soccer games online if you get MLS Live. NBC also offered online streams for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

But for the most part, it’s still tough. Sports games can sometimes be blacked out for online viewers, for example, so it’s still safer to get a cable sports package if you’re afraid of missing out on important games.

Live news is also hard to get online Cut the Cord Forever With These 15 TV Streaming Channels Cable TV is in decline, as the internet provides cheap, on-demand entertainment. Here are 15 of the best TV streaming services to help you cut the cord. Read More , especially if you want cable news, and if you want to watch new episodes of your favorite TV shows as they air, it’s tough to do that online because most services — like Hulu — usually have a one-day delay or more.

Cord-cutting advocates sometimes point to services like Sling TV TV Channels Are Dead: Why Sling Isn't The Future Of Sports TV Kids don't watch channels; they watch shows. Worse, TV channels have been an obstacle for comprehensive coverage of live sports events. Sling doesn't solve that. Read More to say that you can stream live TV through Sling TV and watch it online that way, but there are downsides to consider (such as the poor value of a-la-carte, which we cover down below).


Too Many Options to Pick From

Let’s say you want to cut the cord. How do you go about it?

First you have to find a streaming service, or multiple streaming services, that offer the kinds of shows and movies you like to watch at a fair price — which often means deciding between the three giants: Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? It has been years since we've compared heavy-hitting streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And with changes in pricing, content, quality, and interface, we thought it was time to revisit the topic. Read More .

Most people don’t even get that far. It takes too much time and effort to sift through their differences, and the problem gets worse when you throw in all of the niche alternative streaming sites 10 Niche Streaming Services for Those Who Hate Netflix Mainstream streaming services carry mainstream content. What can you do if you want to watch something a little less conventional? You're better off checking out these alternative streaming services packed full of niche content. Read More that are necessary if you want to watch non-mainstream content.

Whereas with pay-TV, everything comes in a bundle and there are only a handful of bundles to choose between.


If you do get this far and know which streaming services you want, you then have to decide how you’re going to watch them. If you’re fine watching it all on a computer, then your decision is easy. If you want to watch on your TV, however, you’ll need to do more research and pick a compatible streaming device The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV There are several ways to stream media to your TV, and deciding which way is right for you can be overwhelming. Let us help you explore what's currently available. Read More .

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that you have to juggle a bunch of different subscriptions, whereas pay-TV is a single easy-to-pay bill. The hassle alone is a huge barrier to cord-cutting.

Rising Prices, Falling Value

If you ask cord-cutters for the primary reason why they went ahead and dropped pay-TV, most of them will tell you that they did it to save money. These folks were paying over $100/mo just to watch a handful of channels when they could get Netflix for just $10/mo.

Is Netflix worth the money? It absolutely is Is Netflix Worth The Money? There are more people who don't subscribe to Netflix as those who do, and that swathe of the population wants to know if they're missing out on anything. Is Netflix worth the money? Read More ! It’s so worth it that we recently argued that everybody should be happier to pay more for it Why You Should Be Happy to Pay More for Netflix Every time Netflix increases its prices, millions of binge-watching users balk at the prospect of paying a couple of dollars more. But this is dumb, because Netflix is an absolute steal. Read More , and other services like Prime Video, Hulu, HBO NOW, etc. are all similarly worthwhile too.

But only in isolation. If you start stacking too many of these a-la-carte services on top of each other, you could end up paying as much as you did for cable in the first place Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord When you add everything up, do you really save money by cutting the cord? We do the math involved with cancelling cable in favor of Internet services. Read More .

Each service has unique content worth watching: Netflix originals 13 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2016 Netflix has released a lot of original content -- including House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, and Master of None -- but 2016 is slated to be Netflix's most exciting year yet. Read More , Prime Video exclusives 10+ TV Shows That Make Amazon Prime Worth the Money Netflix is undoubtedly the king of the movie and TV show streaming services. However, Amazon Prime has some fantastic television shows that make it worth the asking price. Read More , Hulu originals 16 Unmissable TV Shows You Should Watch on Hulu Right Now Netflix, Amazon are the current kings of online streaming. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss Hulu out of hand, as it hosts a number of truly unmissable TV shows. Shows like these... Read More , HBO originals The 15 Best HBO Shows That Make It Worth the Money If you're considering subscribing to HBO, these are the best HBO shows that we think make it worth the money. Read More , and even YouTube Red has some interesting stuff We Watched Scare PewDiePie So You Don't Have To Are these YouTube Red Originals worth the price tag? We watched the first batch so, well, you don't have to. Here's what we thought... Read More . Want to watch it all? Well, that’ll cost you at least $10 + $8 + $12 + $15 + $10 = $55 per month.

Add in the cost of the high-speed internet connection that you’ll need for a pleasant viewing experience and you’ll start to wonder if cutting the cord is worth it after all.

Pay-TV seems to make even more sense when you also consider the fact that cable companies regularly offer incredible promotional deals when you bundle TV with internet — and if you’re going to pay for internet anyway, these bundles are an insane value where pay-TV ends up being much cheaper than you might have thought.

Non-cord-cutters know this. And if you know how to game the systems behind these promotional deals, you can stay at promo rates year after year.

Restrictions and Limitations

One common complaint that we get when we cover content changes to the Netflix catalog is that the changes only apply to the U.S. version of Netflix, and this highlights a huge problem for cord-cutters: you don’t always get what you pay for.

If you aren’t in the U.S., the restricted content library of your local version of Netflix is actually a valid reason to forget about it and move on 7 Reasons to Avoid Subscribing to Netflix We love online streaming, but is Netflix worth it? Here are the disadvantages of subscribing to Netflix and why you might skip it. Read More (unless you’re willing to set up a VPN to get around such restrictions How to Watch Everything on Netflix in Any Country Internationally Changing your Netflix region to watch Netflix internationally or when you're in another country is possible. We show you how. Read More ).

So when people say that services like Netflix mean you don’t have to a pirate anymore 4 Reasons You Don't Need to Be a Pirate Anymore While some people are always going to pirate, for most, there is now less reason than ever to do so. Read More , it may not be that simple.

Cable TV “Just Works”

Believe it or not, many streaming services are still too complicated for mainstream viewers, and I’m not just talking about the tech-illiterate or the elderly. I’ve met millenials who couldn’t navigate Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu.

Indeed, poor user interface design The Most Annoying Netflix Problems: Here's How to Solve Them Having trouble with Netflix? Here's how you can solve the most annoying Netflix problems without much hassle. Read More has been a huge problem across streaming services for quite some time. It’s inefficient at best, and frustrating at worst.

In a lot of ways, pay-TV is just… easier. Everyone understands the concept of a channel: each channel is associated with a single number and plays its own brand of TV shows. Want to switch to a different channel? Enter the number or hit Channel Up/Down.


Pay-TV is also predictable. You can get home from work and flip to the same channels at the same times on the same days of the week to watch the same shows that you’ve been watching for months or years. The schedule does change between seasons, but even that is cyclic and therefore predictable.

And then there’s the “issue” of channel surfing — an activity so ingrained into the television generation that watching TV simply feels wrong without it. We’ve argued before that this is actually a reason to cancel cable TV The One Reason You Need to Cancel Your Cable TV Cord-cutting is an over-reported phenomenon. The bigger trend is the cord-nevers, who have never and will never get cable TV. Why? For the simple reason that cable TV sucks. Read More , but obviously subscriber numbers show that not everyone agrees.

For a significant number of people, all of the pros and cons of cutting the cord Should You Cut the Cord or Keep Your Cable TV? If you're still holding on to your cable subscription, but are debating if its time to make a change, we're here to help. This guide should help you make your mind up. Read More are moot points. The only thing that truly matters at the end of the day is the ability to plop down on the couch, turn on their TV set, and mindlessly jump from channel to channel with a single button.

Momentum and Inertia

The other thing to note is that pay-TV subscribers also have access to tools like TiVo and the ability to record TV shows How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work You can record TV shows on your PC, but it depends on how you're receiving the video signal. We explain what that means and the options you have. Read More when they’re away from home so they can come back later and watch it at their own convenience.

“That sounds like Netflix but worse,” you might say, but think of it like this: if you already have pay-TV and you already get all of the channels you want and you think the price is fair, then why cut the cord when you can just set up TiVo and record what you want to watch and get the on-demand experience anyway?

For many, that’s what it comes down to. Not only is pay-TV often easier to use, but they already have momentum as a cable subscriber and it isn’t worth the effort — for them, at least — to go through the hassle of cutting the cord.

So, Why Haven’t You Cut the Cord Yet?

There are other reasons why people haven’t left pay-TV yet, including reasons that involve moral or practical stands against the whole idea of on-demand streaming (like how it can contribute to or exacerbate depression 5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression Technology can worsen depression. With tech enveloping our lives, we should be more aware of technology's potential impact on us. There are some things you can do to lessen the burden. Read More ).

And then there are people like me for whom the above stipulations don’t really apply; my internet is fast and cap-free, I’m in the U.S., and I only subscribe to three services so the overall cost is low. Which means we’re quite happy with all cord-cutting has to offer.

Have you or have you not cut the cord yet? If so, which streaming services do you pay for? If not, can you pinpoint the reason(s)? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credits: zimmytws via Shutterstock, MSSA via Shutterstock, Jamesbin via Shutterstock

Related topics: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Media Streaming, Netflix.

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  1. Terrell
    December 30, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Perhaps I overlooked something in this blog article that was covered. However, my question is this: I've dropped my Cable TV (it was boring) from my ISP, but as far as I can tell, I still must rely on my ISP in order to use my computer for the Internet. Is there a better way to acquire and use the Internet short of going back to DSL?

  2. Alex
    September 27, 2016 at 11:36 am

    "Why have you not cut the cord yet?" Because I live in New Zealand, and if I did I'd be limited to the New Zealand version of Netflix and the other worse services with even less shows. I'd rather not be stuck with just Shortland Street to watch. And the media companies wonder why people pirate things.

    • Joel Lee
      September 29, 2016 at 1:49 am

      Yeah, I do have to admit that cord-cutting is way easier in the U.S. than in most countries. It's a shame that regional restrictions still exist... Sorry to hear that, Alex.

  3. Michael
    September 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

    I have an antenna, a TV tuner (silicondust.com), a Win7 computer, and broadband internet service. The antenna feeds into the tuner which feeds into the computer and appears on the home network. The internet goes to the router and to the computer via ethernet. So every computer on the home network can watch OTA (over the air - broadcast) digital tv as well as access all streaming services. The computer comes with Windows Media Center which provides the software to organize all our media including watching and recording OTA tv on the harddrive and the internet streaming lets us watch Netflix, etc. Windows Media Center works like a dream and it also has all our music, videos, and pictures. It works. Oh, did I mention that the tv tuner has two tuners so you can record two shows at once? The system also operates via a dedicated remote.

    • Jon
      September 19, 2016 at 2:19 am

      Was that complicated to set up?

    • Michael
      September 19, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      Jon, it's something that has to be researched/studied and taken a step at a time. The SiliconDust tuner is key (or another tv tuner card) and there are forums at their web site to help. It would likely help to draw a diagram and walk yourself through the pathways the various signals (tv broadcast signals & internet) take through the modem, router, tv tuner, computer, & tv/monitor. Windows Media Center (WMC)(not Player) is a jewel at organizing the media but there are others like Kobi, Plex, etc. Also, there are WMC remotes for sale that are dedicated to using WMC and cost something like $10 -$15. Start Googling!

  4. Jean
    September 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I have cable and internet, and Comcast raises my bill ten dollars a month every year. If I cancel cable and just keep the internet, they raise my bill 20 dollars a month every year. My tv is unplugged. Cable is a racket, but until there is a way to get the internet without Comcast or Verizon, there are no other options.

    • Joel Lee
      September 20, 2016 at 1:08 am

      Ouch, you must be living in one of the areas where Comcast has an absolute monopoly over high-speed internet. Where I live, Comcast competes with Verizon -- they're still horrible, but my horror stories aren't as bad as some of the other areas of the U.S. I would be furious with those kinds of price hikes!

  5. Don
    September 10, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I got rid of TV before cable even became available here in the Boston area, which was a very long time ago. I don't miss it all. There's music, books, concerts, the Internet, hobbies, and so many better things to do. And TV is the worst and most superficial source of news. No TV beats cable TV any day -- and it's free and has no commercials.

    • Joel Lee
      September 20, 2016 at 1:05 am

      Wow, that's incredible, Don. Do you ever feel like you're missing out on the narrative side of TV? Sure there's a lot of crap on all of the networks (including news and reality shows) but there are a lot of great TV shows with compelling stories too.

  6. Yoli
    September 9, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I cut the cord about three years ago, and I absolutely love it. I have two Roku boxes, a PS3, and a WII all which I can watch either Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. I like the fact that all the equipment is mine, and there's no monthly fees for rental. I pay for what I want to watch when I want to watch. I also have a couple antennas therefore I can watch local broadcast channels. There's no going back to Comcast cable for me because now I'm my own cable company! Lol ?

    • Joel Lee
      September 14, 2016 at 2:53 am

      Haha, you're right about that. It's certainly awesome to not have to worry about rental equipment!

  7. Don
    September 9, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Haven't cut the cord--although I desperately want to--because I live in a rural area where satellite internet is my *only* option. I live far enough away from town that the cable companies (including AT&T) don't extend service to my area. With 10Gb data cap and 10Mbps max (hardly ever reached), I can watch one Netflix movie or a couple of shows each month; then I'm throttled and buffering constantly. Until someone can come up with a solution for us rural folks, cutting the cord is pretty much only for you city fellers.

    • Joel Lee
      September 14, 2016 at 2:52 am

      That's terrible. I would go insane if I had a 10 GB cap, wow! No solutions are coming to my mind, but I wish you the best Don.

  8. alex
    September 9, 2016 at 5:13 am

    this article doesn't give Sling enough credit. I cut the cord years ago, have a Roku 3 (no streaming issues, quality is fantastic) now with Sling and have never looked back. If you add the Epix package for a measly $5 extra and get 6 more movie channels. You will need high speed internet (I have 70/70mbps) and no problem running the Roku, a laptop, tablet and phone all at the same time with no issues. Screw the cable Co. you don't need them for entertainment purposes anymore.

    • Joel Lee
      September 14, 2016 at 2:51 am

      Sling does have a place! But it's pretty situational, not quite worth it for everyone. As with most things, it depends on how much you can get out of it.

  9. Jeremy
    September 9, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Wow! Let's do the math. I already had Hulu and Netflix BEFORE I cut the cord (like most of America at this point). I bought my own cable modem long ago to get higher speeds and lower the cable bill. I already had Amazon Prime for the free shipping (programming is a bonus). I bought a cheap antenna for OTA broadcasts. I've had Plex and my DVD collection for years.

    I'm saving $130/Mo off the $179.72/Mo I was paying, and I'm out less than one month's cable bill to get there. As for programming, I no longer have access to all those bundled channels I never once tuned to. Guess I'm missing something.

    BTW, this write-up looks like it was written by a sales department at a cable company. I'm not challenging you sincerity, but you really don't seem to be in favor of cutting the cord, despite declarations to the contrary. Just sayin'.

    • Joel Lee
      September 14, 2016 at 2:50 am

      This is more of an examination of why people still haven't cut the cord, and I feel that these reasons are valid. Your cost comparisons are also unfair.

  10. Tom Year
    September 8, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    We haven't cut the cord because we never attached the cord. I never understood why, if over the air tv had ads, then why would anyone accept ads on pay tv? In effect they are paying to see ads. Never made sense. So we never connected.
    We do have internet and do stream some shows.

    • Brandon Garrett
      September 9, 2016 at 3:17 am

      The reason cable TV became popular to begin with is OTA broadcasts used to be broadcast with an analog signal. They looked awful, reception was spotty at best, and weather - even a stiff breeze - ruined the viewing experience.

      Cable TV provided a demonstrably better experience and access to channels that were not available OTA or by any other means.

      Since broadcasters are more required to use digital signals for their broadcasts, the experience with using an OTA antenna is now flawless, with the exception of weather effects of your signal strength is inadequate. In fact, the video signal from OTA broadcasts is entirely uncompressed, which is not the case with cable transmission, meaning that an antenna provides a superior experience when compared with cable!

  11. Phids
    September 8, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    First of all, I have to say that this new MUO article format - in which the article is interrupted about every 150 words or so - is going to get super annoying rather quickly. Enough already!

    Second, I am a cord cutter since 2013 who returned (at least in part) to cable. Why? Because Comcast bundled its internet and TV at a price that made it more sense to order them both. After a recent upgrade, I now pay about $70 for 70 mbps and 40 TV channels. I continue to watch TV via my Roku, but I will occasionally turn on cable news. In addition, many cable networks allow me to stream their content on demand but only because I already subscribe to them via cable. So even if I am not watching cable TV, I can still benefit from the cable subscription.

    • Joel Lee
      September 14, 2016 at 2:45 am

      It does seem like Comcast's packages are designed so that the bundles are more economical than getting internet alone. For me, it's cheaper to get internet + basic TV + HBO GO than to get only internet -- but I've still cut the cord anyway and spend 99% of my time on Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video. :P