Happy Cord Cutters Day!
It seems a lot of technology is getting their own celebratory days lately since we just celebrated World Backup Day. Today’s Cord Cutters Day is organized by GigaOM and includes local meetups and prize giveaways.
Cord cutting refers to ditching your cable subscription in favor of other cheaper but legal options like using an over-the-air digital TV antenna and streaming videos from the Internet. Individuals might use sites like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Video on Demand or software like Boxee, XBMC, Plex, or Miro Video Player. To get these videos on the TVs in their living rooms, a class of PC has come about called the HTPC, or Home Theater Personal Computer. They are usually small and simply act to show streaming videos on the TV from the Internet or a file server somewhere in the home. They’re basically netbook hardware in a small micro-tower form factor. Besides HTPCs, there are stand-alone boxes that will do the job as well like GoogleTV, Boxee, AppleTV, and Roku. You might be able to save money by dropping Netflix and borrowing DVDs from your local library.
Cord Cutting is getting more and more possible each day as companies embrace streaming video or technology makes it more presentable and simplified. With cable costing a pretty penny, cord cutting can save some money but not everything is free so it might take a few months of being cable free to receive the return on investment. When you pay for services like Netflix or Hulu Plus and buy components like an HTPC, the ROI might take a little longer. One of the biggest sacrifices to cutting the cord seems to be convenience. You no longer just go flip on the TV and watch whatever you can find. Instead, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to watch something streaming or watch it over the air (assuming you’re able to pick up a few stations with a DTV antenna).
Depending on what you want to watch and how much you care about watching them shortly after they aired, you could save a lot of money by dropping your cable company. Some of the hardest things to find include live shows like sports. There are a few options but there are still stupid policies implemented like Major League Baseball’s blackout policy. The NFL is a big reason why I haven’t cut the cord but the lockout might take care of that problem this season.
Finding all of the information about new streaming options or hardware/software improvements to the process can be time-consuming, if not impossible. To help with that, the community helps. One great community focused on cutting the cord is the sub-Reddit, /r/cordcutters. People ask questions about how they might be able to get a certain show/channel or share things that worked well for them. One such example would be this HTPC build that specs out the process for less technically-inclined people to make the process more do-able.
Cord cutting seems to becoming more prevalent as more options become available. Conversations are happening to share the information of making it work for different scenarios. Things like HBO Go and Max Go seem like a step in the right direction. Limited broadband access, data caps, and companies clinging to old business models seem to be the only enemies to legal cord cutting. Cable has resisted moving away from their package approach for at least 20 years. If I could pick which channels to receive and which to drop, I would have about one-third as many channels as I currently do but at the same time I’d have more quality programming and assumedly pay less. Cable (or TV networks) have resisted more flexible, a la carte options and now streaming shows are offering alternatives. Cord-cutting is still a very small percentage of households but the options are increasing and service is improving. With this first Cord Cutting Day, perhaps we’ll start seeing innovation from both sides in order to deliver what customers actually want.