Does Cord-cutting Actually Save Money?
Cord-cutting isn’t what it used to be, yet it can still save you a lot of money. But only if you cut cords smartly.
The Cord-Cutting Landscape
“Cord-cutting” used to mean leaving cable TV (and its hundreds of unwatched channels on cable TV plans) behind and saving money by using the on-demand services of digital platforms like Netflix, HBO, or Hulu. Now, with hundreds of providers, each with hundreds of their own shows and movies — many of them exclusive, requiring multiple monthly subscriptions to stay up to date on what to watch — a lot of people are wondering if cord-cutting actually saves money.
Industry experts warn that a lot of people fall into the trap of cutting off their cable providers, but instead subscribe to many streaming services. They either break even or end up spending more on their digital subscriptions than they would if they had stuck with their cable providers.
One reason for this is that there are a dizzying number of streaming services to choose from now. Some, ironically, belong to the networks that once monopolized the television landscape, who lost vital ground to upstarts like Netflix and Hulu in the streaming boom. Media corporations (like Paramount and Disney, for example) are now mounting a comeback, producing spinoffs of beloved TV shows that are exclusive to their respective digital networks.
Consumers — who want to keep up with cutting-edge TV, watch feature-length movies at home, and keep up with the latest spinoffs and franchises — end up subscribing to so many streaming services that it costs them about as much (or even more) if they had kept their cable plan.
Overall, cord-cutting does actually save money. Cable consumers usually pay a hefty monthly bill for hundreds of channels that they never watch. But the pendulum can easily swing in the other direction. You may overload yourself with so many streaming services (again, producing hundreds of shows and movies that you never watch) that you might end up having to cut some of those out too.
The Price of Cord-Cutting
Another factor to consider when figuring out how cord-cutting saves you money is that the monthly subscription prices for digital streaming platforms is inching up, a result of ferocious competition between the distributors and the need to produce must-see TV, no matter how expensive production costs are. Hulu, for example, increased the monthly price for its live TV service by $10, so subscribers wanting to watch live football games and awards shows have to pay $60.99 a month.
As USA Today noted, “the cost of being a cord-cutter continues to get pricier.”
Controlling Your Cord-Cutting
What can you do to cut your streaming bill? You could think about canceling a service when it doesn’t have anything you want and renewing your subscription when they start to carry content that is of interest to you. Providers that have multi-tiered subscription models (like HBO and Hulu) will even encourage their own consumers to switch to a less expensive plan during a sports or TV off-season.
Some consumers make the most of free seven-day trials, or they take advantage of first-month savings (where the first month of a subscription is offered at a lower rate than normal). Other consumers wait months until the content they want to see is offered on a platform that they already subscribe to.
Many services offer family subscription plans, where a password to a platform can be shared among two or three users. You can make use of this with your family or friends.
Ultimately, cutting cable out of your budget and focusing on the entertainment content you do want will save you money. The trick is to keep an eye on the provider(s) that you use, making sure that you only pay for what you want to see.
You can save a lot of money by cutting the cable cord, but only if you’re careful about your subscriptions and your media consumption.
The Price Is Not Right: Are There Too Many Streaming Services? (March 2021). The Guardian.
Nearly Half of U.S. Consumers Are Frustrated With a Bloated Streaming Market. (July 2019). IndieWire.
Yes, Cord-cutting Is Still Worth It. (June 2021). Lifewire.
Cutting the Cord: As Prices Go Up, Here's How You Can Still Save Money Streaming. (January 2020). USA Today.
Hulu Will Raise Live TV Streaming Plan Price $10 to $54.99 on Dec. 18. (November 2019). USA Today.
Ways to Manage Your Money Better. (August 2021). Current. Cord-Cutting Isn't About Saving Money. It's About Control. (April 2021). Wired.
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