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Should you cut the cable TV cord?

If you can't find all the television programming you want and need on the Internet now, just wait.

Posted by Money Staff Wednesday, January 05, 2011 4:56:42 PM

This post comes from MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston.


Liz Pulliam Weston on MSN MoneyPay television is losing subscribers, but pay-TV executives insist it's not primarily because people are "cutting the cord" -- ditching their cable or satellite subscriptions in favor of getting the content they want from the Web.

Maybe not, but it's a certainly a trend that's gaining momentum. Game consoles, Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players make it easy for those with home Wi-Fi or other broadband networks to access Internet content instantly, while others are just watching on their computers.


When I asked my Facebook fans whether they had cut the cord, I got more than 100 responses -- many of them enthusiastic about their decision to do away with high-cost TV.


Some folks who responded had never paid for TV, and a few don’t watch at all (an option my buddy Donna Freedman endorses in "Can your life be richer without TV?"). But many people discovered that they can get most -- if not all -- of the programming they want without buying it from a cable or satellite provider.


Here's just a sample of what they wrote:


"I had 150 channels and never had anything to watch; now I watch anything I want," wrote Kristi VanSickle Osborn of Redwood City, Calif. "I got rid of cable about two-and-a-half years ago. I go to the news websites to get my updates, and stream TV shows on SurfTheChannel or Netflix. I love it!"


"I cut the cord about six months ago. The few shows I watch are available online and I use Tether (an application that allows users to tap their smart phone data plans from their laptops) for my Internet access," wrote Jill E. Neunaber of Manchester, N.H. "I use Netflix's 'watch instantly' (option) instead of channel surfing if I'm in the mood for something random, and the $130 a month in my pocket feels better than any made-for-TV romantic comedy."


"I never bought a TV after college and landing my first job, so there was no need to sign up for cable or satellite TV," wrote Kristen Harrison of Cantonment, Fla. "I watch episodes of shows I like on Hulu or network websites such as TNT, CBS, or Syfy when I have time."

"When we sold our house in July we canceled our cable service (DirecTV, liked it, but we just don't watch much TV). At the new house we are using Netflix online and Hulu," wrote Brooke Link Jones of Woodinville, Wash. "Hulu has a ton of (shows). My husband has been watching some sports on ESPN 360 and I think on our Xbox there are some live games as well."


"TV sucks, anyway," declared Joshua Gantt of Atlanta. "The Internet is the new TV and I couldn't be happier about the switch."


You're probably not a good candidate to cut the cord if you watch a lot of sports or want to keep up with the latest episodes of popular shows, since there's usually a delay before they show up on Hulu and other sites.


"I think about giving it up, but sometimes I want to watch the show the week it is released instead of everyone telling me about it and killing it for me," wrote Bryant West of Raleigh, N.C.

Some programming isn't available online at all, although that likely will change as more and more networks see the writing on the wall.


If you're interested in making the switch, you'll have access to the most content on your television if you:

  • Have a home broadband network that will reach the TV area, either wireless or through an Ethernet cable.
  • Either have an Internet-enabled TV or a box that helps you access Internet content. The latest game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, Wii) have that capability built in, or you can pay $99 for a Roku or Apple TV.
  • Understand that you may want to pony up for a few subscriptions. Right now, access to the Internet on your TV doesn't mean you get the whole Internet -- just selected sites. You can make the most of that access with an $8-a-month Netflix subscription, which gives you access to thousands of older movies and TV shows, while another $8 a month for Hulu Plus allows you to watch the current season of some popular (and not-so-popular) TV shows. Amazon Video, Apple TV and game consoles give you pay-per-view access to recent movies and shows, as well.
  • Are ready to do a workaround for local channels. If you want access to local channels, you'll need a TV with a digital tuner and an antenna that receives UHF and VHF signals.

Have you cut the cord? Tell us about your experience in the comments.


Liz Pulliam Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "Your Credit Score: Your Money & What's at Stake." Weston's award-winning columns appear twice weekly, exclusively on MSN Money. She also helps middle-class families cope at Building a Brighter Future.


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Tags: billselectronicsentertainmenthouseholdLiz Westonsave money
10/28/2011 6:37 PM
i am very happy to hear that the cable industry is in trouble as far as I'm concerned they deserve it. they are nothing more than a bunch of crooks.over charging people outrageous cable fees and thinking that they could get away with it because of the monopoly that they had on the markets. that move proved to be a mistake. and i am glad that the consumer has finally woken up i had purchased me a internet service from a provider that doesn't have to rely on cable or Verizon (another pack of thieves in my book. ) and that provider is the clear modem and they also offer a phone service that you can call almost any where for a very low fee and i bought a roku    that offers streaming online movie content for pennies on the dollar and the picture quality is what the cable providers could only dream of. i tell it to everyone who wants to hear it and actually got a lot of people to switch and if that got people to stop getting ripped off by the cable cos. i am very happy. and i am also happy to have helped launch the destruction of these bandits.    
10/24/2011 5:35 PM
To add onto alternative ways of watching videos. i've recently began using customized web viewing sites that pull in videos friends post on their respected social sites as well as choosing channels and topics found on the site. The website I use is It's a cool way of turning normal web videos into a channel.

For everything else I use Hulu, and torrent files. I really only watch HBO on my tv nowadays...
10/23/2011 12:49 PM
Liz (or anyone else, really)-- First, thanks for the article; I have been wanting to cut my own cable cords for a long time now. I've done (to my detriment) hours and hours and hours of research, I'm well-versed in the web and generally geektastic with tech things broadly, but I have ONE (and only this one) thing standing in my way--- live news.  I'm a former Congressional staffer and consultant and MSNBC is on 24-7.  Could I do without? Maybe.  Is paying 100 a month for basically one channel since everything else I want or need is available online or through streaming subscriptions? Maybe (read: yes).  But it's what is stopping me. I can't get over the fact that as breaking news is happening (like the Osama bin laden Sunday night speech and following gatherings in NY/DC) I would potentially miss it. I know that networks usually live-stream breaking news if it's big enough (like the Inauguration), but when news is breaking, i need to see it. Everything I've found through searches is spam-laden (or worse, according to my anti-malware programs), and I can't seem to find a working and reliable live-feed to stream.  Anyone have any advice?  Liz, anyone at MSN want to call a contact within Comcast/NBC to see if this is on their radar at all?! Help! :-)  I know there has been a LOT done for sports fanatics in this space, but what about us live news junkies? :-)
10/16/2011 10:08 PM

         Dear Liz loved the info about pinching pennies.

And i have also cut the cable tv cord. And Have an extra 100, bucks a month.

Very nice to have a little extra.         But while i was checking out    My internet protection

arrested to Trojan malware intruders attempting to infect my world you may want to

warn you readers. Just FYI

                           Best regards


9/21/2011 9:49 AM

We dumped direct tv almost years ago.Put up a tv antenna.May have spent around 500.00,we still have analog tv yet.It takes a little work to get the stations.In the analog days,it was easier to get the tv station,now the signal is harder to get.We do get around 40 channels.


Never like the idea of the goverment forcing us to make the switch.Now the FCC is planning on chopping some of the t ch's to seel off.


                          FCC has too much power,someone should clip there wings before all over the air signals are gone



9/08/2011 12:09 PM
I cut the cable and have had no drop off in the ability to watch TV.  I've saved myself tons of money since doing this and I would never go back to paying monthly.  The secret has been http://www.stoptheca​  This is not my product, but I am a huge fan and I recommend it to all family members and friends.  
8/09/2011 5:37 PM
Shortly after college back in 1999, my gf (now wife) and I stopped watching traditional TV. Paying for cable just seemed silly since we have a computer that was connected to a projector and a TV. So we would stream shows from the web and watch them from the couch and/or bed. I really still can't believe anyone pay for cable these days with more and more TVs being made with internet access.
7/21/2011 9:25 AM
Hi,I want to do away with dish but I'm torn abt it. I'm tired of paying the high prices and really can't afford it anymore. I need some help. I have a desktop in the BR and a laptop for the LR. I have netflix so I know I can connect the laptop to my tv so I can watch on it. I now have wireless for it and still have the modem for the desktop. I know abt a few of the internet websites I can watch for regular shows. But I have an older tv in the BR without a box of any kind so will I be able to connect the desktop to that tv and watch? Also I want to get my local channels but how do I do that? Should I get a Roku or something? What internet websites do you recommend? I want something that's easy to access. I'm a person that likes to have the tv on at all times and I don't know how I'll do that without dish. I'm also a channel surfer so see,I'm torn. Please give me suggestions on what to do. TIA
7/21/2011 8:39 AM

Cut cable almost 2 years ago and use netflix. I am quite happy with the picture quality- seems to be better than cable. Sure I miss "live " sports but the trade off is $ in the bank.

7/21/2011 1:13 AM
We cut our DishNetwork about 7 years back. I do not miss it at all. My Local channels (off air) are pretty good. The trouble started when my TV's digital tuner went bad. Now I do not get my local channels. And with the rising cost of Netflix, I am debating how to get the entertainment and education to my home? I do not want to get cable or Dish because I have school age kids and they need concentration on distraction of TV. I want TV to provide more education than time killing for them. Cable in our area is super expensive. I think I would rather get my TV repaired and continue my Netflix.
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