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Tech Savvy: Think before you cut the cord

"Cut the cord with cable," they say. "It will be great," they say. "You'll save so much money," they say. As someone who recently "cut the cord," I can say part of that is true. More and more online streaming services allowing viewers to watch an...

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"Cut the cord with cable," they say. "It will be great," they say. "You'll save so much money," they say.

As someone who recently "cut the cord," I can say part of that is true.

More and more online streaming services allowing viewers to watch anywhere, anytime, on any device keep popping up, forcing big hits on once-popular cable providers.

According to first quarter 2019 earnings reports cable broadcast companies have lost hundreds of thousands of viewers in the first few months of this year. AT&T Premium TV (including DirecTV) lost 544,000 subscribers, while DISH Network is down 259,000, and Charter Spectrum lost 152,000. I'm one of those 152,000.

In contrast, Hulu's latest earnings report shows it gained 3.8 million U.S. subscribers in the same timeframe, while Netflix's gained 1.74 million domestic viewers the first quarter of 2019, and a record 9.6 million new subscribers worldwide.

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After cutting the cord, I can definitely say I've been saving money by just relying on my $10 a month Netflix subscription, but regretfully, I can't say I've been completely happy with my decision.

When I got rid of cable, my first plan was to buy a Roku, a nice little device that connects to my Wi-Fi and allows me to watch Netflix on my non-smart TV instead of using my small tablet. That plan worked out well.

Next, I bought an indoor antenna in hopes of getting the "big four" channels-ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX-without having to pay a continual subscription fee. I especially wanted those channels so I could watch football this fall. I'm also a big fan of trivia, and I always liked to watch Jeopardy anytime I didn't have to work while it was on. I have a few other shows on those channels I try to keep up with as well, so being able to access them, while not imperative, would have been nice, especially since I only would have had to pay the initial fee for the antenna. I also wouldn't have hundreds of channels at my fingertips, tempting me to spend so many nights and weekends on my couch glued to my TV.

But my hopes for a functioning antenna were soon dashed, partially because of Brainerd's relatively rural location and partially because of the unique construction of my apartment building. The building I live in is quite old, and my specific living area is a little odd, as I don't actually have any windows looking outside. It's hard to explain, but my apartment is in the middle of the building, and my windows face this mostly covered area that I can only describe as a big alcove or tiny courtyard of sorts. It's got wood flooring just below the windows, and there are some small openings in the roof where rain or snow get in during inclement weather. I can still get some decent airflow when the weather is nice, but for that reason, I don't have a good spot for an indoor antenna to get service, and living in an apartment building, I can't exactly go ahead and put up an antenna on the roof.

So now I'm back to three options: Sticking strictly with the limited content on Netflix, shell out money for a streaming service that offers the four commercial broadcast networks, or go back to cable. None of those options, however, are that desirable to me.

Obviously I had my reasons for cutting the cable cord to begin with. First, I wanted to save money, which I did. And second, I knew I had a tendency to spend too much time in front of the TV versus doing more beneficial activities like reading or exercising. And I think I've been successful in watching less TV lately, too, partially because I don't have such a plethora of channels available and partially because I keep buying more and more books, leading to minor anxiety about being able to read everything I want to, but that's another story-or several, rather.

So I certainly don't want to start paying $50 a month for cable again-especially with the recent addition of a new car payment-nor do I want the temptation of endless channel options.
But if I opt for an additional streaming option, like Hulu Live, which allows me to get the four main channels l want, I'm forced to pay $45 a month-barely less than cable-and I get way more content than I really need, though I'm not limited to just watching on my TV.

OK, I know I don't actually "need" any TV, but it is a nice way after a day of work and something enjoyable to pass the time while I sip my coffee on a Saturday morning.

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Sling TV, a subsidiary of DISH Network, offers a couple cheaper packages with only 35-55 channels-which I definitely like-but the only "big four" channels it offers are NBC and FOX.

I could then add CBS All Access, on online service giving subscribers access to CBS shows for $5.99 a month, giving me three of the four channels I want still at a cheaper price than both cable and Hulu Live. ABC has a similar deal to complete the quartet, but it's unfortunately not available in the Brainerd area.

I feel like having three different subscriptions could get a little confusing, but my Roku helps make things simple by allowing me to access all the separate apps in one place on my TV. I feel like this might be the route I go, at least when this fall rolls around so I can get most-if not all-of my beloved Green Bay Packers games and keep up with the final season of "Criminal Minds."

So while I do have some cheaper, cordless options for TV after cutting cable, I didn't have as easy of a transition as I thought.

My advice to anyone thinking about following suit is to explore your options-as there are a lot out there-and weigh the costs first before pulling the plug for good.

Related Topics: TECHNOLOGYTELEVISION
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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