The Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide for 2020


The Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide is a living, breathing document. It is constantly evolving. As new services, devices and best practices come out for cord cutters, we will update and revise this guide. Last Updated: 09/18/2019

For many people, the arrival of the cable bill is an unpleasant monthly ritual. With the swipe of a pen or a click of a mouse, a generous sum of money disappears into the void to cover subscription costs, equipment rental fees, and taxes.

What is Cord Cutting?

Cord Cut·ting noun informal

The act of canceling or supplementing a cable television subscription and replacing TV services with internet-based streaming TV providers.

example:  “Cable companies continue to lose subscribers as more Americans adopt cord cutting strategies.”

Over the past decade, households across the country have been joining in a movement to sever ties with their cable companies and contracts. Instead they’re looking elsewhere to satisfy their TV and movie-watching needs.

Not only are these “cord-cutters” saving a lot of money and ditching long-term contracts, they are gaining access to an entirely new and more convenient way of watching television.

What Will You Find in The Cord-Cutting Guide?

Our aim was to put together the most exhaustive resource on how you can still get the programming you want at a much cheaper price. In the sections below, we will delve into local channels, streaming services, streaming devices, DVR, sports content, internet and more.

In each section of the Ultimate Cord-Cutting we’ll explore a different set of techniques you can implement to finally cut loose from your cable contracts, and live your life cord-free.

Ready? Let’s go!

Who is “Cutting the Cord”?

“Cord-cutters” are a large and growing community of TV viewers, made up of all demographic groups and geographic locations. The only demographic group that tends to be under represented are Millennials, who are less likely to have ever had a cable subscription, instead favoring streaming TV platforms rather than pricey cable TV commitments. It’s for this reason, these individuals are often referred to as “Cord-Nevers.

While many people continue to subscribe to cable or satellite TV plans, a majority of U.S. households have taken the first steps to cut cable through the widespread adoption of Netflix, which currently boasts over 100 Million subscribers world-wide. In many ways, we have Netflix to thank for the current quantity and quality of all streaming TV platforms. Especially given its low price, excellent library of TV shows & movies, and usability, qualities which have helped to define it as a core service recommendation.

Why Cut the Cord?

In short: Traditional Pay-TV has a high cost, long commitment and you don’t use what you pay for. Alternative options offer you most of what you like for less. Let’s take a closer look at the primary factors that motivate consumers to ditch their cable plans.

Cost of Traditional Pay-TV

A late-2016 study shows the average monthly spend on pay-TV service (cable or satellite) is $103.10. Sure, the advertised prices start off low, but when you add in multiple TVs, renting equipment, HD and DVR fees, and taxes, the price surges. Not to mention when the promotional period ends and your bill gets jacked up, which brings us to…

Traditional Pay-TV Require Long-Term Commitments

The tactic cable and satellite TV companies have long used is offering a one or two-year price in exchange for a one or two-year commitment. After the promo period your bill gets a lot more expensive, and cancelling early often comes with early termination fees. Either way you lose.

It’s no wonder the average satisfaction rate for pay-TV providers in 2016 was 63%. It’s been a long time since I was in school, but I’m pretty sure that’s a D-. A sneaky high schooler with a fine tip pen may be able to turn that into a B+, but the subscription television industry isn’t so lucky.

You’re Paying For Channels You Don’t Watch

If you think about the shows you actually watch and the networks they’re on, it’s probably not more than 5-10 channels. If any of those are local broadcast networks like CBS, NBC, ABC or FOX, you could be getting those for free. We get mad at the cable TV overlords when they hike up our rates, but in their defense, that’s what we once told them we valued – tons of channels. They have to pay a fee for each and every channel in your TV package, which means they have to extend the cost to you.

Streaming Services Offer the Right Combination of Convenience, Choice and Price

Now that we’re all experiencing information overload, we’d rather have access to just the things we watch. We want low prices, ability to cancel at any time, and we want to watch them anywhere on any device. If this sounds familiar, cutting the cord and living the cable-free life may be just the thing to both cut costs and improve your overall television-watching experience!

Is Cord-Cutting the Right Choice for You?

At this point comes the moment of truth; is cutting the cord the right decision for you and your household?

There are two key elements you need to assess for yourself when ultimately deciding between taking the plunge into the cord-cutter lifestyle or living with high (and likely rising) cable costs:

Is Your Content Available to Stream?

Can you assemble a combination of devices and services that will allow you to access the type and amount of television content you want to be able to consume?

To figure this out, make a list of the shows and types of content your household currently makes an effort to watch (not just what they watch when “there’s nothing else on”). Decide if there are any shows and/or channels that are considered “must-haves” and see if you can put together a combination of over-the-air and streaming content to meet those needs.

The next step is to ensure the TVs in your home have the ability to receive that content. Start by taking an inventory of the devices you already have, and then decide what, if any, additional devices you would need to add to replace the cable boxes you will be returning (and no longer paying to rent!).

Will Cord Cutting Save You Money?


Will cutting the cord save you money, cost about the same, or actually cost you more when compared to your current cable subscription?

As you read through this guide, keep track of the different options that appeal to you, and then use the following process to calculate your savings.

  1. Start with your current cable bill and figure out what a year of your current subscription costs. Be sure to include taxes, rental fees, and any expiring promotional deals that could add to the overall total.
  2. The next step is to total up the hardware you would need to add to both access the content you want to watch (antennas and/or streaming devices), and the infrastructure to get ensure the content reaches to your devices (router upgrades, signal boosters, analog-to-digital converters).
  3. After that, if you are opting to add streaming services to your cord-cutting strategy (rather than relying solely on free, over-the-air broadcasts), price out what the services you would want would cost over a 12-month span. Factoring in any additional ISP costs would make sense here as well if you are trying to create as true a comparison as possible.
  4. Finally, compare the annual cable costs to the annual costs of your cord-cutting plan. If cutting the cord results in financial savings and a selection of content you are satisfied with, it’s time to start prepping for that cable cancellation call!

If you end up with a result that skews in favor of cable, it may be worth extending your projections from one year to two or more. Keep in mind, the hardware portion of your calculations represent one-time purchases that won’t be repeated each year (unlike device rentals that not only repeat, but often increase over time). Also, some cable companies will charge you for breaking a contract early. As such, some households will see much more significant savings the farther away from their cable subscription days they get. Depending on cancellation fees and the extent that you need to purchase new devices, you may actually end up spending a little bit more in your first year of cord-cutting before the real savings kick-in.

The decision to cut the cord and replace your cable subscription with other options involves a lot of considerations. That being said, once some of the key details like hardware and network optimization have been ironed out, the freedom to add and modify your content selections relatively inexpensively can be liberating.

In the next section, we’ll explore the different ways you to get your local TV channels in HD quality, without a cable television subscription.

Continue to Part 2