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Cord Cutting: 17 Channels and a Whole Lotta [Expensive] Nothing On

27 May 2014 574 views 6 Comments

Choice is the question and Americans are picking without considering the cost. Cord cutting has been making headlines, but few families are doing the math

Choice is the question and Americans are paying for services without really considering the costs. While cord cutting has been making headlines, relatively few families are doing the math and dropping cable.

While average US household that pays $90-plus for cable or satellite TV and gets nearly 200 channels, those families only watch a small fraction of the content they’re paying for.

In 2013, the average US TV home in 2013 received 189 TV channels, up from 129 in 2008. But over that time period, consumers have consistently tuned in to an average of just 17 to 18 channels on a regular basisVariety

Interestingly enough, the channels most like to watch aren’t the channels they’re paying the most to get. With cable bills growing roughly 5 percent annually for years, one would think cord cutting would be increasingly common.

Cord Cutting: No Revolution Yet

However, according to Variety, “only” 251,000 households dropped pay TV last year, which amounts to about 0.02 percent of the 110.2 million that continue subscribe.

Nevertheless, while pay TV’s absolute numbers are declining marginally, the population of the US (317 million and counting) continues to grow by just over 1 percent per year, which means millions of new consumers aren’t getting pay TV. The biggest constituency are the cable nevers — millennials aren’t getting pay TV, opting instead for streamed content, like Netflix, and good ol’ broadcast.

Again, the average American home with pay TV is shelling out more than $90 a month and rising while watching only 17 channels. Obviously, something has to give…

What’s your take?

Image Nobody Home, Pink Floyd

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  • Hammerjack said:

    I cut the cord two years ago and only pay the cable company for broadband. Between the digital antenna I mounted to pick up local broadcast channels and iTunes to grab the few cable shows that my wife and I watch, we pretty much get everything that we want without paying for a bunch of channels we never turned on.

    That said, it’s still an inelegant solution–and unless you’ve got a handy streak in you for running cable, hooking up an antenna, getting your home networking right, then it’s probably more trouble than most people will be willing to go through just for the pleasure of giving the cable company the finger. As big a ripoff as bundling is, it’s easy to understand–plus it’s a one-stop-shop, as opposed to streaming this, downloading that, and picking up stuff over the air.

    I look forward to a day when I can just subscribe to the content that I want using an integrated solution that puts everything under a single platform. Alas, while I think that day is inevitable, I don’t see it arriving very soon. The cable companies will fight it tooth and nail, and with as much control as they have over the content providers, it’s gonna be a nasty fight.

  • Gene Steinberg said:

    What you are seeing here is the side effect of bundling, on both the provider’s part and the entertainment companies who insist the cable and satellite services pay carriage fees on a bunch of channels, not just ala carte. Unless or until that changes, this situation of having 300 channels and few worth watching will continue.

    Of course, the cable companies might argue that having more channels means you’ll discover some treasures you might have otherwise overlooked. That may be slightly true, but to get the channels you want, you often have to order several tiers of service rather than just one or two even if the offerings aren’t what you regard as premium.

    Gene Steinberg

  • Diane Daneker said:

    We cut the cord about 2 yrs. ago and watch PBS, Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon through Prime.

    If cable companies offered ala carte, I’d probably go for that too. But we don’t watch the expensive stuff, ESPN, Disney, etc. etc. so why should we pay for somebody else who wants to watch them.

    A year or so ago, Sen. McCain said something about doing away with packages on cable, but I haven’t heard anything more about it. He probably got told to keep his mouth shut but the powers that be in cable.

  • Lazer Wolf said:

    We tried cutting the cord last year, but maybe not in the strict sense that this article establishes. We dropped down to the lowest possible TV package (Time Warner), which was essentially your basic network channels plus a few local access channels.

    The reason we went this route rather than completely cutting the cord is because we have a decent television and surround sound and couldn’t really get a great picture/sound using an antenna. Sometimes it was ok, but usually there was something wrong. So we still ended up paying about $20 per month just to get the “free” network channels in HD and slightly better sound. I still felt like I was still getting ripped off though.

    We also used Netflix, iTunes and our local library. My summary of this experiment, which lasted one year, is as follows:

    1. You can easily get used to not having so many channels, 95% of which you’ll never watch anyway. And you don’t feel like you are settling for less because…

    2. There is a lot of good content on the network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS), provided you have good image and sound quality.

    3. If there was a way to delivery a great picture and sound from the network channels that doesn’t cost more than $15/month (with some commercials) I’d fully cut the cord. (Aero TV!?)

    4. If you could get the network channels+ESPN for $25-$30/per month, you’d get real movement in terms of cord cutting. I strongly believe ESPN is a major linchpin for the bundle. Whomever can get ESPN to go ala carte will do major damage to the cable bundle.

  • Bob B Bob said:

    Content is king. To break Hollywood’s stranglehold on our wallets, we need an internet only hit, perhaps sport. Lacrosse, anyone?

  • Rex said:

    I cancelled my cable service almost two years ago now. I realized the majority of the shows I enjoy watching are free with an HDTV. I live a good 40-50 miles from the closest broadcast tower, so I purchased the Boost TV antenna amplifier and added it to my antenna. I get about up 20 free channels with this setup. Anything I can’t pick up with my antenna and amplifier is available on Netflix or Hulu. I haven’t had a reason to go back to cable – I don’t feel that I miss anything.

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