The Beginner’s Guide to Cord Cutting 2023 – What I Wish I Knew When I Canceled Cable TV





man cutting cable cord

If you’re new to the world of cord cutting, it can seem daunting and complicated, especially with so many services and devices competing for your attention. However, now more than ever, consumers are leaving traditional cable providers behind and opting for a streaming service.

Not only are more consumers cutting the cord, but they’re also saving money from the switch. According to a Leichtman Research Group study, the average cord cutter can save about $1,300 per year, depending on the services they choose after canceling a cable subscription.

We’re here to help you join the millions who have already cut the cord so you can enjoy your favorite entertainment for less. To help you cross that finish line – and say goodbye to cable in the process – let us show you the simple step-by-step way to becoming a cord cutter.

Establish Your Monthly Costs

To find out if cord cutting is right for you, a good place to start is your monthly cable or satellite bill: How much are you currently paying for the content? When you factor in your monthly costs, don’t forget to include any equipment rentals fees for gear like DVRs or satellite dishes.

Many cord cutters use a combination of services to access the content they love, so if the overall cost is a concern, it makes sense to compare those total monthly costs to what you’re currently paying for cable or satellite. And once you have a rough idea of how much your current service costs each month, you can use that as a benchmark when comparing various cord-cutting options.

Related Reading: The Average Cable Bill Costs More Than All Other Utility Bills Combined

Cord cutting can often offer a more focused, customized viewing experience than the quantity-over-quality approach of most cable and satellite options, but getting the most bang for your buck means knowing what you want to watch.

Find the Content You Want

With a better idea of the content you love to watch, you can make more informed choices about which services to check out and which ones to ignore. You can start with a list of old and new faves you want to keep watching. If sports are a big concern, don’t forget to include leagues or specific teams you like to follow. 

Related Reading: The Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide for Sports Fans

Armed with your list of favorite content, it’s now time to survey the landscape and see what cord-cutting options make the most sense for your personal viewing tastes and preferences. They’re often available to watch in more places, too, with many services supporting a wide range of devices, so you can keep watching your shows on your phone or tablet around the house or on the go. While the world of cord cutting is constantly evolving, there are two key categories to consider: live TV and on-demand streaming.

What are Live TV Streaming Services?

Live TV services let you watch shows, sports, and other programs on your favorite channels in real-time. If you find yourself wanting to keep up with live TV, there are several options out there, many with different packages to help you better customize your options. Instead of tiers that just pile on hundreds of channels (and a heftier bill), many live TV streaming services offer plans that cater to certain tastes, like sports or music.

There are several options to choose from, but the good news is that many offer solid free trials and preview periods, so you can give them a test-drive to see which one best suits your needs. Worried you will miss your DVR? Don’t! All these services offer a built-in DVR option, so you will never miss your favorite show. And if you need more information, we’ve reviewed many of the most popular live TV services.

DIRECTV STREAMFuboHulu with Live TVPhiloSling TVYouTube TV
Start a 5-day free trialStart a 7-day free trialN/AStart a 7-day free trialN/AStart a 7-day free trial
Starts at $74.99/mo.*Starts at $74.99/mo.*Starts at $69.99/mo.*Starts at $25/mo.*Starts at $40/mo.*Starts at $72.99/mo.*
75+ channels160+ channels85+ channels70+ channels32+ channels100+ channels
Unlimited DVR storage1000 hours of DVR storageUnlimited hours of DVR storageUnlimited DVR storage for 12 months50 hours of DVR storageUnlimited DVR storage
Good for easy self-install setupGood for national and international sports contentGood for live TV, on-demand, originals, and moreGood for entertainment on a budgetGood for for a la carte live TVGood for recording all your favorite shows

*Streaming prices and features are valid as of 4/22/20.

What are On-Demand Streaming Services?

On-demand streaming services let you decide what shows or movies you want to watch and when. There’s no shortage of services to choose from, but it’s a good idea to start your cord cutting journey by taking a look at some of the bigger options out there. And like the live TV streaming services, many on this list include free trial periods.

Amazon Prime VideoApple TV+Disney+HuluNetflix
Start a free 30-day trialStart a free 7-day trialN/AStart a free 30-day trialN/A
Starts at $8.99/mo.*Starts at $6.99/mo.*Starts at $7.99/mo.*Starts at $7.99/mo.*Starts at $6.99/mo.*
Enjoy shows like The Boys, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse, and Downton AbbeyEnjoy shows like The Morning Show, See, and DickinsonEnjoy shows like The Mandalorian, The Simpsons, and The Imagineering StoryEnjoy shows like Killing Eve, 30 Rock, and This Is UsEnjoy shows like Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and The Crown
Good for Prime members and those who frequently rent or buy titlesGood for content with a star-studded castGood for Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar fansGood for those who still want to follow current TV shows, but don’t necessarily need to watch them live as they airGood for a growing library of original titles that rivals major networks and movie studios

*Streaming prices and features are valid as of 7/5/23.

Choose Your Streaming Equipment

Once you’ve figured out which service (or services) you’re interested in, a good next step is finding the streaming device that best matches your needs. If you have a smart TV, check to see if it supports the apps and services you’re interested in. And if it’s lacking support, there are plenty of capable add-on options to choose from.

What Streaming Device Makes the Most Sense?

When deciding what device makes the most sense for you, one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a streaming device are app support and ease of use. After all, a well-equipped streaming device that’s a pain to actually use may not offer the most pleasant viewing experience.

One of the more popular options is Roku, which offers a variety of streaming devices at several price points. Some are more barebones, for perhaps a secondary TV in the home, while higher-end options are better suited for 4K, HDR-capable sets.

Related Reading: Roku Ultra vs Roku Streaming Stick+: Which is Right For You?

Meanwhile, Fire TV and Android TV are also popular and capable streaming platforms that support a wide range of apps and services. The Android TV-based Shield TV Pro from NVIDIA, for example, is a capable streaming device that boasts some impressive gaming credentials through its GeForce Now streaming support.

If you own a lot of Apple gear or have a sizable content library stored up through iTunes, an Apple TV might be a good fit. In addition to being a capable and approachable streaming device, Apple’s new Arcade service upgrades the Apple TV’s gaming capabilities considerably.

Can I Use an Antenna to Stream Local Channels?

An over-the-air (OTA) antenna is often a major part of the cord-cutting experience since it’s an affordable way to pick up local stations for free. To find out what’s available in your area, and what type of antenna you’ll need, you can enter your address at sites like AntennaWeb. They’ll tell you what channels you should receive based on your location and should make it easier to know where to place your antenna.

Simple indoor antennas can be found for well under $50. Meanwhile, outdoor solutions are often more rugged and can receive signals from farther away, but tend to be a bit more expensive and have more involved installation procedures.

Check Your Internet Speed

If you’re planning on cutting the cord, and moving your TV viewing from cable or satellite to the internet, it’s worth making sure your current connection can handle the added traffic. Higher quality video, like 4K HDR, typically requires faster internet speeds, and if you have a whole household of potential streamers, you’ll need to keep that in mind as well. Various services have their own speed recommendations, but it basically boils down to this: The faster, the better. 

For example, Hulu says 16 Mbps should be enough for 4K content, while 1080p (HD) content needs around 6 Mbps. Netflix recommends 25 Mbps for its 4K streams and 5 Mbps for 1080p, but many streaming services offer quality settings that can be adjusted manually or automatically if you’re concerned about speed or hitting a monthly data cap.

Speaking of data caps, it’s worth checking with your internet provider to see if there’s a monthly usage limit for your current plan, since streaming does take up a significant amount of internet data, especially with multiple streams in the same home. Data caps vary by internet provider, and some don’t have caps at all, but a ceiling of around 1TB per month should give you enough room to start streaming comfortably.

Related Reading: How to Stay Under Your Data Cap When You Cut the Cord

Celebrate Your Switch

Breaking away from expensive cable bills is a great feeling, and we hope this guide helps you with that process. Once you’ve said goodbye to cable or satellite, you can also put your number on the national Do Not Call list so they don’t flood you with pleas to come back.

Part of the beauty of cord cutting is the different ways you can customize services to your specific needs and while there are lots of options to consider, that’s what we’re here for. You can check out our reviews, how-to guides, and other resources to learn more about different services and streaming devices. And we’re constantly on the lookout for deals and free trials.

For now, though, congratulations on becoming a cord cutter! You’re joining a growing and passionate group of people and we hope you enjoy your new, cable-free experience!

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