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7 myths about cutting the cable cord

If cord-cutting is on the rise, why are there more cable subscribers than ever? We're busting the cord-cutting myths everyone takes for granted.

By May 7, 2014 4:49PM

This post comes from Marcy Bonebright at partner site DealNews

DealNews on MSN MoneyMy household cut the metaphorical cable cord about five years ago, so I've watched this idea evolve in the media from "insane notion" to "trending trendy trend" to "cable industry crisis." If the headlines are to be believed, consumers are abandoning traditional TV in droves, embracing easy-to-use streaming gadgets and apps, and watching their favorite shows mere minutes after they hit the usual airwaves.

A cable box is seen on top of a television © Matt Rourke/AP
But the truth is actually a lot more complicated than the news has led you to believe. In an effort to help you decide whether cable abandonment is right for you, we're tackling seven major cord-cutting myths. To that end, we've borrowed some official Mythbusters terms, labeling each myth either busted or plausible. (None of them were confirmed.) Read on to find out whether all cord-cutters are pirates, how much money you could actually save, and more!

Myth No. 1: Cable-cutting is on the rise
Status: Busted

This is probably the biggest myth of them all, that millions of cable subscribers are abandoning their post. Cord-cutting proponents and industry doomsayers alike point to big losses at Comcast and Time Warner.

"Focusing on the travails of the biggest cable companies obscures the reality that...the total number of pay-TV subscribers is slightly higher now than it was at the end of 2008 and that there were probably more people paying for television subscriptions at the end of 2013 than at the end of 2012," writes Bloomberg. The article points to subscription gains at AT&T's U-Verse and Verizon's FiOS services, as well as an increase in satellite subscribers. For now at least, the paid-TV model doesn't seem to be under that much of a threat.

Myth No. 2: All cord-cutters are pirates
Status: Busted

Of course, I've never pirated any media for any reason ever. (Stealing is wrong, kids!) But hypothetically speaking, there may have been a time when getting your favorite TV shows and movies without cable involved a trip down BitTorrent lane. (Stealing is wrong, kids!)

However, there are way more legal options around nowadays. Amazon Prime members get free streaming, Netflix lets you binge-watch to your heart's content, Hulu Plus grants access to the latest TV episodes, and some networks will let you watch episodes of popular shows on their websites for free.

Are all of these options free? No, but neither is piracy. Even assuming you never get caught (and therefore dodge any legal fees and fines), you'd still have to pay for a VPN at the very least.

Myth No. 3: Cutting cable will save you a lot of money
Status: Plausible

Cable is expensive, especially if you're paying for a premium package. But don't assume that cutting the cord will automatically save you a bundle.

For one thing, there's the start-up price. The initial hardware costs can run anywhere from $30 (for a streaming stick like the Chromecast) to $99 for a media receiver (like a Roku or Apple TV) to almost $500 (for an Xbox One). If you're the DIY sort, you can build your own HTPC (home theater PC) and the only limit on price will be what you can stomach. Don't forget your Internet bill — if you're not bundling cable and Internet anymore, your ISP will probably charge you more.

Once you've got the hardware, you'll start getting your media à la carte from the streaming service(s) of your choice. As mentioned above, each service offers a little something different, so you might end up with multiple subscriptions, each costing $7 or more per month. If some movies or TV shows aren't offered by your favored streaming service, you can always rent them from iTunes or Google Play for about $1 to $3 a piece. For sure, all of this is probably still cheaper than paying the cable company hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, but it's easy to lose track of all those little purchases.

Myth No. 4: Cutting the cord is your only option for a cheaper cable bill
Status: Busted

If you're not the dickering type, this myth is awfully hard to bust. But walking away from cable entirely is not your only option for a cheaper bill, because bargaining for a lower price from the cable company works fairly often. However, we suggest you consult one of the many guides to negotiating a better bill that are available online before calling them up and asking nicely.

In general, you'll have a better chance of lowering your bill if there's at least one competitor in your area. Also, be aware that simply choosing a cheaper plan with fewer channels could be the right option for you.

Myth No. 5: You'll still be able to watch all your favorite recent shows
Status: Busted

The key word in this myth is "all." If you want to see the very latest episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," then follow that link and enjoy. But if you want the latest episode of Game of Thrones, then you're legally out of luck if you've cut cable. Of course, even if you're one of the naughty people who've "borrowed" an HBO Go password, you're probably not going to see the show on the night it airs. When it comes to cable-exclusive content, cord-cutters just have to avoid spoilers until the Blu-ray release ... or become pirates.

Myth No. 6: It'll be easy to watch live sports
Status: Busted

Have you ever watched the ESPN website's football play tracker while streaming a radio broadcast of the game and trying to follow the action via tweets? Don't bother, it's depressing. For someone who grew up obsessively watching football, missing my games has been the worst part of losing cable. Yes, you can buy a streaming pass from the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB to watch out-of-market games, but that's essentially useless if you root for the home team.

"Home games are blacked out in the first place to protect local cable stations from losing viewers," TechHive explains. "More television providers are becoming willing to provide streaming access to live video ... so long as they are accessed by paying subscribers, not cord-cutters."

It's worth noting that casual sports fans may be able to pick up a few local games with an antenna, but your reception results will vary. For now, sports remain the Achilles heel for cord-cutters.

Myth No. 7: Cutting the cord is so easy, anyone can do it

Status: Plausible
We're calling this myth "plausible" because it's absolutely true that anyone can give up cable and go digital — but it is by no means easy. Our very own Jeff Somogyi had some trouble setting up the Google Chromecast, and was initially underwhelmed by its features. (He's since gotten used to the device and sings its praises to anyone who'll listen.)

The keys to cutting the cord seem to be perseverance, practice, and time. Giving up cable can be a scary thing, but it isn't a bad thing. (I've certainly never looked back!)

However, if cutting the cord seems too complicated for you right now, give it a few months. More apps and media streamers are being invented all the time, so the right device for you could just be waiting in the wings. If you are ready to cut the cord, then make sure you know what you're signing up for — before you break out the scissors.

Looking for more details on how to take the plunge? Be sure to check out our guide to streamers, as well as Gizmodo's fairly thorough cord-cutting walk-through.

More articles from DealNews

May 7, 2014 8:08PM
Don't have cable or satellite. Don't miss either one. Have an antenna which picks up 28 channels... all completely free.
May 7, 2014 7:35PM
Around here we have Comcast Cable.  I'd rather have a black screen than be subjected to their tricks.
May 8, 2014 5:47AM
May 7, 2014 11:22PM
I can save $ 1,560 dollars a year by getting off cable, thats just too much to pay for rerun shows.
May 8, 2014 12:59AM
BS the best thing I ever did! Also enjoy a 130 dollar savings every month- get rid of your cable they are gouging us big time!!
May 7, 2014 8:06PM
If you have to watch sports, then you're pretty much stuck with cable. Otherwise, there's really no real good reason to have cable. Unless you're just super addicted to television and must have your shows. I have had cable since I was in the dorms in college. That was when I realized there were better stuff to do than sit around a television all the time. I really do not miss TV.
May 8, 2014 12:27AM
We cut the cable as soon as we found ourselves watching crap TV like "Sister Wives." Saved a bunch of money, still manage to negotiate my internet and phone down every year, and discovered so much time to get other things done. The key is to cut down on your media appetite, then 90% of the issues the author mentions no longer apply and dumping paid TV is a no-brainer.
May 7, 2014 11:53PM
Article mostly ignored receiving local stations with an antenna and free-to-air broadcasts (if desired) especially for foreign programming .  I left sat TV and haven't looked back.  It depends on how much  a person/family is tied to the TV.
May 7, 2014 8:11PM
I never got cable in the first place. I didn't see any reason to pay to watch commercials 20min out of every hour. Oh yeah, there are DVRs that skip ahead, but I don't even want to be bothered by one second of advertising. And once you go without TV advertising, you realize just how annoying it really is and you want even less of it.

Anyway, there's nothing worth watching. Real life is a hell of a lot more interesting than the media fantasyland. I don't even go to movies.

May 8, 2014 3:39AM
  As I read this, what I find "plausible" is that this "reporter" was paid for these comments... I cut the cord many years ago and could not be happier. It is DEFINITELY cheaper no matter how many streaming devices one would rack up in the long run as the bill is not reoccurring. The services like Netflix and Hulu+ are a whopping $8 a month. Do the math and you'll find that you can get an entire years worth of content for less than two months of cable or satellite.

   I particularly like how this article cleverly avoided the HD issue. The signal over the airwaves is full 1080p, not 1080i, or 720p, a full 1080p. Add this service to your cable or satellite (which for most is only 720p) and watch the bill skyrocket. Not only will you need additional hardware in most instances, but also pay a premium for the content. I won't even digress into the audio...

  Face it, the big boys are clearly feeling the pinch and they'll do just about anything to convince you not to stray and even get some schlub to tell you that there are myths to cutting the cord. Don't buy it, just try it for a year and see...
May 7, 2014 8:21PM
You don't have to go to BitTorrent to catch your favorite TV shows.  All you have to do is go to the station's website, and the episodes are available for free the day after they air.  So if my favorite show is on Wednesday night, I go to the website the next morning and watch it. 
May 7, 2014 9:03PM
We cut the cable several years ago. A couple of years ago we went with and HDTV antenna. Unfortunately, we live right next to a very active railroad track and trains will disrupt an HDTV signal. Towards the end of last year we got basic cable (we live in a Time-Warner area). That's going to cost us about $380.00 a year while the 2-year contract lasts. Then, who knows? I am against the Comcast/Time-Warner merger! We should have MORE competition, not less. The franchise method we use in this country only benefits the providers. We should develop a solid infrastructure and have true competition so that we can decide if we want Comcast, Time-Warner, or My-Local-Provider. Not only for cable tv, but internet, as well. All I ask is give me what I want, not what you think I want or need, and at a fair price.
May 7, 2014 9:41PM
Even in our small city, the number of over-the-air digital signals totals 15, including news channels from around the world, movies, and "classic" TV channels. And they're all, of course, in pristine digital HD, the sound (at least on the new network shows) is in Dolby 5.1 (unlike the muddy stereo from our old cable connection) and we have no regrets we cancelled the cable. 
My best friend in the Virginia Beach area has over 40 (!) digital signals, as all the TV stations have placed their broadcast towers at an "antenna farm" together, making aiming the rooftop antenna a snap. Most people don't even know what a perfect signal and sound combo looks like if they use cable here, given that it is the only game in town and crystal clarity and awesome sound need a comparison to know if they're good or lousy.
May 8, 2014 5:46AM

Canceled my U-verse several years tired of them jacking with my rates...

Now I get offers of $200 to come back..?.. FYI.. I wont be

May 7, 2014 11:19PM
I wouldn't mind paying for cable but the problem is you get repeat shows over and over and over. After you see something 3 times it gets really old especially when your paying your hard earned money for the same thing over and over. Its just not right for if your paying for something you shouldnt be stuck with reruns month after month. I am buying an all channel 150 mile antenna soon.
May 8, 2014 12:47AM

We weaned ourselves from cable slowly. Went from a $79/month package to Basic at $25/month then to an indoor antenna at $0/month. Still get CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC etc. for news and sports.

No regrets, wish we had done it sooner. Just about every room has a computer or device streaming Netflix these days. Also, the last time I went to a movie theater was when Titanic was showing for the first time.

May 7, 2014 8:00PM
We need more cables, not fewer!  If we all put six "ask your doctor" boxes in each room and tune them all to different channels, we can watch more "ask your doctor" ads.  I've seen drop outs who know more drugs than the doctors they see almost daily.  Every time I see them, I hear "my doctor doctor told me....I told my doctor...and yes, "my doctors" with an "s."  And they always say "I thought I was gonna die..." but some magic pill on the "ask your doctor" box saved them for one more day....  And, we  have to pay to hear this junk!!!!!!!!
May 7, 2014 10:19PM
When my husband and I moved into our house three years ago, we opted to forgo cable tv. When we did have it, we almost never watched it. Of the 100+ channels we had, we watched maybe 5 of them on a regular basis. 

We tried using an indoor antenna, but we live too far out in the country to get anything other than PBS. (I'm a fan of "Sherlock" and "Downton Abbey," so I'm not complaining.) Thankfully, my husband and I are both tech-savvy individuals, so we've had no problem finding ways to watch our favorite shows online. We use our PCs and PS3 for streaming and DVDs. Although we don't have it, one of my friends has a Chromecast. She said it was easy to set up. And, I played around with it when she was showing it to me. I thought it was easy to use. Currently, we only have the one tv in the living room, and that has the PS3 hooked up to it. We've been thinking about getting a second tv for our bedroom. If we do, if the tv doesn't already have wifi access and apps built in, we'll definitely get a Chromecast for it.

Of course, this won't work for everyone. For example, my aging parents don't really have much patience for new technology. My mom can check her email and surf the web, but that's about it. And, even then, she still sometimes has to call me and ask for help. And, my dad wants no part of any of it at all. Plus, he's a sports junkie. (Especially golf and baseball.) So, cutting the cable definitely won't work for them.
May 7, 2014 10:05PM
May 8, 2014 9:07AM
Not bad -- apparently the vast majority of the responses are in agreement about the cable companies. And  -- of course this article as with all the rest are advertisements. Just look at how many of these articles are about Credit Card companies and look who is the sponsor of the article. Scared to ask but just how dumb do these advertising companies think we are? Who do you think are putting thumbs down.... the marketing companies monitor these responses and put in thumbs down to make it looks as people actually love to pay $ 1,500 - $2,000 dollars a year to watch commercials.  And if the negativity is too strong, they will take you off these responses or change your words... it has happened to me a number of times. 
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