Investigating Cutting the Cord

Would dropping cable or satellite TV limit you from watching live sports? I did some investigation to see if it was feasible and financially reasonable.

I grew up watching television.

I remember clearly coming home from middle school and claiming the television so I could watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and other shows. Heck, I even watched Seinfeld when I was in middle school, though I didn’t really get it. Katie, my wife, is much the same. A child raised on TV. So the idea of dropping our beloved cable connection is something of a challenge to even comprehend. But a conversation with a cable-less friend drove me to do some investigating. And you all can reap the benefits.

Katie and I have talked about cutting cable before, our desire to minimize costs being the primary reason. The main thing holding us back is our shared love for sports. Both of us have fathers who dearly loved sports and instilled in us the same fervent love. So the threat of not being able to catch a football game, or watch the NBA shoot hoops has caused us to sit back and refuse the idea.

But in truth I hadn’t looked into whether it was a solvable problem or not. I just took for granted that it was unsolvable or too expensive.

So this week I began pricing out what it would cost to watch sports via the Internet. The numbers are surprisingly varied.

Sports

To watch the NFL, you have a few options. If you’re unable to get satellite TV then there is the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket $250 option from DirecTV, but this only gives you the 1pm and 4pm Sunday games, you don’t get Sunday Night Football, MNF, or any other football games. Another option, if you’re willing to wait until the day after, is the NFL’s Game Rewind for just $39.99, and then adding the post season the price goes to $69.99.

If you fancy basketball, the NBA has two options, the NBA League Pass has a $180 option which lets you watch all games by all teams, there is also a cheaper option at $120 which allows you to subscribe to just 5 teams.

MLB.tv is perhaps the most advanced for digital offerings of sports. I was initially confused as they listed the price as $25 or $20. But this is the price for the remaining part of the baseball season. I couldn’t find it listed currently but I’m told the price for the complete season is $120. Of those listed here, this is the only one I have any experience with. I had a trial of it back when I was in college. I was never a huge baseball fan, well that’s not true, I loved baseball as a kid. But then their strike happened and I fell forever out of love with the game. Now I only enjoy going to a game live. Anyways, I had the trial and I watched some games with it, but baseball has not been must-see for me so it was just a “nice to have” sort of thing.

Another one which is of interest to me and Katie is Major League Soccer. MLS Live is $60 for the full season. All the games for all the teams.

Katie and I also love watching European soccer games such as the Barclay’s Premier League, La Liga, etc. And for that I found FoxSoccer2Go, which is $170, but provides Barclay’s Premier League as well as a other international soccer leagues.

For those of you who enjoy Hockey, the NHL provides an option called NHL Gamecenter. I couldn’t find any pricing information on their website, so I don’t know what it costs but it’s there.

While we’re on sports that aren’t my fancy, I looked and sure enough NASCAR has an option too called Race View.

 

A Note About Blackouts

For most sports, this is an important caveat. These sports are almost universally affected by black outs, meaning that if you live in the same town as your preferred sports team then you may not be able to watch the games. Policies for blackouts vary from league to league, so definitely do some research into it!

For us it’s not a big issue as Katie and I now live in Seattle and our only local team is the MLS Sounders who we could pick up via an HD antenna. Otherwise our teams are all elsewhere in the country (Orlando, St. Louis, and Atlanta), thus minimizing the chance of this affecting us. But obviously we are in the minority and most people live in the city of their chosen teams.

 

Entertainment

Now let’s talk about the sources for more general entertainment. There are three primary options in my mind: Netflix, Amazon Prime and HuluPlus.

Amazon Prime ($70) – While originally started as an option to get free two-day shipping on Amazon, they have since expanded it to include a hefty library of digital content. We’re already subscribers to Amazon Prime. Their library is sizable but not perfect.

Netflix ($8/month) – There are of course more expensive options if you want to rent regular DVDs but $8 a month is for the digital only option. That comes out to $96 a year. They’re the current kings of offering and services in this arena, and they’re who Amazon are battling with their digital video offerings.

Third in this race is HuluPlus which matches Netflix’s pricing of $8/month, or $96/year. I’ve never really looked into HuluPlus but it has some unique offerings including their own content.

There are some complications in terms of entertainment television we enjoy, such as HBO. HBO has some of the most exciting and addictive content on TV right now and yet there is no way to get the content or their online offering HBOGO without having a cable account to tie it to. Yet? Maybe?

 

How Much Would We Save?

So looking over this buffet of options, here is where I see Katie and I possibly going:

  • Sports:$180
    • NBA – $120 (Orlando Magic, four other teams)
    • MLS – $60
  • Entertainment:$262
    • Amazon: $70
    • Netflix: $96
    • HuluPlus: $96

Total Annual Cost: $442
Total Monthly Cost: $36.83

Well that’s all fine and good, but we need to know if this would actually save us money or not. Our current TV and Internet comes from Comcast and costs us as follows:

  • TV: $112.44
  • Internet: $55.95
  • Bundle Discount: -$45.50

Total: $122.89

Which means that our “cut-cable” costs would be as follows:

  • Internet: $55.95
  • Entertainment + Sports: $36.83

Total: $92.78
Total Monthly Savings: $30.11
Total Annual Savings: $361.32

One important thing to note is that the Entertainment monthly cost I have above won’t be paid monthly, I just do it for comparison purposes. Some of the sports offer an installment option for payment but the best deal is to pay in a lump sum.

There are a few other start up costs not covered above for hardware, like an HDTV Antenna (prices vary but I’d estimate $40), and probably a Roku box ($50). We have a WDLive Box for our stored content, but it doesn’t interface with all of these services like Amazon Prime or some of the sports. But for just $50 a Roku streaming box will interface with almost all of the services I’ve listed here. On the whole though, those early hardware costs are easily easily recovered over the next year or so. You could do without a Roku box if you have a computer to hook up, but I’ve heard good reviews of Rokus and would prefer a dedicated box.

 

Will we do it? I don’t know. It’s an interesting idea and now that I know sports are not a limiting factor, and how much money it would save us, it merits serious consideration.