It isn’t too soon to see that 2015 will go down as the year when cutting the cable cord in the US, and not missing out on the best content, truly became possible. It just might not be as cheap to do as some of the hype suggests.
This week Dish Network launched a service that will provide online access to handful of channels including CNN and ESPN (the sports network is the most popular cable channel in the US) for just $20 a month. And HBO, the tremendously popular premium channel behind hit shows like Game of Thrones, is going to launch an internet-only service of its own in coming months, which analysts predict will cost around $15 a month.
Suddenly, and sooner than most people thought, the two things holding the dreaded cable bundle together—namely ESPN and HBO, which until now have been available only through cable packages including lots of other channels you may not want or need—have been set free. It seems like great news for consumers.
But Macquarie Capital’s Amy Yong has crunched the numbers, and she actually argues that a traditional cable video package offers better value than cutting the cord. (The cable package shown on the left-hand side of the table below does not include HBO, but the cord-cutter’s package on the right doesn’t include Netflix or Hulu, which cord cutters often subscribe to, so we’ll call it a wash.)
Don’t forget, unless you plan on letting all your screens go dark, cutting the cable cord means you still need broadband access, and with decent bandwidth to stream content online. And most Americans get their internet from… cable companies. So for many cord cutters, a billing relationship with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or other cable provider is going to remain.
Ultimately, if your tastes are quite narrow—i.e. you only need sports at home and don’t care about comedies and dramas, or if you don’t like sports at all and are prepared to limit yourself to just one or two of the main streaming services offering dramatic content, like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon—then you should still be able to save money by getting rid of you pay-TV video bundle.
But if you have broader tastes, if you need access to sports to survive the winter, or if you don’t want to miss out on the zeitgeist-y television series, then you might find severing ties with big cable much harder to do.