American TV viewers now watch only 9 percent of the channels available to them, according to a new report from Nielsen. With the average pay-TV subscription costing $86 or more per month--and expected to balloon to $200 per month by 2020--it's no wonder viewers are looking to "cut the cord."
In fact, Experian reports an estimated 7.6 million U.S. homes today are considered cord-cutters, up from 5.1 million homes in 2010. Morgan Stanley also discovered one in 10 pay-TV subscribers say they'll ditch their cable this year.
Are you hoping to cut the cord? This guide can help you figure out where to start:
- Netflix, which costs $8 per month, provides users access to a variety of shows and popular films, along with exclusive original series such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.
- Hulu Plus, also only $8 per month, focuses on current episodes and past seasons of popular network TV series, and also offers movies. New shows are typically available the next day after airing. Hulu also has the streaming rights to the Criterion Collection and numerous import titles.
- Amazon Prime Instant Video, which is part of Amazon Prime, provides access to hit series like Downton Abbey and Justified. It also has a few originals of its own, including Alpha House featuring John Goodman.
- Pluto.TV, a company I founded, is a free streaming service with 100+ expertly curated channels. It gives cord-cutters access to news, sports, comedy, and more. Pluto.TV provides users a lean-back experience, allowing them to passively discover new content based on their interests.
For some, a cost-effective alternative to cable or streaming is buying TV seasons and movies on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. With new release movies costing between $4 and $6, and TV shows coming in around $2 to $3 per episode, it can be a cost-effective cord-cutting option.
There are a few things to be aware of when renting on-demand, though. With Google Play, you only have 48 hours to watch a rental, and iTunes and Amazon Prime limit it to 24 hours. The type of hardware you have available might also play a role: iTunes is ideal if you have an Apple TV, Google Play works with a Chromecast, and Amazon is available on a wide variety of devices.
You may have a TV with built-in support for streaming services or access to an Xbox or PlayStation with streaming apps. However, if you don't, there are devices out there that help to cut the cord:
- Google Chromecast, which only costs $35, plugs into your TV's HDMI port and mirrors content from your Android device onto the bigger screen. For now, it is only compatible with Google-owned services like YouTube and Google Play, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and Pandora. (Google has opened the device up to developers, though, so more should be coming soon.)
- Apple TV, coming in around $100, provides access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, NHL Gamecenter Live, PBS, and more, along with playing movies, shows, and music from your iTunes library. You can also mirror the content on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to any Apple TV-connected HDTV.
- Roku, which costs between $50 and $100, is compatible with both iOS and Android. It gives users access to more than 1,000 other video and audio content sources, and allows for streaming local video from your phone to it.
- Amazon Fire TV, coming in at $99, offers access to popular services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Vevo, YouTube, and more. It also features voice search and ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), which learns your viewing habits and prepares shows and movies for immediate watching.
With so many options available to get the content you want, cutting out cable might be in your future. The first step, though, is to consider your options and determine what you really look for when it comes to video content.
What do you think? Will you cut the cord? Why or why not?