Cutting the cord: getting rid of cable

game of thrones

Cable should go, but Jon Snow should definitely keep Ygritte around.

Some thoughts and background

The average american apparently pays upwards of $50 per month for their cable television package.  But we wouldn’t know in our household because we stopped that ish a long time ago.

First, cable television is a dying business, albeit a behemoth.  According to MarketWatch, cable television advertising revenues are about 30-60x higher than online video advertising.  So it might take a while, but eventually this giant is going to fall.  Each year it becomes more and more apparent that online video is the future.

Netflix is publishing original content, ESPN has an online-only subscription.  Many people’s favorite shows are now available for free on Hulu.  Not to mention bit-torrent downloads and pop-up streaming sites.  Needless to say, you don’t have to look very far to see what direction things are headed.  As politicians say, you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of history.

The earlier you jump off this sinking ship, the better.  Prices are going to keep going up, customer service is going to get worse, and compared to the growing number of online choices out there, you options are probably going to shrink as well.  And that’s just the qualitative argument.

Now for the numbers.

ROI analysis: get rid of cable TV subscription

  • 10-Year NPV: $7,403
  • 10-Year ROI: 12,338%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.1 years

click for link to live spreadsheet

Wow, what a crazy ROI!  12,000% return on investment.  Not bad, but you can’t hang your hat on ROI alone.  Luckily the dollar value on this example is also pretty through-the-roof.  We’re talking $7,400 dollars every 10 years simply by canceling your cable subscription, and this assumes you have to pay more for internet!

For some perspective, this is about 10% of the value of selling your car and biking everywhere.  Also, coming at it from a passive income angle, it is worth about $300 per year in passive income for the rest of your life to get rid of cable, and even more than that the longer you keep it up.

This example was built on the assumption that you pay $50 per month in cable tv alone, but you bundle it with internet.  When you cancel your subscription, your bundled discount will go away, and you will have to pay an extra $10 for internet each month.  On top of that, you will have to invest in some connective accessories as well, such as the Chromecast, estimated at $50.  And finally I assume you don’t have to pickup any new subscriptions, such as Netflix, because you were probably already paying for something like that anyway.

However, even if you did have to start subscribing to a new service like Netflix, you would still save over $5,000 every decade ($16 per month estimate).

Practical tips

Getting rid of cable is pretty easy these days.  My home setup is just TV + Laptop.  I connect my laptop to the TV with an HDMI cord, and it works flawlessly.  The HDMI cord cost me $10 max, but there are other connectivity options out there too.   Here is how we make it work:

Movies – If it isn’t on Netflix, we don’t watch it.  There are other a la carte options like iTunes or Amazon.

TV Shows – Hulu, Netflix, and friends’ HBO logins, and sometimes the darker corners of the internet.  Again, more options such as iTunes as well.

News – We read it, because TV news is just sort of annoying.  But if you’re into that, local and national news is available via the old-school antenna.

Sports – This is a tough one, but networks are slowly increasing online a la carte options and you can always go the antenna route.  There are illegal streaming sites that have a lot of games/matches too, but mostly I use the important games as an excuse meet up with friends.

Timbers, heck yeah!  MLS fans can watch online with MLS Live (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cable Music Channels – Haha!  Just kidding.  But I’ll use this as an excuse to plug one of my favorite free music services – Songza.

Get your gearLifehacker recommends the Mohu Leaf antenna if you still want basic cable.  More sophisticated mainstream connectivity devices include the Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast.

Hopefully that helps get things rolling.  The quicker people start doing this the more options will grow; so from a selfish perspective, don’t wait!  Save some money and help take down the giant!


  1. Pay $50 per month for cable portion of bundled cable-internet service
  2. Unbundled internet costs $10 more per month
  3. Have to buy $50 of equipment to connect to alternative medias
  4. Already have Netflix streaming + 1 DVD subscription service
  5. Already have DVD player

Have you gotten rid of cable?  What kind of setup do you have?  How do you watch your favorite shows and/or sports teams?  What are your favorite shows?.. I’m a Treme, Bored to Death, Mad Men, True Detective, and Game of Thrones kind of guy myself.  Let me know what is what, and happy watching.

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