The growing pains of cutting the cord, Part 1: Background

[Note: If you have already cut the cord or have done any amount of research into cutting the cord, a lot of this may seem rudimentary or obvious. This was written as setup for some later posts that get into a few more specific issues, so that those specific posts were not weighed down by a heavy setup.]

Two years ago, I started doing the math on what I was paying in my satellite bill. I lived in a market “locally” blacked out from my usually-beloved Chicago sports teams, and between the need for CSN Chicago and some additional kids-focused networks for my children, I needed a somewhat higher tier, and paid a higher price for it.

For years, my family tolerated it by doing the dance anyone with a major television content provider should know. You got the introductory rate, and once your contract (and all discounts) ran out after 18-24 months, you called with a threat to cancel, and got a lower rate in exchange for a renewed contract. If you had no other options, the dance was about the best you could do (legally).

That’s not the case anymore. Now we have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, and a slew of other streaming services. The television shows and movies offered by each doesn’t often overlap, and now the major services are producing their own content.

The problem is that where you had one service with hundreds of channels, you now had several different services. Moreover, getting that content easily to your television was not necessarily the plug-and-play setup required for mass adoption and the maturation of the streaming model.

Not the case anymore. Over the past few years, devices like Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and Google Chromecast, “smart” TVs, and gaming consoles have (after some initial setup), made this much easier.

Why go through all of this? It’s cheaper.

When looking at what I spent on DirecTV over the course of a year, switching to the combination of Hulu, Netflix, (Amazon Prime, which we had anyway), MLB, NBA, and NHL packages was cheaper than a year of my current satellite package, even given the various contractual discounts.

Cheaper, but not necessarily that simple. For starters, your internet had better not suck. This includes your service tier and your hardware. At the time I started looking into cutting the cord, the best possible internet provider for my remote-located home was DSL from a local phone company, and I was foolishly paying for their provided combination modem/wifi.

There is still enough content fragmentation that can fall through the cracks of the major streaming services (Don’t get me started about CBS’s decision to put a bunch of Chuck Lorre sitcoms and crime procedurals behind its standalone premium service).

And then there’s live sports, which has enough hurdles and headaches to fill a separate post.

But my situation has changed. My family moved to a much bigger city with better options and not in a Chicago blackout zone. At that point, it simply became a matter of waiting out the one-year contractual period required in relocating a DirecTV package.

That period expired a few weeks go, and it was time to begin.