Jared Newman is one of the hardest working tech writers out there. He’s a regular contributor to TechHive (his Cord-Cutter Confidential column is a must follow), PCWorld, Popular Mechanics, and Fast Company. Jared is also one of the foremost voices in the cord cutting movement, and his insight is always excellent. In particular, I loved his article debunking the myth that killing the cable bundle would destroy television. In that piece, he put the cable apologists in his crosshairs and did a masterful job of ripping their ridiculous claims to shreds, as he’s done many times before.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Jared and glean a little more information about his background as a cord cutter, his predictions for the future of the industry, and his advice for those thinking about cutting the cord.
1) What was the final straw that made you decide to cut the cord?
It wasn’t as dramatic as that. About six years ago, I had just moved to Los Angeles with my fiancé and trying to get my freelance writing career off the ground. Netflix had just started streaming to the Xbox 360 earlier that year, Hulu had just arrived on the web, and I knew you could get basic channels over the air, so skipping cable TV was an obvious choice for cost savings. It helped that neither of us are huge TV junkies, so there was little pressure to replace specific shows or channels.
2) How much money are you saving since you decided to get rid of cable?
That’s hard to say since you never know exactly what cable TV costs after the teaser rates, hardware rental fees and various taxes. But even with an extremely conservative estimate of $20 saved per month, that still comes to nearly $1,500 in the bank over the last six years.
3) What’s your cord cutter setup (e.g. streaming device, streaming services, etc.)?
It changes a lot since I’m always testing different devices and services, but I’m generally pretty happy with Netflix, over-the-air channels, and MLB.tv. (I’m a Yankees fan, so no blackout issues here.) I used to have a cheap home theater PC for streaming the free version of Hulu, but now I just use Chromecast’s tab mirroring feature instead. I admit to mooching a cable login for the occasional Monday Night Football game on ESPN, but I may pick up Sling TV to cover that. (Right now, I have a review account provided by Sling.)
4) Have your viewing habits changed? Watching more or less TV?
It’s been a while since we cut the cord, but I’d say less. Don’t forget that TV shows are also competing for time and attention with video games, books, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, and all kinds of apps, and the rise of smartphones and tablets have only accelerated that trend. That was one of the big reasons cutting the cord was so easy in the first place.
5) What are some of the biggest challenges facing the cord cutting movement right now?
The biggest challenge is the one we’ve always had, which is getting the shows and channels we want without having to steal them. I don’t do BitTorrent, but every once in a while I watch a show through someone else’s cable login or find bootleg sports feeds, and I feel deeply conflicted about it. Stealing is wrong, but then forcing people into expensive cable bundles to watch a single television event (like the Olympics) isn’t exactly right. But things are looking up. New services like Sling TV and HBO Now are big steps toward letting you pay for what you actually care about.
The other challenge is having to listen to pro-cable pundits who almost seem offended by cord cutting, as if it’s completely unacceptable to ditch cable because you don’t get as many shows or channels without it. Like, how dare you be satisfied with nothing but a Netflix subscription? These people don’t know a life without cable TV, so they can’t imagine the alternative. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
There is the specter of Internet service providers enforcing bandwidth caps or raising as cord cutting grows, but unless you’re torrenting entire seasons of shows on a regular basis, that’s more of a theoretical concern than an actual one at the moment. I prefer to stay optimistic and live in the moment, in which I am saving real money.
6) What do you see as the next likely step in the evolution of the industry?
Cord cutting is just going to keep growing naturally, as more people–especially younger folks–realize that a cable TV subscription isn’t all that important. As we’ve seen with HBO, more networks will reach the tipping point where protecting the cable bundle is worse for business than appealing cord cutters.
7) Is there a particular product or service that really excites you in this space?
I was pretty excited that Sling TV came into existence. It’s the first widely-available instance of a smaller, less expensive channel bundle, and will allow many more people to consider giving up cable TV. I know some cord cutters are religiously anti-bundle, but even they should see this as a major step. Any competition with cable/satellite TV is welcome in my book. For that reason I’m also excited for Playstation Vue and the rumored Apple television service.
8) What advice would you offer to someone who’s thinking about getting rid of cable?
If you assume you’ll get everything you enjoyed with cable, but for cheaper, you’ll come away disappointed. The best approach is to keep an open mind, and be willing to make some sacrifices. Once you do that, you might realize that a lot of the stuff you watched with cable wasn’t all that essential, and that there’s plenty of other content out there to keep you happy. After a while, you won’t even miss cable at all. That’s a good time to go out and buy yourself something nice with all the money you’ve saved.