When it comes to consumer technology news and analysis, you’d be hard-pressed to find a blog that covers the industry better than TechBlog. Since 2004, Dwight Silverman has been writing for the incredibly popular, award-winning blog over at Chron.com, the website for the Houston Chronicle, and I’ve been an avid reader for much of that time.
In recent years, Dwight has blogged often about cutting the cord and getting rid of cable TV. In fact, just over two years ago, he wrote that he was finally “on the verge of cutting the cord, dropping [his] cable service, and relying solely on the internet for [his] television needs.” Not long after, Dwight become a full-fledged cord cutter.
Recently, I had the chance to interview Dwight to learn more about his experience as a cord cutter. He spoke candidly about some of the challenges of cutting the cord and offered his predictions for the future of the industry.
1) What was the final straw that made you decide to cut the cord?
My wife & I were looking to cut some expenses and had considered dropping cable for a while. What tipped us over was when Comcast doubled our Internet speeds from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps, with no extra charge. This gave me the confidence that we’d have enough bandwidth to rely on streaming for our TV needs. I wrote about this here.
2) How much money are you saving since you decided to get rid of cable?
Our estimated cable bill was about $1,600 a year. In 2014, I estimated that streaming TV cost us just under $600 for the year. So that’s about $1,000 savings annually. I detailed that here.
3) What’s your cord cutter setup?
I have 3 streaming boxes: Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku 3. I use the first two a lot, and only occasionally use the Roku.
We subscribe to Netflix, and for the most part we buy shows a la carte on iTunes and Amazon. I think too many people who do this try to recreate their cable lineups, and end up paying almost as much monthly as they did with cable TV. If you’re not much of a channel surfer, and only buy seasons passes for the shows you watch regularly, you can save a LOT more money. We do also have Amazon Prime, but we had that long before free video came with it, and the free shipping pays for itself pretty quickly for us. I’m currently trialing Sling TV and HBO Now on my Apple TV. Unsure if I’ll pay for either after the trial ends.
See [here for more information].
4) Have your viewing habits changed? Watching more or less TV?
We probably watch as much TV as we ever did. We’re fans of hourlong dramas (Justified, Mad Men, Better Call Saul, Walking Dead, The Good Wife) and Euro crime dramas (The Fall, Sherlock, Les Revenants, Luther, etc.) The biggest change is that we are less apt to try new cable & network shows, because we have to pay for that first episode (though sometimes pilot episodes air free). But there’s so much out there that we always have something we’re looking forward to watching.
5) What are some of the biggest challenges facing the cord cutting movement right now?
Probably the fact that it’s inconvenient. Much of what you’re paying cable TV purveyors for is convenience – everything is organized for you, there’s a DVR, and you can easily find what you want. With cord-cutting, it can be challenging to keep track of what’s where.
6) What do you see as the next likely step in the evolution of the industry?
I think we’ll see more premium channels like HBO move to streaming options – Showtime’s CEO has already said they’re working on this – and more cable channels will offer a la carte versions of their service. It will also be very interesting to see what Apple does this summer. If anyone can deliver a friendly, smart interface that pulls all this chaos together, it’s Apple.
7) Is there a particular product or service that really excites you in this space?
I really like Amazon’s Fire TV. The voice search is amazing and the instant-start feature is the way all streaming should be. It also has a very good picture, so long as you’ve got a very fast connection.
8) What advice would you offer to someone who’s thinking about getting rid of cable?
Don’t think in terms of trying to get whole networks or cable channels back – think in terms of the shows you watch. That depends on how you watch TV, of course, but if you stick with a dozen or shows over time, buying a la carte is smart.
Ready to get rid of cable like Dwight? Check out my simple step-by-step guide for getting rid of cable.