Open Thread: Are Cord Cutters Hip Or Poor?

36 Comments

A lot has been written about Comcast (s CMCSK) losing 275,000 of its cable subscribers during the third quarter. Our own Ryan Lalwer thinks this is clear evidence of cord cutting as a result of rising cable bills. Others disagree, arguing that customers are simply switching to other forms of pay TV.

And then there is Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett, who has his own theory about cord cutting. From the New York Times:

“Mr. Moffett said the image of the cord-cutter had been that of a ‘cutting-edge technologist’ who preferred to bypass cable to watch programming on computers and on an ever-proliferating array of devices. ‘The reality is it’s someone who’s 40 years old and poor and settling for a dog’s breakfast of Netflix and short-form video.'”

Karl Bode over at DSL Reports already made fun of Moffet today, but we’d like to cut through the polemic from both sides for one second and ask: Is cord cutting an economic trend, or is it about the growing availability of programming online? Or maybe the choice doesn’t even matter, as people who have to save money leap-frog the mainstream to become technological trendsetters by necessity?

We’re interested in your take on this matter, and we’d also like to know about your personal motivation to cut the cord, if you’ve done so. What was the driving factor: Hulu or your wallet? Please chime in below — and while you’re at it, enjoy the most recent episode of our new show Cord Cutters…

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bede Jackson.

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36 Comments

Debi

I originally cut the cord after experiencing teevee on Hulu in the early days. I loved watching my favorite shows sans advertising and always felt a bit abused paying cable bills and being interrupted by ever increasing array of ads. I remain advertising fatigued, but get most of my content from Hulu, Comedy Central, Netflix and iTunes. Sports, mainly football, I receive from CBS and Fox OTA and ESPN3.

The reality for me is that I don’t mind paying for quality content, but to pay and endure ads is too much. I agree with others here too who have pointed out the absence of value delivered by “cable packages.”

Another interesting trend for me personally is how much more of the news I consume is coming from print pubs via social media channels. Cable news has become simply ridiculous and is more about entertainment than news. My blood pressure and general positive mental attitude has improved greatly since turning off the screeching heads of cable news.

One of the most distressing developments over the past year is Hulu’s including the volume differential between ads and show audio. I find this practice so disrespectful that I personally boycott the products and brands who engage in it.

Dano

I am on the verge of cutting the cord, and can’t really wait for the day that I do. Cable is far too expensive for far too crappy a service… Sure, I pay for the “hundreds of channels” that I GET, but I only WATCH a few of them. I use Linux at home, and unfortunately the picture from laptop to TV isn’t great, and streaming video can lag and become choppy. I’m waiting for the Boxee box or some other type of set top box which will give me all the online content stuff like Hulu, and get me netflix or Google TV or what have you. As long as I can still watch my few shows and get HBO and SHO, I wouldn’t even mind just watching NFL Red Zone on my Verizon cell phone (kind of Incredible :-) ).

SergDun

We cut the cord last February when we were both frustrated with paying so much for channels we didn’t watch. I still use comcast as an ISP but we have no need for them as a tv provider. I ordered a Dell zino hd, and got rid off all the boxes that once sat under my tv.

The money we saved payed for the computer. The only drawback was sports, everything else I can get. I currently use netflix, hulu plus, and boxee to view most content. If it’s not on those 3 then I just view it via “illegal” sites.

I’m currently considering cancelling my hulu subscription since most of the content I want to watch isn’t available. I don’t give a shit if every episode of grey’s anatomy is available to me. I want to watch Always Sunny. The channels I’m interested tend to be cable channels that they don’t provide or show limited content (Bravo, FX, AMC, Comedy Central, ect)

Regardless of my issues with hulu I don’t plan on ever going back and I’ve been recommending making the switch to all of my friends. Cable is a sham and if you’re still paying for it you’re getting robbed.

Rick Aster

I gave up cable for a month as an experiment in November 2005 and kept a diary of it (http://www.rickaster.com/world/cablefree.html). At the time I had a dial-up Internet connection and couldn’t receive any broadcast channels at my house, so my video programming choices were limited. I was nevertheless surprised to see how little difference the lack of television made in my style of living. Video is video, and I realized the only way you can tell the video you’re watching isn’t television is that there are no commercial breaks. I canceled cable less than a year after this experiment. When I called to cancel, I noticed that Comcast’s telephone script for that transaction assumed I would be getting television from a satellite service. It hadn’t occurred to them that someone could just decide that life is too short to sit and flip through the channels.

Since then, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people who have cable and take it for granted, yet never find time to actually watch it live. It wouldn’t be shocking if some of these people realized how little they were watching, and canceled their subscriptions.

Jeff

We cut our Comcast cord this summer. The primary reason was cost. The monthly bill was crawling over $100/month, and that was just getting to be way too much, considering what we watched. Heck, I was ready to get rid of the cable at $70/month. The decision was made a lot easier by Netflix and Hulu, both of which we consume regularly. The few shows I did watch on cable are available online, so I can still keep up. True, I miss some live sporting events, but again, the decision was made easier by the fact I am an XM Radio subscriber, and I get all the games in all four major sports, plus football and basketball for the major college conferences. Also, XM has Fox News and CNN, so we’re not without those. All in all, we don’t really feel like we’re missing anything, and we’re saving a big chunk of money. We’re putting together our own ala carte menu of entertainment and loving it. The cable industry has refused for years to give us those choices to watch only what we want to watch, and they’ve lost us forever because of it.

Eric Little

I mainly cut the cord because of price. Being a recent college graduate that struggled to find a job and settled for one that could just get me by, price was very important.

That being said, I didn’t cut the cord immediately. I first stepped down to the most basic cable package I could get because the price difference between just internet and internet+cable was pretty negligible. Then Comcast proceeded to cut channels from the basic cable package over several months without lowering the price.

I had never been much of a television watcher anyway, so I certainly don’t miss it. I have never been to hulu.com and have never watched television online at any other site. The quote by Craig Moffet hit it on the head with Netflix, though I wouldn’t call it a “dog’s breakfast” and I am also not a 40-something (cut that 40 in half and you’re in the right ballpark).

Joe Gruchacz

My wife and I cut the cord (Brighthouse) about a year and a half ago when we realized that we were spending more and more time (the little free time two working young adults have) with Netflix and Hulu or away from the TV altogether. We haven’t looked back. I’m sure for some it’s strictly cost savings. For us it was the realization that we could be and, for the most part, already were, taking control of our media consumption. Being so busy, we had to have things on our terms. Tehonly thing I’ve missed are live sporting events. The cure for this has been to go to a local sports bar or a friend’s house and, ::gasp:: actually be social. It’s saved us money, gotten us off the couch and saved us a lot of headaches in service outages.

Rovi

I haven’t cut the chord, but almost am ready.
Many reasons, but the last one that’s pushing me off the cliff is that at the expiry of promotional rates after one year, Comcast charged me ridiculous full prices for what channels I had, without any notice; and I just think this is exploitative and unprofessional and I am not willing to deal with such a company.
Second is that I would like to check out Google TV, and for that, I may just move to Dish network. Dish, by the way, also provides a better deal with international channels that I would like to check out.
Overall, I don’t watch enough of Cable to justify the monthly Comcast bill.

eideard

I can tell you what cord cutters are not. They are not sports fans.

That’s neither positive or negative; but, there aren’t any computer-based replacements for sports.

Even if you use a DVR as we do to slip past commercials and time-shift when recording multiple competitions, the immediacy of watching a game before you bump into the score online is telling.

It is the essential reason why I haven’t cut the cord. Or in our case, removed that DirecTV antenna.

Derek R

I am a sports fan and I have managed to cut the cord, between ESPN 3 and OTA broadcasts, the only thing I find I miss for my sports enjoyment at home is Monday Night Football, which is replaced by sports bars or arriving at a buddys house with a 12 pack.

robin

another voice: 50 yrs old, single, two kids, cut off cable 18mos. ago.

haven’t looked back, the only thing i miss is over-paying for crap service and nonsense selection :). honestly, haven’t replaced all that junk with anything. except family time together, you know talking, reading, enjoying.

two random thoughts:

bit of an echo chamber here, considering the nature of the news site. an echo that will thus be ignored by the industry, an industry that is on the edge of being painfully disrupted.

and mark my word, that disruption will result in quite a bit of collateral damage. innocent folks will be hurt as these guys try to fight back like a cornered animal. see: record business.

bartolah

We don’t think cord cutters are necessarily broke or hip or NOT broke and/or hip. What they are is logical.

Besides the fact that cable is expensive, cord cutters know that 90% (at the low end?) of the programming available to them on cable is lost for a number of reasons – disinterest, time constraints, etc. – hence the popularity of DVR. Many people don’t even know what time their favorite shows actually air anymore.

Add the availability of content they DO want to watch online whenever they choose, and connected TV devices hitting the market so the shows are available to watch on the big screen, and the decision seems obvious.

Bart Myers, COO SideReel.com

steve

We cut the cable several years ago during a family financial hardship. We rediscovered how much richer life is without tv for awhile. Now we watch a bit online and have a netfix subscription, but why give up so much of your life to just sit back and be “entertained”?

Wayne

My wife and I haven’t had cable for 7 years, since we got married. For us it was always about not watching enough TV to justify the cost, but never an issue of being able to afford it. Today we use Netflix a lot and Hulu sometimes, if they had Hulu Plus on the WII we would probably subscribe to both. The last piece of the puzzle for us is Amazon Video for shows that have not made Netflix and are not on Hulu; like Dexter.

Jürgen

For us it’s a matter of value. We have paid about $135 a month to watch national news, PBS and one weekly show. Don’t care to watch sports, live or on TV. So we kept the broad band but cut the TV cable. Got my first Apple II in 1979 but I certainly would not consider myself hip. We are in our 70s, in decent health, spend quite some time in front of our computers, my wife reading about and researching for her hobby and I reading my Twitter feeds about world affairs and technology. Oh yeah, don’t care about the entertainment industry either.
Between TiVo, Roku and Netflix we have all the entertainment we need and want.
The one we miss very much is Closed Captioning on Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’.
Dear Netflix, don’t do away with the DVDs!

don

What seems to be missing from the comments as well as from the article is the fact that Comcast has no regard for its customers, cable TV in particular. Otherwise, how would one explain the fact that Comcast cut its transmission of HD programs and substituted its own cable connection box for anyone who wanted to watch any channel about 23 (up to 26). Previously, I could view HD channels using my HD tuner in my large-screen TV. Then Comcast forced its customers to buy/rent/use a DTA device which does nothing other than provide a channel-switching device for poor (non-HD) quality TV. Many people have complained (http_getsatisfaction.com/comcast/topics/comcast_cable_and_the_feb_2009_digital_tv_switch_over). No person I know of has been able to do anything other than pay Comcast additional money monthly to receive HD programming … or cut the cord. In my area FIOS is not an option, and satellite is not any better than cable.

BrianB

With the customer (dis)-service you describe, these cable providers are ill equipped to combat competitive/replacement services. These cable providers became complacent when they were the only local cable provider, they didn’t need to improve customer service, they only needed to jack rates up slowly enough and add more pointless channels to justify the price increases.

The cable company offerings are seeming like an all you can eat buffet. I think the youth of today and the savvy customers are moving up the value food chain. The future is on demand entertainment (either paid or ad subsidized) that provides an experience like a nice sit down restaurant.

I think the poor find a way to keep cable, but the hip people (the tech savvy and Gen Y) are the ones cutting the cord. The cable industry will be fighting for a share of a shrinking market instead of innovating into expanding markets.

Michael Chaney

I cut the cord in mid-January of this year, and I don’t regret that decision one bit. I’m not a college kid (35 yr old engineer), I’m not poor (still gainfully employed thank God), and this “dog’s breakfast” is actually starting to grow on me.

I’ll be the first to admit that while there are hundreds of channels of crap on cable TV that I hated paying for each month, there were also a handful of great cable channels that I enjoyed and do miss occasionally. I hope that someday they’re available online. BUT I’ve found that I have more spare time now that I don’t channel surf. I actually read books now! I still get to see the few must-see shows I like over the air or online. In all, my life is much better for having cut the cord.

I will never again be a customer caught in the middle of a retrans fight. I will never again cringe as my monthly cable TV bill skyrockets. I will never again fight and curse the slow, archaic set top box. There was such a relief and weight taken off my shoulders when I dropped my cable TV equipment off for the last time, and my life has been just a little less complicated in last ten months since.

Chris

There is a third factor. Replacement of TV time by social media. Facebook is a huge time consumer for many folks. Those are hours people are not watching TV at all. Don’t diminish the effect of online activities that lowers the overall value of cable TV. If the price were high before, then if you watch just 10% less each month, the value prop gets so much worse.

The value of TV as a cure for boredom has gone down and its making these cut the cord conversations much easier to have.

devlop

For some years I’ve tried to stay away from watching too much TV, and as I am a tech type I predictably have leaned towards internet consumed media (including tv/movies via the web) rather than TV consumed media…

Which is why I haven’t subscribed to cable for a number of years. But, recently my local cable provider called me up (whom I get my internet off) and offered me 6 months of cable TV for free ($1/month actually). After the first week of getting myself re-acquainted with cable TV I basically didn’t bother watching it again for the remainder of the 6 months – most of the stuff on TV is crap and I don’t feel like organizing my life around those few shows I would watch.

On-demand internet streams are obviously better in my opinion.

I ended up cancelling my free cable after a few months of non-usage and I’m confident I will never again subscribe to cable/satellite TV ever again – it just seems like a waste of money and time.

Neill

Just dropped my Comcast cable subscription. I now use PlayOn to access Hulu, Netflix, and several other channels through my XBox. It works extremely well and costs about 1/5 of what cable was costing. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to watch the Saints games. :(

BrianB

My family cut the cord when I was laid off in 2009. I got a job 4 week later but never added cable back. We had U-Verse and it was worthwhile to save $65 a month. We budget a certain amount for VOD from Amazon, but rarely do we spend more than $12 a month on such purchases. We also have Netflix. Over the air TV is good enough for local football and March Madness. Monday Night football on ESPN sucks, but I’ve learned to live without it.

My wife only wishes she could get HGTV and FoodNetwork. She would pay $15 a month subscription for a bundle of those two channels on a Roku app/channel.

Hortron

x2

We got rid of cable to save money. Also, with small kids, it’s nice that we can provide the Disney and Nick programming to them without commercials via Netflix streaming + public library DVD rentals. I just put an antenna on my roof for OTA which provides plenty of good stuff.

Maybe they should provide a metered-cable-tv option that would be attractive to people who only watch a few hours a week. :)

FutureToob

Cord cutting absolutely a mix of both. It’s all about the value proposition. It’s not that cable TV isn’t a good product, it’s that you’re forced to pay for channels that you don’t want. Why would you buy Cable, HBO, Starz, and Showtime for $130/mo when you can go over the air, add Netflix and Hulu and pepper in iTunes purchases for less than $40/mo?

Derek Footer

I’m a DirecTV cord cutter and I liked DirecTV’s service, but it was a ripoff. To watch the dozen or so shows we liked, we were paying $110/month, when 90% (kid’s shows in particular) were available via Netflix, AppleTV or terrestrial for a fraction of the price. The only things we miss are HBO (The Pacific and Entourage, which eventually get to DVD) and Friday Night Lights’ last season, which will be on NBC next year. So everything we watch is available (with a couple delayed a few months), for about 15% of what we were paying. However, I didn’t cut the cord to save particularly, but rather because it no longer necessary and encouraged excessive TV watching. We now read a lot more, and so do our kids. A win-win, as they say.

Harry DeMott

I’m always amazed by this debate. Anyone sitting in front of a bunch of RSS feeds, DSL report websites etc.. is by their very nature fairly forward thinking and quite comfortable with new technology.

Of Comcast’s 24M subscribers – how many of them do you think can be characterized as such?

Of course some people are cutting the cord to go to over the top services – and equally – many are cutting the cord because cable is just way expensive and they can’t afford it. With almost 10% unemployment – which is far worse in cities and among the young – this is no real surprise is it?

I haven’t read the transcript (but I will) to see if the key question was asked:

How many of the 275K basic video subscribers (the lowest man on the Comcast food chain) dropped basic video – but kept their broadband service up and running? Add this number some estimate of how many people cut off video and went to a DSL service (probably an extremely small number considering ATT and VZ’s net adds in digital) – and you likely have a somewhat high guess as to true cord cutters.

Greg

You are right in assuming that not all of the 275K who dropped Comcast basic video “cut the cord”. But I disagree with needing to switch Internet service in your definition of “cord-cutter”. I see them as people who have cancelled their cable/satellite TV subscriptions and consume their video another way, whether it be over the internet, over the air, or redbox. Necessitating that you cut your internet service in addition to video will under-estimate the true number of cord-cutters, especially in markets where cable is the only high-speed internet option.

Metroknow

I am getting ready to cut the cord to Comcast cable tv for multiple reasons: 1) Ridiculously overpriced service for the 5 channels I actually watch; 2) Their onDemand service has a horrible interface and is very overpriced compared to Netflix’s watch instant offering for $9.99/mo, yet OnDemand is their flagship product that they use in marketing to justify the prices; 3) I could care less about 80 sports channels (just my personal disinterest); 4) The DVR rental add-on of $15/mo for the box and the world’s worst DVR interface (it’s not even close to TiVo’s interface); 5) 90% of the shows I’m interested in are available on the Web, and the other 10% I can live without until they make it onto Netflix.

I could go on.

And don’t get me started on Comcast’s $44+ a month for VOIP service (if you are not in a temporary/promo bundle).

BetaCat

@Metroknow: Couldn’t agree more. I have the exact same reasons, but haven’t cut the cord yet.
1) $140/mo total for watching HGTV, FoodNetwork, Bravo, and the major networks…
2) Their VOD service frequently fails in my area at peak times.
3) Ditto. I don’t need ESPN “The Ocho”.
4) The DVR has actually gotten worse. Mine freezes when rewinding.
5) If the wife could just forego HGTV, we’d be off in a second…

Their pricing is for the sheeple, but pretty soon, that won’t work anymore with forays by Apple and Google into this space.

megmurph

People have more than one motivating factor. My driving factors are both – content and price. My set up? Laptop to TV, homepage with hulu, netflix and Apple TV for my new rental releases. Bluetooth keyboard and pad are ideal to control all of the above. This set up is my all-in-one solution (and I still think it’s better than upcoming set top boxes and smart TVs).

I don’t watch cable because pricing is out of control and doesn’t offer me quality content I can’t find elsewhere.

My content, when I want it, costs me $9.99 a month plus any rentals through Apple TV. I win.

Davis Freeberg

I’m one of Comcast’s cord cutters and while the money was certainly part of why I quit, the other options in my life is what enabled me to quit. With an over the air antenna, a TiVo and a Netflix membership, I’ve been able to more than replicate the cable experience at 1/5th the cost of what they charge. It’d be one thing to argue that this is a temporary phenomenon if people were migrated from cable and to lower cost options like Dish, but it’s hard to find saving $10 a month and still using pay tv, when it’s so easy to save $60 per month and get most of the same content. Without the ability to time shift my ota hdtv, there’s no way that I would have cut the cord, but when you complement access to the big networks with the Netflix subscription, it gives me way more TV than I can handle. I’m not sure that I’d call myself a hipster, but considering what I spent to install cat6 ethernet and the number of different hardware devices that I have, I’m not sure that I’d equate my viewing experience to dog food.

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