In this article, I will try to be generic while focusing more on the Canadian market. Even if you are not Canadian, the information may still be of use for you since cutting the cord is a world wide trend.
What is cord cutting?
With higher and higher cable bill, many are cutting the cord from their traditional cable provider. That is "cutting the cord". It could also include dropping your traditional land phone line too and only use a cell phone. I will focus more on cable in this article. But is cutting the cord for you?
Lower Your Cable Bill
Before cutting the cord, try to see if you provider can offer you a better deal. I have done so myself with success a few times in the past years without losing channels ... at first. Also, if you are renting a wireless receiver(ie Bell Fibe), you can get an Amazon Fire TV or streaming box to replace it by using the Bell Fibe application. I got rid of mine thus saved $7+tx/month.
Revising Your Needs
That's the real dilemma when cutting the cord: What are you really watching? If you have a family, it will be harder since everyone has TV shows that they want to keep. Your first task is to go to each channel and list the shows that you want to keep watching.
You should go on the channel web site to see if your show is available. For example, I still wanted to watch RDI Economie (French language daily economy news show) and found it was available around 21h00 on their site. The live airing is at 18h30 so I need to wait. If you are already paying for Netflix/Amazon Prime, check to see if your show is on there. If it is, are you ready to wait months or must you be up to date to follow the water cooler conversation the day after? I know it is tough but it's possible. Coworkers will mostly respect those that are behind so not to spoil it for others. Plus, you will need to stay away from news about your show too.
Do A Trial Run Before Cutting The Cord
If you can wait for some of your shows but still not ready yet to cut the cord, then remove those channels to lower your cable bill. I had 15 "a la carte" channels that I removed thus lowered my cable bill by $20. I also partially remove the prime movie channel. I only resubscribe to it when I needed it thus further lowered my cable bill by $15. I suggest that you go at your own pace. Plus, you will be lowering your cable bill at the same time. While searching about cord cutting, the error that many did was to cancel their cable service way too soon.
While on my trial run, I got a basic DVR box($40) to record local Over-The-Air(OTA) stations. I used an old external hard drive that I was not using. Later, I bought a refurbished Tablo on specials from their site. In my area, I only have 5 OTA channels: 4 French and 1 English(Global). Since I am watching mostly English shows, I could not cut the cord that easy in my case.
Be Ready To Leave Your Cable Service But They Are Ready To Let You Go
Cable companies are catching on to the cord-cutting trend. Not so long ago, they would try to make deal to keep as a client but not as much any more. They will prefer to let budget conscious clients go since they will not make as much money from you as you slowly cut services. They will prefer to keep those with multiple services thus give them an higher margin. The downside if you stay, they will be raising their price.
Regular Cable/IPTV vs. Independent IPTV
After you cut the cord, you may decide that you are missing some channels. Depending on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you may have access to their private IPTV TV services like Vmedia (if you use my Vmedia link, we both get $25 on your first full billing cycle). You may need to buy/rent their IPTV TV box or use a streaming player. Not all of ISPs offer a TV option so keep this in mind if you leave the big cable services for a minor ISP. You can then subscribe to their private IPTV service if they offer it.
Amazon Canada recently started to offer a few "channels" thus another way to go. This will be on top of your Amazon Prime subscription.
Are IPTV Services Illegal Or Legal?
A lot channels are free IPTV channels and are 100% legal. For example, newer models of LG TVs offer Channels Plus(webos 3.5+) but mine is a 2016 models(webOS 3.0) thus I do not have access to it. .
But you can also find independent IPTV service providers that offer you 1000-3000 channels including premium channels/video on demand movies as low as $15-20/month. I often see those ads on my Facebook wall. The base price might include 1 TV thus you might have to pay extra for additional TVs. You can also pay for 3, 6 or 12 months in advance to lower your monthly price.
But is it legal? Think of it this way: You pay $15/month for 1 premium movie channel on any major/minor cable service. Is it logic to get 1000-3000 for that same price. I don't think so. Some may argue that you don't download but are streaming the content thus it is legal.
In recent months, major IPTV services were seized/closed because of copyright infringement. Not only resellers were shutdown but they got their clients lists too thus open them to potential legal problems too. My advice: stay away from those types of services or be prepared to jump service to service and be in a potential lawsuit.
Streaming Services Free vs. Paid
They are now many options(free/paid) available in Canada. Of course, when it's free, you get ads during the playback of the content with mostly older content or direct to video movies. Don't expect to see this year blockbuster on those free services anytime soon. The level of ads will depend on how much is too much for you. Also, it might be the same ads that you see. With paid service, you watch without ads within the content but you should note that Amazon/Crave often promote their content before an episode/movies.
- Amazon Prime
- Roku channels
- Gem (CBC)
The list is far from complete but you see that you have options. I recommend the application JustWatch that supports major content providers and work for Canada. You can search a title and it will tell you on what service it's playing(free or paid).
Note: The Crackle application is often available(PS3, Blu-Ray player..) but Sony has closed the service in Canada in 2018.
Does Your Streaming Service Allow Profiles?
When you have many people in the same house, does a streaming service allow for profiles?
Here a list:
Note: Amazon Prime (the US version as profiles but not in Canada)
Should You Pay All Year Round Or Monthly For Your Streaming Services?
This will depend on how you watch your content, others in your household and budget. Personally, I prefer to pay all year round for the major services because I don't like to "rush" when watching a TV series. I, however, did budget an extra $100/year for those services that I may take for 1-2 months during the year. Even then, I still pay less than when I had cable.
In one year, I will re-evaluate the services I will keep all year long or decide if I go monthly.
All year round:
- Cost more but you might be able to pay one year in advance thus pay "less" per month. Netflix is the only major one that doesn't allow that.
- Take the time to watch your content
- If many services, you can get "content overload". No, you can't watch everything.
- Cost a little more per month but less than paying for the year.
- Watch the content during the month or two then, jump to the next services.
Note: You will need to manage the end of subscription in both cases.
In the USA where they have a lot more streaming services than in Canada, studies showed that subscribers have 1-2 all year long services on average. Those were before the launch of Disney+, Apple+.
Tip 1: I have Netflix all year long so I ask for Netflix gift cards. Plus, my previous credit card gave me points so bought a Best Buy gift card to then buy a Netflix gift card. My balance allows me to pay for many months in the next year using that simple strategy.
Tip 2: Check the Black Friday sales and Costco. Costco often has Apple Store cards on sales thus if you take that route when subscribing to services, you may save that way. Crave had a $100 gift card for $75.
Warning: Don't ask for Amazon gift cards to pay for your Amazon Prime subscription. It does not work. I tried that in 2018.
What Is Your Minimum Video And Sound Quality?
For me, the minimum is 1080P image and 5.1 surround sound. Most major services offer 4K HDR and 5.1 sound or more while some can hardly only offer 720P and stereo sound(Shudder). Of course, if you watch on your tablet or cell phone, it might not be a deal breaker.
At the time of this article, Crave had 1080P(spring 2019) and added 5.1 surround sound only on Apple TV 4th Gen(fall 2019)... for certain titles. With other devices, it's still in stereo.
What a deception in December 2019 when recent movies had still stereo even on Apple TV. Only certain titles from HBO, so far, have 5.1 sound. Worst, the Crave series "New Eden" is in stereo on the Apple TV. If you get Crave from a cable provider(ie Bell), the content has 5.1 sound. I hope to be able to update that part soon. Crave in on my re-evaluate list because of this.. Crave added French on January 22th, 2020 and also 5.1 surround sound to most big movies and series including "New Eden".
As for Shudder, I subscribed using Amazon Prime Channels to get 5.1 sound since after searching, it was the only way. The Shudder application did only have stereo. However, Apple TV/Fire TV Amazon Prime application did not have 5.1. It was 5.1 on my Roku, Chromecast and my LG(Webos 3.0). Btw, since I am from the Province of Quebec, I was charged 1 month but got 1 month free to get the Shudder channel.
Application Management vs. Cable Box
If you are comfortable to go from application to application to watch content, cord cutting will be easier for you. Sure, the cable box is much easier to go from a channel to channel ... if you are channel surfing. Instead of selecting a channel, you select an application and then select what to watch. However, a recent study showed application fatigue from subscribers.
Fire TV, Roku, ChromeCast, Apple TV oh my!
In order to write more cord cutting content for my blog, I decided to invest in the 3 other major 4K streaming media. And no, I will not rush to get newer versions. I already had Fire TV 4K stick on my TV. At least, most were in special on Black Friday 2019. These are the 4 major companies behind them:
- Amazon : Fire TV 4K $70
- Apple : Apple TV $225+
- Google : ChromeCast Ultra $90
- Roku : Roku Streamstick+ $70
So if your other TVs are not smart TV, you will need a streaming player for each one. I suggest you get 4K streamers even you don't have a 4K TV ... yet. Those are often faster and more recent. Plus, once you get a 4K TV, you will be ready.
I still watch mostly from the application included in my smart TV 2016 LG. Those are often updated and they even added Disney+. It's still missing Crave and Apple TV+.
Internet Speed, Monthly Data Cap?
The speed will depend on the quality of content, how many in your household and budget. For example, Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for 4K quality streams.
So if 4 people decide to watch HD stream at the same time, you will need 20 Mbps.
So if 4 people decide to watch 4K stream at the same time, you will need 100 Mbps.
You don't need to pay for 500 Mbps when you only need 100 Mbps. Of course, you could go with 120 Mbps to give you some margin. Your game console might have to update a few games while you watch a movie.
In my case, my working computer does automatic tasks on the web so I got a 60 Mbps. Plus, it was $5 more than 30 Mbps and still in my budget. My old ISP upgraded me from 50 to 500 Mbps to keep me longer. But frankly, it was too much for my daily needs. As time passes, the minimum speed will increase too.
If you don't want to check your monthly data cap, go for unlimited. My ISP only has unlimited bandwidth. Otherwise, calculate 2 gigs per hour for HD and 7-8 gigs for 4K.
Get A Good Router?
If your current ISP uses a modem/router(ie Bell) and you change ISP, you may need a new router since my old one was from 2010. Yes, that old. That is another cost to consider.
VPN, US address ...worth it?
If you want to access US only service, you might be geo-block by your Internet IP. They will detect that your IP is Canadian. For that you need to get a VPN that is not detected by the service. And if it is a paid service, you might need a US address and US credit card too. I don't like to jump hoops but that is me.
Can I Save Money Cutting the Cord?
In the end, only you will know based on your needs. Before cutting the cord, I already had most of the equipement needed. Even then, I needed a new router($115) and network cable($15). In a few months, I will still save around $50 even if I added a few streaming services.
Anti cord cutting articles will often add Netflix/Amazon Prime/Streaming box as an extra cost when cutting the cord. It is only true IF you don't have it. Again, calculate real extra cost FOR you.
Once the extra cost is paid, you may end up paying around the same but for content that you want and flexiblity that you need without contracts, limited rebates....
I will update this article as needed.