More People Dropping Cable, Picking Up Internet

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More and more people are ditching their expensive cable package for cheap and free alternatives to watch their favorite shows. You can, too.

Although the cable companies deny it, more people than ever are dropping their TV service, and turning to Internet solutions for their favorite shows instead.

Research company Yankee Group — which predicted in April that 1 in 8 would pull the plug on cable this year —  is saying “I told you so” with a blog post jokingly titled “Dude, where’s my subscriber base?”

The story points out that despite a small overall increase in subscriber retention, cable companies are continuing to see big losses in new subscriptions: Comcast dropped 275,000 subscribers in the 3-month period, and Time Warner dropped 155,000. People are also rapidly dropping premium services while companies like Netflix are continuing to see huge growth.

That doesn’t mean everybody’s suddenly ditching cable overnight, but it points to a growing trend: people are increasingly willing to pay — if they’re willing to pay at all — only for what they actually want to see.

Just as fewer people — although still many — are buying CDs these days, fewer people are going to dish out for expensive cable packages. Just as they use pick-and-choose digital download services like iTunes, they’re turning to Netflix and Hulu for the stuff they care about, instead of having dozens of channels they don’t.

It’s still too early to say whether this trend is a permanent one based on changes in technology, or a temporary one based on economic upheaval, with people more worried about keeping their homes and feeding themselves than having HBO.

But it’s certainly possible that the decline in cable will continue, in the same way many Americans have dropped landline phone service for cell phones or even internet alternatives. People don’t need duplicated service, especially when they can get it for cheap or even free.

One reason the shift might be so slow in coming is that people are slow to adopt new technology, or understand what they can do — these days, you can stream movies on your big-screen TV through Netflix on your video game consoles, hook your TV up to the web through any number of devices and get HDTV with a simple antenna.

While it seems complicated, it’s really not, and definitely worth the time – and money – to learn. Thanks to new technology, we now have to ability to “unbundle” our entertainment and pay only for what we watch, rather than paying $100 a month or more for whatever the cable or satellite company says we should buy.  Once you have a broad-band internet connection and a way to connect it to your TV, all you need to do is…

  • Check for your favorite shows and films on Hulu.com, which is mostly free — for $10 a month you can use Hulu Plus, which gives you access to the current season of shows, too.
  • Stream movies through Netflix.com, which is $9 a month and has a one-month free trial
  • Buy or rent episodes through iTunes or Amazon.com’s Video on Demand for a couple bucks each
  • Wait for DVD box sets to be released or, better yet, when their price drops

For more specifics on getting the cable company out of your life, check out one of the most popular stories we’ve ever done: You Don’t Have to Pay for Cable TV.

Stacy Johnson

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