You May Be Kissing Traditional Cable Goodbye

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Things are happening in TV land that could bring down the curtain on pricey bundled cable packages. But there are ways to cut the cable now.

According to a 2012 press release from Leichtman Research, average monthly spending on cable is $78.63, an increase of 7 percent over 2011.

If rates continue on this path, by 2015 we’ll pay well over $100 monthly to feed our diet of reality shows, B-list movies, and made-for-TV docudramas.

One thing that makes increasing bills harder to swallow: Thanks to bundled services, you’re paying for channels – probably dozens – you don’t watch. For example, according to The Atlantic, an $80 cable bill can include $12 or more for sports alone, depending on where you live. Don’t watch sports? You’re paying $144 a year to subsidize those who do.  

But times may changing.

Intel breaks the mold

For months now, rumors have abounded that Intel plans to release their own cable box – one that would use the Internet and offer unbundled services, so consumers could pick the channels they wanted to pay for.

Reuters recently confirmed that while Intel does have something in the works, it won’t completely unbundle cable channels.

According to Reuters, Intel will be releasing a cable service. While it won’t offer the ability to buy one channel at a time, it will have the option to buy smaller, more tailored bundles. Customers will also have access to on-demand content and the whole deal will stream over the Internet.

Cable Companies changing channels

The Washington Post reports Verizon and Cablevision are pushing content providers to lay off bundling unwanted channels. Focus the bundles on what people watch, they say.

Cablevision is suing content creator Viacom for forcing the company to package more than a dozen channels people don’t like, including VH1 and Logo, into bundles with popular ones, like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

How does a content provider like Viacom force a cable provider like Cablevision to carry all their programming? By charging penalties if they don’t.

Cablevision’s suit claims if it didn’t carry all Viacom’s programming, it would face more than a billion dollars in penalties. DirecTV, Time Warner and other cable companies have come out in support of Cablevision.

A major factor behind these moves away from bundling and toward consumer choice is simply that more and more consumers are getting fed up with high prices and doing something about it, from reducing services to cutting cable entirely.

Want to reduce or eliminate your cable costs? Check out these tips:

1. Negotiate

If you want to keep your cable, make sure you’re not paying more than necessary. First, browse competitor websites to see if you can find a better deal. Then call your cable provider and threaten to leave if they can’t meet or beat the price. In a story called Lower Your Cable Bill Just By Asking, Stacy did this on camera and got his bill lowered by $15 a month for six months.

2. Watch online

If you don’t mind watching from your laptop (or your laptop has an HDMI connection to hook up to the TV), you can watch a lot of shows online. You won’t find premium channels on this list, but nothing beats free:

 3. Switch to streaming

I haven’t paid for cable in years. Instead, I subscribe to two streaming services and check out shows through websites. Here are a few streaming services worth checking out:

  • Netflix: – $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming. Includes a boatload of TV shows and movies, but usually runs at least a season behind.
  • Hulu – Hulu streams current episodes from most of the popular shows, as well as some movies, old TV shows, and some original programming. Basic Hulu is free but only works on your computer. For $7.99 per month you can watch Hulu Plus on supported devices like the PS3 or streaming boxes, but not all shows are available and you’ll still get ads.
  • Amazon Instant Video – Prime members ($79 per year) can stream a limited selection of TV shows and movies free. Anyone can rent or buy videos. Most TV episodes cost $1.99 each, movies run $1.99 and up.
  • iTunes – You can buy individual episodes for $1.99 and up through iTunes. If you have an Apple device, you can play shows on the device, or play them on your computer.

If watching TV on your small computer screen seems too constricting, you can buy a separate streaming device. Streaming devices work on most newer TVs (some devices also work with older TVs through RGA cables). Not sure which streaming device to buy? Check out Which Internet Streaming Device Is Best for Your TV?

The bottom line – Intel might open the door for more user-friendly cable services, but we’re a long way from being able to buy only what we want and skip the rest. In the meantime, streaming and on-demand services can save  a bunch over cable.

What do you think the future of cable TV will be? Sound off on our Facebook page and tell us about it!

Stacy Johnson

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