Cutting the Cord

If you haven’t already cut the cord (i.e., rid yourself of cable or satellite TV service), you’ve probably dreamed of doing it. I just cut the cord, and it makes me feel good all over.

Cable companies had it good for a long time — armed as they were with government-granted monopolies on access to channels that can’t be captured by an antenna. Enter satellite TV providers, whose offerings helped to keep cable companies in check, but who maximized profits by adopting the same bundling strategy as cable companies.

Then along came internet-based alternatives, centered on smart TVs, streaming devices like Roku, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video. A lot of consumers — like me — can watch just about anything they want to watch, and at a much lower cost, by switching to streaming devices and services. The missing ingredient is usually access to local TV broadcasts of news and weather.

That’s where the antenna comes in, in particular, an indoor antenna that doesn’t require roof-climbing and still delivers a sharp signal. Specifically, this antenna: ClearStream Eclipse Indoor HDTV Antenna with Sure Grip Technology – 25 Mile Range, for which I paid $39.99. (There are also amplified versions if you live more than 25 miles from a transmission tower or your line of sight is obstructed by terrain or tall buildings.) The high ratings at pushed me toward the ClearStream; this review at The WireCutter convinced me.

And I wasn’t disappointed — quite the opposite, in fact. Within 15 minutes after opening the package, I had crystal-clear reception of 32 channels (only four of which are of use to me). Most of the time was taken up by programming my TV for local channels, which as a long-time cable/satellite TV customer victim, I hadn’t done before. Installation might have taken longer if I’d had to move the antenna around to get better reception, but I didn’t have to do that. I placed it where I thought it would get a strong signal, and it did.

I enjoyed my new freedom from satellite TV for a few days — watching local news and weather via my antenna and watching House of Cards on Netflix streaming video. Then I called DirecTV this morning to cancel my satellite TV service. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

The writing is on the wall for cable and satellite TV providers. And they’ve begun to move in the direction of customized service. AT&T U-verse, for example, has a local-channels-only option — but if you can get what you need with an easy-to-install $40 antenna, why pay a $199 installation fee and about $30 for monthly service? Cable companies have similar “basic” options, but the one offered in my area by Time-Warner cost almost $40 a month the last time I looked at it.

Yes, cable and satellite TV companies are beginning to offer consumers greater flexibility in choosing from among the thousands of channels on offer. And that will help the companies stay in business for a while. There are a lot of consumers who just don’t want to spend the time and effort it takes to save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. They’d rather keep on doing what they’re doing.  So cable and satellite TV companies will survive for another decade or two on sucker business. Then they’ll go the way of the CRT television set — into the dustbin of history.

And I have done my little bit to help make it happen.