Gizmodo Completely Misses The Point Of Cord Cutting

from the missing-the-forest-for-the-trees dept

Roughly every month or so I’ll see a story proclaiming that cord cutting is a bad idea because you need to subscribe to multiple services to mirror the same overall volume of content you receive from pay TV. There are a few problems with that logic, first being that cord cutters aren’t looking to precisely duplicate cable TV. They’re looking to get away from paying a small fortune for hundreds of unwatched channels, including an ocean of religious programming, infomercials, whatever the Weather Channel is up to these days, and C-grade channels focused on inherently inane prattle.

Writers of these pieces always seem to forget that broadcasters dictate the pricing of content on both platforms, so any surprise that the pricing of television remains somewhat high (when you pile on multiple streaming services) is just kind of silly. All told, “cord cutting is really expensive when I subscribe to every streaming service in the known universe” is just a weird narrative that just keeps bubbling up across various media outlets despite not really making much sense.

The latest example is a recent piece over at Gizmodo by Matt Novak that proudly proclaims that “cord cutting isn’t a bargain any more” when you sign up for a pile of different streaming services:

“So, let?s see, if you pay for Hulu Plus (which is now just Hulu, since they?re dropping their free tier) that sets you back about $8 per month. And if you go subscription free that?s $12 per month. And Netflix is another $10. And HBO Now is another $15. And obviously you?re going to get the new commercial free CBS, so that?s $10 per month. What are we up to? About $47 before tax? And then you toss on your high-speed internet bill, which you?re probably paying to the cable company anyway. Yeah, this whole cordcutter thing sounds like it liberated consumers alright, doesn?t it?

So……………………………………… ¯_(ツ)_/¯”

And that’s it. Pretty much Gizmodo’s entire argument is that because the author had to pay $47 for four streaming services, cord cutting isn’t a bargain and can’t be taken seriously. But compared to traditional cable, that’s not really a bad deal. Novak also appears to ignore that countless people save a significant amount of money when they decide to trim back their programming lineup or cut the cord entirely. As such, it was entertaining to watch users over at Reddit quickly and repeatedly point out how much money they’ve saved by moving on from traditional cable:

And it’s worth pointing out that these consumers are still saving money despite every effort by the broadcast and cable industry to make cord cutting as difficult as possible, whether that’s via restrictive licensing agreements, lawsuits intended to deter innovation, or the use of usage caps to otherwise penalize users who try and leave the legacy TV pasture. The entire point of cord cutting is the flexibility to mix and match various services to craft the precise lineup of content you want, something the cable industry continues to pay empty lip service to via “skinny bundles” saddled with obnoxious fees and caveats.

The cable industry has a long, proud history of advertising one rate, then socking consumers with a significantly higher bill thanks to hardware rental costs and various other fees. That’s something correctly pointed out by Jared Newman, who apparently found Gizmodo’s narrative as tiring as I did:

“Cable TV might seem cheap when you first sign up, but that?s only because you?re getting a short-term promotional deal, and the advertised price rarely factors in hardware rental and other hidden costs, such as regional sports fees and broadcast retransmission fees. Keeping your payments down requires constant vigilance, and you?ll never actually pay the advertised rate anyway.”

There’s also a weird tendency among TV beat writers to act as if piracy doesn’t exist just because it’s not formally sanctioned by the United Nations or Homeland Security as a legal and accepted way to obtain content. But reality doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to magically eliminate discussing piracy as an avenue for consumer cost savings when discussing the pay TV landscape just because it’s naughty. Many cord cutters pirate because the cable industry refuses to give them the flexibility and pricing they want. That doesn’t somehow mean piracy isn’t a legitimate competitor for consumer affections and shouldn’t be discussed when analyzing cost savings.

If there’s a problem with the streaming model, it’s one that Gizmodo almost accidentally stumbles into. Namely that broadcaster licensing has increasingly fractured streaming content availability, forcing users to hunt and peck between multiple services to find the content they’re looking for, something that’s only going to increase as broadcasters exclusively offer their own content via their own services. That’s incredibly confusing for the consumer, especially given the frequency with which content disappears as licensing periods expire. Ultimately this confusion will only make piracy more attractive.

And yes, consumers in the future will likely have to pay even more as more and more ISPs turn to usage caps to simultaneously cash in on a lack of competition while protecting legacy TV revenues. But that’s not somehow the fault of cord cutting as a concept. Cord cutting may not be for everybody (especially sports viewers), but it’s a very organic response to an aggressively inflexible pay TV sector that absolutely refuses to compete on price despite the obvious writing on the wall. So yes, ¯_(ツ)_/¯ indeed.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: amazon, comcast, hulu, netflix

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Gizmodo Completely Misses The Point Of Cord Cutting”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Re: Also missing

Kodi for the win. We dumped Dish several years ago now. I don’t even remember. I say this in every article about cord cutting….Kodi is what we use. We do have Netflix for a couple of other TV’s, but we have a small PC setup in the living room with a 500GB hard drive that runs Kodi or Netflix if we choose. With Kodi, I can watch anything I want, we’ll be starting up the Fall shows in the next few weeks. Sure, we don’t watch them live but who has time for that? We can watch what we want, when we want without worrying about missing a show. All we pay is for our cable internet, which the slimy bastards finally starting using a 500GB/month cap, but we can go up to 1TB for about $10 more. I’m ready for the FCC to come down hard on the cap bs.

We’re saving around $100/month at least without Dish being in the house. I think our monthly bill was around $120. Plus Internet, plus Netflix.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Also missing

Haven’t really used Plex to be honest. I like the flexibility of Kodi. It takes a bit to learn, but you can find almost anything on there. Older shows and movies. Live sports, regardless of location.

As for them catching on? There are a lot of sites they’d have to go after. Have fun playing whack-a-mole. It’s going to be a constant battle, but honestly the end-user doesn’t have to do too much in Kodi to find the shows. The current ones are out there in droves. The older ones may take a bit of hunting, but the majority of those are out there as well.

techno says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Also missing

I’ve used Kodi and Plex. I’ve got a very large library, plus a ton of free content from Youtube. Netflix is somewhat dodgy on a dedicated Kodi box I’ve found, but there’s probably a really decent implementation out there. I am a lifetime subscriber for Plex though. I’ve gotten years of usage out of it.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Also missing

Beauty about Kodi, no subscription fees. You can watch Plex through it and as you said Netflix is a bit dodgy at times. I also use streaming sites for my sports, rather than Kodi a lot as I find there’s a good lag between the plugins and not all links work in Kodi, but they typically do on the streaming sites.

CSMcDonald (profile) says:

And broadcast

I live in an area where I get every broadcast channel clearly in HD with a leaf antenna – I have a USB TV Capture card and a DVR app – and I have apps that can play to the TV via DLNA.

So there’s a big savings for all broadcast shows I may wish to watch and record. For other shows that are cable only, buying a season pass on iTunes or Amazon or Google is still cheaper than the entire season would be in cable costs (about $70/mo). – I figured that even subscribing to a season pass for the shows I watch would still only cost me about 2 months of cable for the entire season.

This is keeping everything strictly legal and legit. The Gawker article is total click bait wtf.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t half the reason to cut the cord unrelated to money savings? Were I live, you would not save so much if you subscribe for 2-3 services, but I will still only get streamed content.

I can watch when I want, how I want. No more “That is on tuesdays at 8 if I want to see it” and if I want, i can binge watch Game of thrones for 2 seasons in a row!

And no goddamn commercial breaks. Cable TV was INSANE when I last was in the US.

Legacy TV is dying, and basically nothing they do will be able to stop it.

TheBroiler says:

Scenario is all wrong

Someone that has a similar scenario to the Gizmodo dude is probably paying for Cable + Interent + Hulu + HBO + Netflix. So when he cuts cable all he really is adding is the 10$ CBS subscription.

Plus, why would we “obviously” get the CBS subscription? If I could cut the cord I imagine I wouldn’t want to watch CBS anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scenario is all wrong

Yup. I would not be surprised if the Gizmodo author actually had subscriptions already to several of those services and never considered that part of his math. Heck even if he never had them it is almost guaranteed his ~$50 plan is way cheaper than anything a cable company would give him before he adds on the extras like required equipment, HBO and HD access.

My guess on CBS is because of Trek next year. I’d rather just wait to buy it then spend all of that money on a subscription for a single show.

But really, why actually require Gizmodo to put research and thought into a post? Why ask them to do math or consider their user’s best interests? Actually review something in depth? I don’t anymore. The author won’t get paid extra for research or a good post. That is not Giz’s business model. So I don’t expect more. Heck they barely are a tech blog anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cost Not the Entire Story

Even if the packages I get online approach or even exceed the cost of cable, the money I spend goes where I want it to go. None of my money goes to Disney/ESPN, or Fox News, or a host of other channels that I neither want to patronize or subsidize.

By subscribing to outlets that make content I appreciate, I fund future content I have a better than average chance of also appreciating.

Anonymous Coward says:

They can’t believe people can live without tv. When I cut the cable cord, they called me two weeks later wondering how I enjoyed my new satellite tv. I said what the fuck are you talking about, I told you tv was too expensive, I didn’t say cable tv was too expensive. I am not paying to watch an hour long paid for advertisement.

JBDragon (profile) says:

I used to pay Comcast $180 a month for HD Cable with a duel tuner DVR and a Mid speed Internet service and I had Netflix and Amazon Prime back then.

When i got my House I dropped the TV stuff, in fact I went with someone else for Internet as it was cheap. I also mounted up a nice large directional antenna for my TV.

These days, I use that Antenna for most of my TV programs. I’m getting ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, Fox, PBS all in HD and 5.1 surround. Along with channels like MeTV, AntennaTV, etc. I also have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but since I had them before cutting the cord, I really don’t consider them a extra cost. Of course I use PLEX and have ripped most of my movies and put them on my NAS.

I already have no crap to watch then I have time. I have Comcast again and I had to get a Bundle with included HBO, which I don’t have time to watch, some basic cable channels which I don’t watch and I don’t have a connection to my TV’s for their TV service anyway. HBO I can use the HBOGo App. It was cheaper to get this dumb bundle them Internet only. This is how they’re trying to keep people locked into some type of TV service instead of just being a dumb Internet pipe.

I still get most of my TV from the Antenna. All recorded with a Tivo Roamio. Where I can watch that content anywhere and skip all the commercials. If you’re just going to sign up for every service under the sun, why cut the cord? One thing is for sure, I’ll NEVER pay $6 or any amount for CBS All Access crap.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Re: I wonder

How many Comcast “subscribers” on their TV rolls are there because of the lower price and NOT the TV part of it. How may don’t even have a TV hooked to their cable, but take the lower price for Internet and use Netflix or another option? THAT would be a great story to find information for, but they don’t keep track of that. They only harp on their numbers going “up” but in fact they’re probably going down on total views.

JustMe (profile) says:

Novak's credibility as a journalist

Evaporated when he finished his ill-reasoned piece with an emoji.

Here is a real statistic. My D-TiVo has been on the fritz for about a month. I’ve been using the Leaf 30mi OTA antenna (one time cost of $40 a year or two ago) and I receive plenty of free content. We already get Amazon TV as a result of our Prime membership. Add in the DVDs that I already own and Netflix for 0.33/day and I’m set.

ThatFatMan (profile) says:

Hidden Costs

I felt this was as good a place as any to discuss my plans. I’m currently on a 2 year contract with Comcast that will expire in a few (long?) months. I have a bundle with TV, internet and phone. Unfortunately, I have 2 cable boxes from them because, as we all know, there is no alternative. They do, however, have the option to let you purchase your own cable modem for $10 a month. I opted instead to purchase my own for $150. over 24 months, I’ll save at least $90 in rental fees. Or so I thought.

I’ve had Comcast service now for nearly a year and a half, and the cost of that modem has paid for itself in money saved in rental fees. I’m at the point where I’m finally making money back on the modem. Evidently Comcast decided this wouldn’t do, and last month I was billed $10 for a modem rental fee. Comcast decided suddenly that they owned my modem (honest, I went to one of the service centers and talked to the people there who showed me on their computer where the modem I purchased, was labeled “Comcast Owned” when they put in the S/N from my modem). Fortunately, I was able, thanks to Amazon, to pull up a receipt showing I had purchased the modem. They did, without media intervention, adjust my bill. However, they also told me that I will probably have to do this every month from now on because even though I bought it, they still own it.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck with them. They are 1 of two options, the other of which has internet speeds so slow as to be useless in this age. But, I totally plan to get rid of my bundle and just keep the internet and stream all the other content. And it will still be cheaper than what I pay now. This business with the modem issue pushed me over the edge, and I just can’t give them any more money. (I have to have internet access for work, so I can’t drop them completely). I’m sure my story is not unique, but it is yet another reason why people are cutting the cord. Who wants the hassles?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hidden Costs

I had the exact same situation as you with my modem. For months they kept on adding back in a modem rental fee for a modem I owned. every single month. Thankfully I had the Comcast installer write on their form that I had a customer owned Modem. So all I had to do was tell them to bring up that form and see for themselves as proof. Many refused to saying they could not access that info. So I just called back until I got someone who would. Others said that Comcast does not allow customer owned modems or I had to send original proof (the actual receipt, not a copy) to some address to proove it was mine (pure B.S.). Others said that my modem was not allowed by Comcast (it is still on their approved list today, years later).

I finally got it to stop by calling the tech side (not billing) and telling them to fix the issue. The reason it kept coming back was because the billing side would just adjust the bill, not actually fix the issue. Tech side did something that finally said it was my own modem.

You can maybe try the same thing. It has been several years, but if I remember right they have specific blocks of mac addresses for their modems, so claiming yours is one of theirs is unlikely. If they keep on adding it on, try the BBB. Then they are at least forced to respond.

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Hidden Costs

I am a cable never.

My parents refused to pay for television and I inherited that from them.

I recently moved and I am now a Comcast subscriber.

BUT I have their teleworker internet only. I pay $39 a month for internet that is 4 times faster than my previous century link that cost more. $39 includes their modem and because it is “business class” they are no additional fees and if it is out for more than 30 minutes they owe me money under the SLA.

If you can get it it is a pretty decent deal.

Anonymous Coward says:


“mirror the same overall volume of content you receive from pay TV”

The truth is with pay TV at any given moment in time you only have access to a couple hundred programs. Most of which are already in progress. Most of which are so bad payments would need to be processed in reverse. With Streaming on my media player I have hundreds of channels each of which has hundreds of shows many of them entire series. Almost all of them are waiting to start from the beginning on my schedule and resume exactly where I left off and several of the channels have no commercials. That’s why I take my streaming media player when I travel. I don’t care when the hotel has cable, I want WiFi that works with media players. I want a better experience with a bigger program selection at every given moment in time.

Adam (profile) says:


Forget cost. What about convenience? People pay $1.89 for a single serve bottle of Soda at 7-11 when you can get the whole 2-liter for $1 at an actual grocery store.. but the 7-11 is on the corner and the grocery store is in town.

Cord cutter naysayers never consider the fact that I can watch Netflix or Hulu anywhere I can get a connection and at any time I want. I’m not glued to one or two rooms of my home.

I only subscribe to internet from my local cable company. To get the level of net I currently have and add cable i add 80 bucks to my bill, I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. I can assure you that does not cost me 80 bucks and I never run out of things to watch.

mattshow (profile) says:

The math gets a lot simpler (and the piracy option looks a lot more attractive) when you live outside the US and a lot of streaming options aren’t available to you.

I could subscribe to Netflix, Shomi and Crave for $30 a month… and that’s about it. Amazon Prime isn’t an option for me. HBO Go isn’t an option for me. Hulu isn’t an option for me. I can’t even get Youtube Red. Then there’s

ECA (profile) says:


Lets ask something first..

1. HOW MANY channels can you get with an Antenna and booster?? which will run you about $100 one time price??
I live in a Farming area, and I get 22 channels..5 of them religious. 6 independent channels that show, Selections of Many channels(NOT NBC, CBS, FOX, …,), then we get the Area channels, like NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS 4 channels.. AND I get a good selection of Older programs I dont MIND WATCHING…
2. LOCAL NEWS and events…YOU CANT get on national TV distribution. For some reason the mentality of MOST people is that IF you see it on TV, its happening NEAR YOU..Dont believe it)
3. IF’ I could pay $1 per channel THAT I COULD SELECT on Cable/sat…I WOULD. And it MIGHT cost me about $20 per month.
4. the PRICES cable/sat PAY to send a signal, seems to be MOSTLY in the Lower PENNIES per channel(they might inflate that just to prove me WRONG) but the FEW channels that cost $0.75 to OVER $1..ARE FEW.. but when you ATT 200+ channels at $0.10 each it ADDS UP.. Throwing in TONS of Crap channels just gives them a REASON to charge you, and say, ITS CHEAP.. LOTS OF CHEAP channels, just very little content you WANT..

Problems with Cutting the cord..
YOU NEED ABIT of basic knowledge, but you will LEARN something about radio signals..
1. HIGHER is better..
2. Low freq signals are NEAT, and expand and spread nicely.
3. A booster helps with color and getting the 1 signal you WANT..
4. a Clear signal isnt ALWAYS easy to get..and the OLD analog was better..
5. There are FEW professionals in this anymore…IF you want one, FIND a RADIO operator, Short wave/HAM/CB..they will give you FREE knowledge, and MIGHT install it for you..

Anonymous Coward says:

I started with cable and a dvr. Then I wasn’t watching anything live. So I dropped cable and watched things on the various network websites. I had notes on every show and what site it was on and when and how long. That got too much to keep track of so I switched to just pirating. I felt bad but it was just easier. But then it was annoying having to download everything. So now I find I read more books and go outside. I used to watch 30 shows at a time, now I watch maybe 2. It’s just not worth the effort.

Amonymous Coward says:

I cut the cord 8 years ago. Cable TV had increased in price from $30 teaser rates, and over 6 more years from $45 or so it doubled. Meanwhile, content got dumbed down or moved to higher tier. In 2002 I started there were 4 24 hour all news channels. And Fox News.* By 2008 there was CNN, and even then it was no longer news 24/7. C-span disappeared.
I moved and went with broadcast, and try to limit my TV to 2 hours a day.
I wanted to see Homeland, and have watched 4 seasons free, checked out at the local library. I had to wait for it to come out on DVD, and then the Library had a wait list of weeks or months. So what? Also found a pretty good HBO movie at the Library, Pu-239.
I think it terms of allotting a limited amount of time to watching TV for entertainment. Most people think in terms of what specific shows they want, make that *have* to watch.
You don’t have to watch anything!

*Sometime in the last decade someone inquired as to why the Fox News Channel did not report retractions or corrections, like most all other major news outlets (print and media) do. The Fox News Channel’s explanation was along the lines of: Fox News is not a news outlet, but is an opinion and commentary outlet. Or something like that. (profile) says:

No way to detect tuner. Tuner from IF to RF reverse isolation is over 80dbc at such low freq . Further Tuner generally have a ground inductor complete high pass this low freq.

Analog TV need 30dbc SNR to demodulation.

Be clever and dont be fool.

Best detector equipment is from Agilent,
not military/goverment.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...