USAToday Latest News Outlet To Completely Miss The Point Of Cord Cutting

from the dept

So we’ve noted a few times now how every month or so there’s a media report proclaiming that you can’t save any money via cord cutting. The logic in these reports almost always goes something like this: “Once I got done signing up for every damn streaming video service under the sun, I found that I wasn’t really saving much money over traditional cable.”

Authors leaning on this lazy take almost always tend to forget a few things. One, the same people dictating cable TV rates dictate streaming video rates. Two, adding a dozen streaming services to exactly match your bloated, 300 channel cable subscription misses the entire point of cord cutting. The benefit of streaming is you can pick and choose the content you prefer. And yes, if you prefer a massive bundle of religious programming, horrible reality television, and infomercials, then yes — you may want to stick to paying an arm and a leg for cable.

Just like clockwork, USAToday rushed to meet this month’s invisible quota for “cord cutting doesn’t save me money” stories. In their version, the author desperately tries to include the cost of broadband service just to try and make an inaccurate point:

“Sure, if we only pared ourselves down to free TV with an antenna and Netflix, then we?d be in great shape, at $10 a month.

I would argue that we’d also have to add in the high-speed Internet charge to watch the stuff, and that would add another $40-$50.

(Serious cord-cutters disagree with me on this?they say we’d all be paying for the Internet anyway, and the charge shouldn’t be counted.)

Yeah, they’re telling you that because they’re right. Your broadband connection would be a cost whether you cut the cord or not. Now, ISPs use usage caps to exempt their own content while driving up the cost of using streaming services, but that would be the fault of cable companies (and a lack of competition in the broadband sector) — not the fault of cord cutting or streaming services. In fact: how a lack of broadband competition allows this abuse of the last mile is actually a more worthy story for this type of — regurgitation and repetition.

Undaunted, the USAToday author continues:

“In a debate Thursday on Facebook Live, Luke Bouma, the owner of, argued that the average person who ditched their cable was saving $100 monthly on their bill. I don’t disagree. But looking into the future, my point is, if you add many new streaming services, your bill could get just as high as cable.

On the entertainment front, is Netflix really enough? With Hulu, you get access to the latest network TV shows from NBC, ABC and Fox, for $12 monthly, without commercials. And many of us love the idea of HBO Now on-demand, with access to the entire library of HBO shows, from the Sopranos to Games of Thrones.

Add another $15 monthly for HBO.

So now we?re just at $90 a month. Which is about on par with what we currently pay for cable.”

So yes, when you buy all the toys in the store window things do tend to get expensive. But when you actually bother to talk to real people you’ll find that time and time again they’ll tell you that cord cutting saved them considerable money from the $130 or so (more depending on fees and packages) most people pay for traditional cable. If their bill gets too high, cord cutters can always trim back a service or buy a service elsewhere (AT&T sells HBO streaming as part of DirecTV Now for $5). There’s also piracy, which for some reason writers at major outlets like to refuse to admit is an option because it’s naughty.

This kind of competition and choice flexibility puts the onus on you to find — and get — the better deal. That this kind of flexibility on price and options has long been lacking from traditional cable is the entire damn point. If you’re missing that, you’re not really understanding the cord cutting phenomenon at all.

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Comments on “USAToday Latest News Outlet To Completely Miss The Point Of Cord Cutting”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Yesterday I didn’t want to go to the TV room and tried to find an open broadcast channel to stream via the internet on my phone. The option exists either for a hefty paid option or through shady, illegal sites. Why there isn’t an official channel where I can stream the thing is a mystery in this day and age.

They are not ‘misunderstanding’ cord cutting. They are actively denying it, much like the cable companies and broadcasters are.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

While I love the term ‘quantum’ duck, and agree with the general gist of your comment, wouldn’t ‘Schrodinger’s Duck’ be more appropriate as a descriptive name? It both is and is not a duck depending upon when it’s examined, with the status changing depending on what was worse for the company at the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The implication is the same since Schrodinger’s cat was about the behavior of quantum objects. I guess you should feel free to use “Schrodinger’s duck”, but I guess I try to avoid Schrodinger’s cat since people mostly misunderstand what the thought experiment was actually about.

It wasn’t a thought experiment to get people to understand superposition, it was a thought experiment aimed at pointing out the absurdity of quantum superposition that ultimately failed to do its job and left us with a bunch of idiots who think an actual conscious person is required to look into the box to collapse the wave function (this is not true, to a physicist “an observer” is literally anything that interacts with said quantum object. So, the cat, the clock, the poison, the box, or just a single stray electron could all be “observers” for the purposes of collapsing the wave function).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Do you like looking like an idiot? Because that is how you look like an idiot.

So a major publication put out an article based almost entirely on a strawman, either deliberately or indifferently misstating the position of those it was talking about in order to ‘refute’ their arguments and show why they’re ‘wrong’.

You’d think a company that big wouldn’t deliberately throw a bunch of eggs in the air and look up, but I guess they had nothing better to do that day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cord Cutting/Shaving

I cut the “TV Cable” cord 4 years ago with no problems.

I still have “Cable Internet” which is now 4 times faster and 15% cheaper than 4 years ago. Most taxes/fees vanish when you go cable-internet-only (No cable TV). I stream sometimes, but spend almost nothing in that mode (I’m not a sports or movie addict).

I get all the major broadcast TV networks for free, with a small indoor directional antenna/amplifier that sits right next to my TV (I live 40-50 miles from the TV transmitters). Bought my own DVR at BestBuy… that works better than any cable-company DVR that I’ve ever had.

Cord Cutting/Shaving is great–saved a ton of money.
I knew it was time to change when my cable TV bill was way bigger than my summertime (deep south) home air conditioning electric bill.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A physical connection that they already had.

Things the author missed:

* I already paid for internet anyway
* I already paid for Netflix and Amazon (for shipping) anyway
* Cable adds about $35-$50 in hidden fees compared to the price they quote
* We weren’t watching 99% of the channels on cable
* You can subscribe for a limited time. I got Sling (for ESPN) only during College Football season. That’s only 4 months. I cancelled now.

Brig C. McCoy (profile) says:

Cordcutting example...

As an early adopter of Google Fiber here in Kansas City, I was paying $133 per month for high-speed internet plus their television service, with no premium channels.

I dropped service with them a couple months ago. I’ve had service long enough with them that they moved me to their free lower-speed internet service. I bought a $15 dollar antenna for my television and get all the networks. I’ve subscribed to Hulu and I’m pretty happy for very little investment, regardless of what the cable companies think. 🙂


ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Add another $15 monthly for HBO.

Only need that when Game of Thrones is on, which is two whole months in the year with the new season being just 7 episodes.

Also you can choose when your month starts by when you sign up for HBO Now.

So that $30 works out to more like $2.50 a month when averaged out for the whole year. Yeah, really going to break my poor wallet.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Once I got done signing up for every damn streaming video service under the sun, I found that I wasn’t really saving much money over traditional cable.”

“Of course I now have a library of over 5,000,000 films, 250,000,000 episodes of tv shows, documentaries and 200x the number of channels I had before and I’m “only” saving $50/month but there ya go…..

PaulT (profile) says:

“I would argue that we’d also have to add in the high-speed Internet charge to watch the stuff, and that would add another $40-$50.”

I’d argue that you don’t have to add that in. Maybe things are different in the US, but my DSL connection averaged 6-8Mbps until I upgraded recently and I rarely noticed any problems with image quality or buffering on my 42″ TV setup. I have upgraded to 300Mbps fibre, but that’s largely to do with gaming rather than TV (last straw was trying to download the 50Gb+ Halo 5 in preparation for the free weekend they did last year). Granted, there was only usually one stream at a time so a family might need the extra, but wouldn’t they also need to pay a premium to watch cable in multiple rooms too?

“On the entertainment front, is Netflix really enough?”

For some people, absolutely, especially when they just want access to their exclusive content. Combine that with free legal options and things they’re paying for whether they use them or not (e.g. people who have Amazon Prime for the savings on shipping, so they are paying for the video content the same way whether or not they cut the cord). Netflix might be their only additional cost above the internet connection, and they’re getting more than enough for their needs.

“And many of us love the idea of HBO Now on-demand”

…and many don’t care either way.

“There’s also piracy, which for some reason writers at major outlets like to refuse to admit is an option because it’s naughty.”

There’s also plenty of other options that are perfectly legal, ranging from YouTube to theatres to gaming. Maybe people would rather save the $50 a month and buy a new game or take the family out to the cinema once a month instead of paying for things they don’t use. That’s the problem with this kind of blinkered thinking – they forget there’s competition not just for delivery method, but between media.

“That this kind of flexibility on price and options has long been lacking from traditional cable is the entire damn point.”

It’s also worth noting one last thing – even if people aren’t saving money per se, they at least know that the money’s going to something they want to pay for. I’m sure plenty of people will happily pay the same if it means that the money goes to the programming they will actually watch and not whatever crappy reality show / sports / religious / whatever channels they’ve been unwillingly paying for over the years.

Brent Ashley (profile) says:

It's about changing your diet

When I dropped all my cable and switched to antenna and Netflix, my TV watching habits changed.

It’s no longer imperative for me to have immediate access to every thing that I could possibly see. If I don’t have access to a sporting event or a TV show, I simply don’t see them. Maybe I talk to my family or take the dogs for a walk. Maybe I wait for the movie or show to come out on Netflix in 6 months. It’s the behavior change that makes it work, not any attempt to make the experience the same as before.

Changing your viewing habits is like changing your diet. If you are choosing the chocolate-chip-cookie-dough diet bar instead of an apple, your head isn’t in the right space to make it work.

CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's about changing your diet

I “cut the cord” for cable TV 4-5 years ago. Last summer, the cable company here talked me into a trial where I basically got TV service for free – and in 6 months, I actually turned it on 3 times. Twice for less than 15 minutes each (after which the commercials drove me to turn it back off) and once for half an hour.

Fact is, not only do I not miss it, I generally don’t even think about it. I have other things to do with my time.
I did have Netflix for a couple years, but the Canadian catalog is so limited that I let that go too.

A point that seems to often be missed is you don’t HAVE to have TV service (or equivalent) at all.

Another point that is usually missed is that the online subscriptions like Netflix DON’T HAVE COMMERCIALS (that said, there HAVE been commercials that I really liked, such as the old “Mac vs PC” series), can be watched when I want, where I want and on the devices I choose. So, even if the total cost was the same, it’s still an improvement (RtB).

As for the cost of internet … I was paying for that all along anyway, so it’s not “fair” to “add” that cost in again.

Jonathan says:

Not just internet, Netflix...

The author also assumes the cost of Netflix is a new cost, but just like internet, a great many people are paying for that now anyway. With all the great content on Netflix (Iron Fist Binge coming soon…), if a person finds themselves watching Netflix more than cable, than it only makes to cut the cord. Adding some of these services as new costs can be as dishonest as trying to add in the cost of your broadband.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Not just internet, Netflix...

Well, that’s certainly true, as per my Amazon mention in the comment above – people might be paying for the service either way. That also ties into the article’s unspoken assumption that the content is equal and only the pricing is different. If you actually prefer the Netflix/Amazon originals to the NBC/ABC/etc. stuff, you have to pay for the streaming option either way so why not ditch the one you like the least? Keeping cable doesn’t make sense from a financial nor from an entertainment point of view.

Anonymous Coward says:

The other big thing I don’t really see mentioned is the fact that streaming services give better service. Sure, I might pay the same amount, but I get a better experience.

The argument “why are you doing that, your not saving money” ignores the fact that I don’t have commercials, I can watch things when I want to, and I don’t have ton of hidden fees.

It is kind of like saying, “Why would you cook your own food? Your not saving much compared to eating fast food.” While this is true if your buying top quality ingredients, the food you end up eating is drastically different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Completely miss the point of cord cutting?

All that and you aren’t even going to specify what you think the point of cord cutting is? There’s a certain conceit built into that.

I don’t think there is *a* reason for cord cutting but rather there are many. The most common one might be to save money, but there are plenty of people that cut the cord and spend more money to tailor the experience to what they want.

yankinwaoz (profile) says:

Old School!

I know this is old school. But I recently added DVD service to my Netflix. I don’t have cable. Just OTA + Netflix.

Adding the 1 DVD plan added $10 to my price. So now I’m paying about $20 a month to Netflix. My internet is about $70. So $90 total out of pocket for all our TV/Movie supply.

This gives me access to HBO’s content, but on DVD, for $5 less a month. Plus I get ALL the DVD content from all of the other studios too. I get to see the Showtime series. The cable network’s series. Overseas series. Good movies. No shortage what at all.

True, I don’t get the latest episode. But there are so many good shows that I haven’t seen yet that there is no shortage of excellent, ad free, TV series that I can watch.

Another benefit of this is that I can’t extreme binge. It forces a media consumption diet. I can’t blow off going to the gym to watch one more episode because I have to wait for it to show up.

Jinxed (profile) says:


You are the one who misses the point. Jefferson gave you two distinct points, which you promptly ignored:
1) The use of the word “could” in the very title of the article.

2) He talks about the *future* of paid services, using the “now” only as an example.

Jefferson is right. Maybe not today, but it *will* happen: we’ll be subscribing to sites, rather than bundles.

Why? Because distributors will always be the problem. ABC (read: Disney) is going to pull out of Hulu. Not only are they launching ESPN as a sub (which this site mentioned), they’re also bundling their ABC networks into a service as well.

One company. _TWO_ services. Choices? Sure, we “have” them, but only if YOU and only YOU don’t want either or neither. For those who DO want them: that’s probably going to cost them $30-40/mo, piled onto their other subscriptions, such as gaming, movies, and music.

The point of your article makes sense, but you never bother to ask cord-cutters the white elephant in the room: “What did you have to give up to save money?”

*Every* cord cutter I’ve spoken to has mentioned they miss a program or two, but just live without (and there are no other options, otherwise, unless they wait a season or two to “show up on Netflix”).

That’s not choice. That’s a problem, one in which Jefferson makes regarding trying to get “what we want”.

I currently have 6 subscriptions. The total monthly cost ($8.99 + $11.99 + $11.99 + $19.99 + $14.99 + $9.99) for content _I_ want is $77.94.

There used to be a $50/yr subscription (about $4/mo) to this site, but I had to make choices of letting Techdirt and Ars subs lapse. Yes, Techdirt lost out because my wife wants to watch movies on disk.

I can’t wait until distributors split their content, yet again, to push out another streaming service, *exactly the point Jefferson was making*.

Nice try on “debunking” the article, but your assessment isn’t accurate and it removes the biggest problem of these streaming services.

Netflix and Amazon are two which are successful because they bundle as much as they can for a single price tag.

Well, not Neflix. To rent physical media that’s not in their streaming service requires one of the payments above, which is overall still cheaper than “renting” a movie online since finding these movies anywhere else is impossible if we don’t pirate them.

So maybe you should take off your rose-colored glasses about “cord cutting” and see the world for what it really is.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Because distributors will always be the problem”

You could have stopped there. If people need multiple subscriptions, it’s because of licencing restrictions not because of some natural streaming elements.

“I currently have 6 subscriptions. The total monthly cost ($8.99 + $11.99 + $11.99 + $19.99 + $14.99 + $9.99) for content I want is $77.94.”

I’m intrigued by this. Which services? Why so many? Where is the overlap?

Personally, I subscribe to 2 services (Netflix and MUBI) and might consider one more, except that the ones I’d be most interested in (Hulu and FilmStruck) are unavailable to me due to regional restriction. Even then, between those services and free streaming / free over the air channels, I have way more titles than I will ever be able to consume in a single month, and that’s why I keep myself away from services I think I’d otherwise appreciate (e.g. Amazon – I like the look of a few of their TV shows but I know their service won’t be used enough to justify the price). I don’t pay the money because I don’t think I’d use it.

This isn’t a criticism, I’m just intrigued as to what viewing requirements you have that need to have so many subscriptions.

“There used to be a $50/yr subscription (about $4/mo) to this site, but I had to make choices of letting Techdirt and Ars subs lapse. Yes, Techdirt lost out because my wife wants to watch movies on disk.”

So, that’s pretty irrelevant to this subject, as are any other news subscriptions, music subscriptions, gym memberships or other costs. The focus here is purely on video broadcasts vs streaming. If you want to include all other media, that gets very silly very quickly.

But that raises another question – is this flexibility something new, or would you have blindly paid the same cable sub every month without reconsidering all your other subscriptions?

“see the world for what it really is”

Perhaps his view of the world is correct, and it’s your view that’s wrong? You’ve not provided anything other than personal anecdotes that fit your preferences, which is essentially what you’re complaining about him providing.

Peter (profile) says:

I know a few people who are stuck with cable simply because they have access to broadband. But services like PlayStation Vue and Sling have made it easy for even sports lovers to cut the cord.

6 months out of the year, when there are sports broadcasts worth watching, I pay a little more for my streaming entertainment, but it never approaches the money I coughed up for Comcast TV. What this article fails to note is that many cable subscribers also subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. My neighbor is an example — and I’m sure his total entertainment bill is at least $150 a month more than mine.

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