Hey USA Today, Cord Cutting is Still Better Than Cable

The Cable TV industry’s friends in the media are at it again. In the past week, USA Today has published 3 anti-cord-cutting stories. I wasn’t even going to address it, but then I learned the USA Today’s website isn’t like their paper and can be accessed outside of hotels. So, I figured it was time to rebut the ridiculous hysteria they are attempting to spread.

The Poor Logic of Cable TV Apologists

First, on March 19th, Mike Snider published an article titled Cord cutters feel weight of subscription fatigue as video, TV streaming options multiply. The article seizes upon the following quote from a Deloitte survey:

“Well over half (of consumers) say they are frustrated when shows they like disappear or are no longer on a streaming service and that they have to have multiple subscriptions to get what they want,” he said. “So there is a little bit of subscription fatigue.”

Snider takes this one quote and makes the gargantuan leap of logic that cord cutters are just so frustrated with the number of services out there.

It seems Mr. Snider forgot that just two paragraphs prior he wrote:

“Overall, more people are subscribing to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, with 69 percent of consumers saying they subscribe to at least one”

The problem with his logic is around 77% of households have a cable TV subscription. That means there are a lot of consumers that have both cable TV and a streaming service. Furthermore, if you look at Neilsen data from 2018, you’ll find that nearly 13% of households watch only Over the Air TV using a TV Antenna.

Between vMVPDs (offers streaming channels live like Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue) and those using broadband only on demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix, only 9.7% of households are cord-cutters that stream TV shows.

Therefore, the vast majority of those with “fatigue” actually aren’t cord-cutters at all. They’re people with cable TV AND a streaming service. Who wouldn’t be fatigued paying $110 a month and missing out on something like The Handmaid’s Tale.

Snider taking data where a vast majority of respondents have cable TV to infer conclusion’s on cord-cutting leads me to believe he wrote his clickbait headline before doing any real investigating on his topic.

The Flexibility of Cord Cutting

To be fair, who wouldn’t want a service where you pay one bill and get to watch whatever you want? Cable tried that and failed. The bill is around $110 dollars a month and you still miss out original content from most streaming services.

In the end, the most cost-effective solution is to add and drop services based on what you want to watch. If you follow a handful of shows on cable you can buy the entire season of most shows from Google Play, Amazon, or iTunes for around $25 a season. That means 10 shows a year is nearly $1000 cheaper than keeping a cable TV subscription.

If it’s network shows you want, those are free with a TV antenna. Missing a DVR? You can get an OTA DVR for your antenna. Want to channel surf? Pick up a live TV streaming service. All of these services are month to month, so unlike cable TV, you aren’t stuck.

What Snider calls “fatigue,” most rational people would call flexibility. That flexibility is the reason so many people are dropping their cable TV subscription in the first place.

Channel Surfing? Cord Cutters can Do That

Next, on USA Today’s celebration tour of cable TV, we have Jefferson Graham telling us how much he loves cable TV and its ability to channel surf. He literally titled his article, “In defense of cable, and the joy of scrolling up and down a remote.”

Unfortunately, for Graham, channel surfing is something cord cutters have been able to do for some time. Hulu Live TV lets you channel surf through their guide interface. YouTube TV also lets you quickly channel surf via a carousel experience. Sling TV, FuboTV, DirectTV Now, and PlayStation Vue all have guides with varying ways to surf channels.

Is the experience different? Sure, it is. The TV was invented in the 1920s. Grahams issue seems to be adjusting to a new way of doing something and not his inability to do something.

Cord Cutters Watch That To

Graham goes on singing the praises of his beloved cable TV with lines of it “delivering such beloved channels as PBS, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The streamers don’t have everything. Cable usually does.”

Well, many streaming services carry Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. Furthermore, PBS is easily watchable for free with an antenna. If you want PBS on-demand then you can join PBS Passport for loads of on-demand PBS content.

As for cable having everything, good luck trying to watch some of the best shows on television like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Handmaid’s Tale, or countless quality Netflix and Hulu originals. I don’t have a problem watching any shows on cable Networks.

Cord Cutting, Cheap as You Want It

He then vaguely hints that cord cutters may not save as much over cable. Frankly, we shouldn’t expect much here. Graham actually admits that he decided to go light on journalism by saying “I have no hard evidence to present you” for saying cord cutting will eventually be more expensive than cable.

Just remember. Cable locks you into a contract loaded with hidden fees. Cord-cutters can subscribe to whatever they like and cancel whenever they want. Ultimately, Cord-cutting can be as expensive as you want one month and as cheap or even as free as you want the next.

It’s hard to have three main arguments in a piece for a national media outlet and be empirically incorrect on all three but Graham found a way.

Paying For Everything is Always Expensive

The last person to help USA Today give cable TV a big ol‘ hug was Eli Blumenthal. He saw that Apple unveiled a new TV strategy to unify all your streaming in one place and had to write one more article touting the tired argument that streaming is expensive if you buy a lot of streaming services.

Do you know what else can get expensive if you buy a lot of it? Literally, anything. Because that’s how buying things works. A lot of something, usually cost more than a little of something.

This obvious tautology my 3rd grader understands is explained by Blumenthal in the article by saying:

Want to watch the new season of “Stranger Things”? That starts at $8.99 per month, or $12.99 monthly if you want HD. “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu? That starts at $5.99 per month. How about “Game of Thrones?” Please send your $14.99 per month to AT&T for HBO Now.

He then goes on:

Throw in a live streaming option like Sling TV, which normally starts at $25 per month, and you reach a total of nearly $60 per month that rivals the cost of a traditional cable package.

The failure of logic here is pretty glaring. Stranger Things and The Handmaid’s Tale aren’t available on cable TV. So your cable bill is going to be more than what you are paying if you want to watch those shows. Furthermore, I wonder if he is including device rentals at $10-$15 a TV in that $60 a month cable bill.

We’ve also already stated that you can pick up Netflix one month, HBO the next, and Hulu the month after keeping your streaming costs under $10 per month. Then, pick up Sling TV and you are at $35 per month. Even if we accept the $60 cable bill, the cord cutter is paying half of what Blumenthal is paying if he wants to watch Hulu and Netflix shows.

Like Graham before him, Blumenthal laments subscription fatigue and then doubles down on his original tautology by quoting Avi Greengart, lead analyst at research and consulting firm Techsponential:

“If you want to be able to watch everything nowadays, you’re going to have to rebundle services that were designed to break us out of bundles in the first place.”

I wonder if USA Today will pay me to write 1000 words to express the thought: “buying everything of something will cost a lot of money.”

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Dennis Restauro: @GroundedReason Dennis is the editor in chief at Grounded Reason. Before writing about using technology to save you money he spent 20 years working in the tech sector as a sysadmin, an analyst, and an enterprise architect.