Cut costs: Snip the cord to your cable tv provider

bill_coins_186671Cord Cutters Rejoice, 2016 is your year. I started this article with the intention of giving our readers a few cord cutting/slimming options. After performing a general review of the hardware and software available, I determined a single story couldn’t offer a clear picture. There have been just too many new entries in the last year, so I’m going to break this down into a series of articles over the next several issues.

We’ll start with the big services; Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. None of them rises above the others, primarily because they all work very well. So, how do you choose? The same way you used to with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. The choice is based on the content they offer.

All three have extensive back catalogs of movies and T.V. shows, but you should also look at the original content produced exclusively by that service. Netflix for example has the very dark drama House of Cards that follows the political moves of Kevin Spacey as Congressman Francis Underwood. Orange is the New Black is a comedy/drama based on the real life prison experiences of Piper Kermin. There are quite a few more quality series: Marvel’s Daredevil, Narcos and Master of None, all exclusive to Netflix. Current subscription rates are: $7.99 for one Stand Definition screen, $9.99 for up to two High Definition screens, or $11.99 for up to four 4K screens.

Netflix defines a screen as any device on which you can watch video. In short, you can register as many of your devices as you want with your Netflix account but can only watch 1-4 concurrent videos depending on your plan, e.g. if you have the $11.99 plan you can create four different profiles each with their own password. This is optimal if you want to “share” your plan with a friend without giving them full access to your account.

Hulu doesn’t have the same number of original shows as Netflix, but they do offer limited content for free. Some of the better offerings include Deadbeat, Quick Draw and the collaboration of J.J. Abrams and Steven King to produce a show about time travel and the J.F.K assignation called 11.22.63. One of the areas where Hulu shines is the speed at which it updates television episodes, often posting them the day after they first air. The free account limits most series to the last five episodes, but for a monthly fee of $7.99 you’re offered most, if not all, of the past seasons. Both of these accounts have commercials. For $11.99 the commercials for all but a few shows are removed. Eight other series have a 15 second spot at the beginning and a 30 second ad at the end. None of the plans offer more than a single stream at one time.

As far as Amazon Prime, it’s a service that’s considers video streaming content to be a small fraction of its offerings. In addition to great original programing like Mozart in the Jungle, Alpha House and The Man in the High Castle, you’re able to access a large library of music and books for free. From Amazon: “Amazon Prime membership includes Prime Video streaming at $99 a year or $49 for students. That includes unlimited free two-day shipping for eligible purchases and access to Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, which allows you to borrow one Kindle book per month from over 800,000 titles without a due date. Members can also listen to ‘hundreds’ of Prime music stations for free.” For a service that started as discount shipping, Amazon sure has a lot of added value and, like Netflix, they offer the ability to safely share your account.

CBS has All Access and ShowTime, Time Warner now offers HBO, all the major sport leagues have streaming packages, and Sling.tv is offering a package that has more than 20 cable channels for just $20 a month.

In our next edition, I’ll be talking about all of these as well as the some hardware devices that make for an easy transition away from your cable television provider. Tune in and save some money.
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Story by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges