The costs of cutting the cord

Dec 21, 2014

Thinking of taking the leap from cable TV to internet-only TV? Or have you never had cable and are trying to decide whether, as you set up your first home, you should connect or go digital-only?

This infographic will help you understand the “hidden costs” of cord cutting (getting your entertainment content exclusively over the Internet) so you can decide which option is best for you.

How to cut the cord

  1. Find out the price of a cable TV subscription in your area
  2. Go through the infographic and pick which equipment and services you will need to buy and subscribe to in order to watch internet content on your television
  3. Compare the two to help you make the decision of whether to go with cable or leap into the internet-only age.

Things to keep in mind when contemplating cord cutting

Equipment prices

When you sign up for a cable package, you are also signing up for technical support and free in-home servicing when something goes wrong. If your cable box dies, the cable company will send you a new one for no cost. When you cut the cord, you buy all your own equipment and are therefore responsible for maintaining and repairing it (once it’s out of warranty).

The price points for the equipment listed on the infographic are a general guideline; you may be able to spend less if you shop around, or more if you decide you want a super fancy model or a super huge TV. The initial outlay for equipment for cord cutting is a one-off cost, which only applies to your first year. When calculating your total costs and comparing to the cost of cable, it’s worth comparing two numbers; the first-year costs of the monthly subscriptions plus the equipment costs, then the second year costs of just the subscriptions (although you might want to factor in $100 or so for potential equipment failures and such).


OTA antennas are essential to cord cutters who want to watch traditional television – not all TV is available online, especially not live events and many sports programs. An OTA antenna will give you free, high definition broadcast channels, such as ABC, FOX, CBS, PBS and so on. Performance of any OTA antenna depends on a lot of things, including the availability of channels in your area and where your home is located (if you’re next to a mountain, you may be out of luck). But there are powerful antennas out there like the Channel Master Deep Fringe Advantage Outdoor Antenna that can pick up signals from 100 miles away, if you are in a spotty area. Finding the right one for you may mean some trial and error (and possibly some roof climbing), but thankfully, the options are there. Some of them (like the Mohu Leaf) are even rather attractive-not a rabbit ear in sight.

Streaming box vs. Smart TV

A streaming box, such as an Apple TV or Roku, is essentially just an interface to connect your TV to the Internet. A Smart TV connects directly to the Internet without needing one of these boxes. However, internet TV technology is moving at an extremely fast pace and replacing a set-top box worth a few hundred dollars with a newer model won’t be as difficult a decision as replacing a $1,000 television set. Additionally, the set-top boxes tend to get software updates much more often than Smart TVs, so your choice of streaming services will be broader and grow more quickly if you choose a streaming box. Ultimately, however, the choice isn’t between a Smart TV and a streaming box, because if you’re buying a new TV today it’s hard to find a ‘dumb’ one. If you do get a Smart TV, keep in mind you will also still need a streaming box or stick. If you are buying a new TV, make sure to get one with as many HDMI ports as possible, and pick up a few decent HDMI cables with it, as most boxes don’t come with their own. HDMI cables are the cord cutter’s lifeline.