What is “cord cutting?”

You've probably heard of “cord cutting.” The term is all over the news, and it's presented in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it's a “millennial thing” for the tech-savvy set. Other times it's a harbinger of doom for cable and satellite companies. It's a huge revolution, a small fad, or even a myth, depending on what you're reading or watching.

The truth? The term “cord cutting” means cancelling cable or satellite. That's it.

The reason that we're so excited to talk about cord cutting, though, is a little bigger than the basic definition. The fact is, there has never been a better time to watch what you want on your schedule – no cable required.

Cord cutting is not just for millennials. It's not about “killing cable,” and it's certainly not a myth! It's about saving money while watching what you want to watch whenever you want to watch it.

Why is cord cutting so popular?

There's a lot about cord cutting – and about streaming and free over-the-air entertainment – that's exciting right now. But, technically, there's nothing new about the act of cutting the cord. No matter how old you are, you probably grew up knowing at least a few people who didn't have cable. And if you're old enough, you may even remember a time before cable started dominating TV entertainment in the first place!

So why is cord cutting getting so much attention all of a sudden? Why is it so popular? What is happening now that wasn't happening decades ago?

The short answer: streaming video.

When Netflix started streaming movies and TV shows to subscribers way back in 2007, it started a revolution in streaming entertainment that continues to this day. Today, Netflix's on-demand streaming model has been joined by others, including live TV streaming services that offer a cable-like live TV experience at a fraction of the price. Meanwhile, hardware manufacturers have begun churning out streaming devices that put these services up on your regular TV screen. Add in a resurgent interest in free over-the-air TV – the great channels you can pick up with an antenna and watch live without a subscription – and you have a whole lot to watch as a cord cutter.

It was always possible to cut the cord. But, until recently, cutting the cord meant saying goodbye to your favorite TV shows, movies, and live sports. Today, by contrast, switching to streaming and free over-the-air TV can give you more to watch, not less. You can watch what your favorites on your schedule, and save money while you do so.

Put it all together, and you have the makings of a revolution in home entertainment.

How we can help you

In theory, cord cutting is pretty simple. So why are we here?

We're here to help you find ways to watch everything you want to watch without cable or satellite. We're here to show you all of your options, to help you decide on the home entertainment setup that's right for you, and to walk you through the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Cordcutting.com will help you:

  • Decide if cord cutting is right for you
  • Choose the right streaming services for you
  • Choose an antenna, set it up, and watch free over-the-air TV
  • Find the right hardware for your streaming and over-the-air TV setup
  • Watch everything you want to whenever you want to, on your TV or any other capable device

If you are overwhelmed with the choices on the streaming video market, including all of the different streaming services and streaming devices, then you'll find this site useful. If you aren't sure if you want to cut the cord, we'll help you decide. And if you want to learn more about watching great stuff on the internet or over the air, you'll learn a lot here on Cordcutting.com – even if you're not a cord cutter yourself!

Calculate your cord cutting savings

Cord cutting is taking off because streaming and free over-the-air TV offer great content on your schedule. But there's another reason that people are so excited about cord cutting: it saves money!

Of course, before you make the jump and cut the cord, you'll want to know if you'll really be saving money – and how much. We can help.

To figure out how much you'll save by cutting the cord, you need to know a few numbers:

  • How much do you currently pay for cable or satellite?
  • How much do you currently pay for internet?
  • How much would you pay for internet if you did not have cable?
  • How much do the streaming services that you want cost?

Once you have those numbers written down, your calculation is pretty simple. Find the difference between what you're paying for cable (or satellite) and internet now and what you'd pay for internet alone if you cut the cord. Then add up the cost of the subscriptions you would add to replace your cable or satellite service. If the subscriptions cost less than you'd save by cutting your cable or satellite subscription, then you'll save money! (You may also want to weigh one-time costs, such as the purchase of a TV antenna or a streaming device – but remember that these costs will pay for themselves pretty quickly if you're saving money every month.)

Now, nobody likes doing math. And you may want to run these numbers a few different times in order to try out different combinations of streaming services. That's why we put together our Cordcutting.com Calculator, which makes it a breeze to crunch the numbers.

Testing (and improving) your streaming quality

There are two main ways to get your entertainment after cutting the cord. One is free over-the-air TV, which you can get with a TV antenna. The other is streaming video, which comes in over the internet.

Streaming video requires a decent internet connection, so you'll want to make sure that your internet service is up to the task. Here's a breakdown of what you'll need. These numbers are approximate. They're also a little higher than the ones that some streaming services claim.

  • Streaming video on demand (standard definition)  – 5 Mbps
  • Streaming video on demand (720p or 1080p HD) – 10 Mbps
  • Streaming video on demand (4K) – 25 Mbps
  • Live TV streaming – 25 Mbps

Remember, though, that these speeds aren't the whole story. If you're using a lot of internet-connected devices at once, you'll need more bandwidth for that. When in doubt, go a step up: it doesn't hurt to have 50 Mbps or more if you want to watch live streaming TV or stream in 4K. And your local network matters, too: a wired Ethernet connection is always the fasted choice, and slow Wi-Fi can make your streaming choppy even if your internet connection is speedy.

You can test out your internet speeds with online speed tests or by simply trying to stream a video on the service of your choice. For troubleshooting tips, check out our in-depth guide to internet speeds. If it's your home network's Wi-Fi that is slowing things down, try one of our favorite routers!

Choose a streaming service

So what streaming service will replace your cable or satellite subscription? Well, that depends on what you want to watch – and how you want to watch it.

If you like starting and stopping your movies and shows on demand, a subscription video on demand service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu might be your best bet.

If it's live TV that you're craving, check out live TV streaming services – also known as “skinny bundles,” after the slimmed-down channel bundles that enable them to charge less than cable and satellite competitors. (You should also check out free over-the-air TV!)

There are sports league streaming services like MLB.TV, niche streaming services like the horror-only service Shudder, and even single-channel services like CBS All Access.

But don't be overwhelmed. Figuring out what subscriptions are best for you is as simple as writing down what you want to watch and finding the services that will let you watch it. Want to watch ESPN? Pick a live TV streaming service that includes it. Want to watch Seinfeld on demand? You'll find it on Hulu. Just keep tracking down your favorites and pick out your streaming services accordingly!

We'll help you along the way by reviewing and ranking the top streaming services, including Netflix and its on-demand competitors, the top live TV streaming services, and every other time of streaming video service we can find. It's what we do!

Choose a device

If you're like most people, you enjoy being able to watch your TV on, well, an actual TV screen. And if you're new to streaming video, you might wonder if you can watch videos online using your TV. Good news: you can!

It's no secret that smart TVs can give you access to services like Netflix. But smart TVs aren't always necessary. You can turn just about any TV into a de facto smart TV by purchasing a hardware device like the Roku Ultra, which plugs into your TV's HDMI port and acts as a hub for all things streaming.

That's just one device, of course. Roku has others, as do competitors like Amazon. And some of our favorite streaming platforms are built into smart TVs, too, if you're craving an all-in-one experience.

Which device is right for you will depend on a few things. It will depend on what platform you prefer, for one: pick one that's easy for you to navigate and that is pleasing on the eyes. It will also depend on what streaming services you use: while most major streaming services are available for most major platforms, there are always exceptions. And which device you choose will depend on your budget and your streaming needs, too, because each platform is available on a range of devices, from the affordable and relatively low-powered to the big and beefy giants of the streaming hardware world.

Need a guide? You've found one. Our device pages break down the platforms and the devices you choose from, and our reviews and rankings share our insights and opinions on our favorites.

Use an antenna

Before cable become the norm, most people got their live TV via antennas. Whatever happened to that kind of TV, anyway?

Well, actually, it's still around! I've you've ever seen big broadcast towers on a local TV station's property, then you know that free over-the-air TV – “OTA” for short – is alive and well.

In fact, it's better than ever. Modern OTA TV is broadcast in crisp HD. And with the help of some extra hardware, you can even record and replay live TV that you pick up with your antenna.

Getting an antenna and setting up your TV for OTA TV isn't tough, and we're here to walk you through every step of it. On top of that, we've got all the coverage that you need to understand your other OTA options, from simple OTA DVR setups to more complex systems involving PC TV tuners and media servers. It's all right here on Cordcutting.com!

Cancel your cable

Convinced yet? Ready to move from cable or satellite to streaming services and free over-the-air TV? Then there's just one thing left to do: say goodbye to that bulky cable or satellite bill!

Canceling cable or satellite should be the easiest part of this process, but you know that the cable and satellite companies don't want you to do that. Unfortunately, this part can be a bit of an ordeal. But we've got your back: here are a few tips to make your life easier when you call.

  • Set some time aside. Your company is going to put you on hold and make you jump through some hoops. Settle in and stay calm: they can't stonewall you forever.
  • Do your research. How much is an internet-only plan from your provider? Can you switch providers to get an introductory rate? And do you have phone service that could increase in price if you cancel a bundle? If you've crunched the numbers, you won't be fooled by fast-talking “retention experts.”
  • Have a reason – and it doesn't have to be the truth. Companies won't give you such a hard time about canceling if they think you're moving.
  • Be polite. Be firm, but don't throw a fit. The people on the other end of the phone are just doing their job, and they aren't eager to make your life harder – but if you do lose your cool, they won't be too eager to make your life easier, either.
  • Don't forget the equipment! Returning equipment can be a hassle, but you'll have to deal with nasty fees if you forget to do so or if you do so too late.

You can do this. It's a long phone call, but when it's over, you'll be free of those awful bills – and ready to watch everything you love for less.

Spread the movement

Cutting the cord gets a lot of attention in the news, but it's not a big, confusing thing: it's just a lot of people choosing to get better entertainment for less. Cutting the cord won't change your life, but it could make your life just a little bit better by making your entertainment options broader and more affordable.

And cord cutting can help other people, too. It can save money for your family members and friends, just like it can for you. So when you make the jump, let people know! Post on social media and share why you're making the change.

And tag us, if you'd like. We're on Facebook and Twitter, and we love talking with folks about the what, why, and how of cutting the cord and getting more TV than ever from streaming services and free over-the-air TV.