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Cord Cutting Is Hard But It Might Soon Be Necessary

by March 06, 2023
Time to cut the cord?

Time to cut the cord?

If I am not mistaken, it was the American gangsta rapper, Big Daddy Kane, who once said “Pimpin’ ain’t easy” which I can imagine it is not. Cord cutting isn’t easy either but it is looking more and more necessary in a post-COVID world filled with streaming services of all sorts looking for that $9.99 (or more) every month. Death by 1,000 cuts is already underway on my credit card and I am getting quite fed up with it. But to be clear, the biggest pig that needs to get slaughtered on the cord-cutting list is DirecTV.


DirecTV and I go back to 1997, in terms of a working business relationship. As an expatriate Philadelphian, you don’t get over your sports allegiances easily (if ever) when you are from The City of Brotherly love. In my case, the most important team to follow is the Philadelphia Flyers. Back in the 1990s and before the satellite, you were lucky to see three or four nationally televised games in Los Angeles for an east coast team like the Flyers. The NHL package changed that completely by giving mostly other-team-broadcasts of games but for pretty much every game on the Flyers (or whole NHL) schedule. This was a total game-changer for me and with DVRs and HD feeds. Living in L.A. as a Flyers fan wasn’t all that hard anymore. DirecTV’s product was always superior to cable in terms of its technology, channel options and value. This was the case for much more than a decade. They were early to the HD game. They were early to the 4K game too but seem to not really have embraced that format much in modern years, sadly. Don’t ask about 8K because you aren’t getting it unless you have an antenna and live in Japan. That’s kinda vaporware at this point even if you can buy an 8K set in a Best Buy in most cities in America.

DirecTV’s era owned by AT&T is one of the great corporate catastrophes in modern tech history. They paid a hundred million dollar fortune for the subscription-based satellite system with upwards of 20,000,000 paying users. They then raised prices. They then outsourced their increasingly poor and ineffective customer service. They stopped pushing technical limits with their highly limited 4K channels. DirecTV basically lived off of their juicy deal with the National Football League, which cost upwards of $600 per year for Eagles’ fans like me to see my Birds. I’ve paid for it in the past, but I don’t pay for it now as the bill is simply too high for the number of games that I would get to see. Now, under new private equity ownership, the NFL deal is likely going to other players in the market, thus making the draw for DirecTV less and less. But don’t worry, DirecTV’s new bean counter owners are still raising prices at every chance they get. I am literally the only person in my house who watches DirecTV. I have two receivers (a relic of the past and an additional cost of $7 per month) and a modest package of channels that includes Showtime and that costs me $168 per month. I need to spend $79 more for their satellite Internet backup, which boasts a 25 MBPS download speed. Spectrum, my main Internet provider, is way faster and about $115 per month. That’s about the monthly lease payment on a C-Class Mercedes in terms of communication payments and that doesn’t include Disney +, Netflix, Amazon Prime (two accounts), HBOMax and the other streaming services. The costs are getting simply out of hand.

Cutting The Cord Just Isn’t Easy


On the NFL side, my Eagles are having a nice year, but there is no way that I am paying $79.95 per game to watch non-national broadcasts when I can catch up on the scoring plays on Sports Center or elsewhere. My newly revived USC Trojans are a different story. They are a local team but for a little while longer are broadcast on The PAC 12 Network. That is a network, much like the one that covers the Dodgers (important for millions here in L.A.) is not part of DirecTV. With a young, brand new $10,000,000-per-year coach and a bunch of A-list college transfers coming to SC for their NIL money via “the portal”. I wanted to see our opening game versus the almighty football powerhouse known as Rice. The game was on the Pac 12 Network, so I downloaded the Fubo TV app and signed up for their $79 per month, no-contract option. For the hour before the game, I experimented with the channels, which were OK but nothing compared to DirecTV’s line up. When the game was slated to come on, I went to the PAC 12 Network and saw that they were playing women’s volleyball over USC football. I waited to see if they would cut over. They didn’t. I canceled Fubo on the spot.

Outsourced Customer Service Leads To A Pathetic Outcome


DirecTV can’t figure out how to give me the NHL Center Ice Package. Period. They just can’t do it. Their teams of low-cost and low-skill customer service people have limited tools and abilities to solve DirecTV issues for customers. They’ve been told to (repeatedly) apologize for issues that they didn’t cause, but they can’t seem to solve the issues either. As I type, it is game 19 in the NHL season and I still don’t have the package working. I’ve called during U.S. business hours and gotten advanced support people (as well as client retention people) and they can’t make a hockey game come on my many TVs. They just can’t. They say that they need to call back the next day and cannot do so. And in the end, they take my money and deliver nothing. This isn’t a very good value proposition.

Cable Still Sucks (In Case You Forgot)

It is hard not to do business with the cable company because if you need high-speed, higher bandwidth Internet, you are likely going to do business with your local provider. For me, that is Spectrum, but Frontier just installed fiber in our neighborhood and is offering 500 MBPS down at $39 per month. That is tempting as a backup as compared to the Hughes Net service that I have that is slow and expensive although physically diversified thanks to the service coming via satellite. That might be a plus (after adding some more long-term battery backup) in the event of a significant earthquake.

I don’t see any 4K on my neighbor’s cable, and I looked. They can watch the Dodgers and USC on the PAC 12 Network, but the picture doesn’t seem to be as good looking as DirecTV or Dish somehow. On cable, the channels bundle better, at a better price when included with the cost of Internet and possibly phone, but you don’t get all the best other channels that you get on the Satellite. I’ve been tempted to just simplify and go with Spectrum for TV, but a recent trip to a friend’s house nearby left me unimpressed by the user interface and channel options on cable. Sadly, cable still sucks.

5G wireless internet offers promise with high speed Internet over cellular carriers as part of what is for me another $180 per month bill but where I live in the hills right above the Pacific Ocean, we don’t have wireless coverage at home. Down the street, it picks up, but not in front of our house and our HOA cares just as much how happy the people are in the neighborhood as DirecTV does that I have my hockey games recording. That’s not much.

What’s Coming Next That Might Tempt Us To Cut The Cord?

It wouldn’t be crazy to say that Apple or Amazon will have something to say about the television business. Apple has wanted to offer an a’ la carte option for TV channels for years, but the networks are not into it one bit. Over time, they might not have a choice in that people simply won’t pay these obscenely high monthly rates for standard, non-curated television. There are too many apps that are packed with content. There’s plenty of channels and shows on YouTube.com or Twitch. There are alternatives that are compelling, high resolution and lower cost.

Never sleep on Amazon in this space either. Their deal with the NFL feels like just the start of something much bigger. They have the money and the interest to out-bid DirecTV for their NFL package and people can then get it as part of their Amazon Prime subscription that will seem like a savings. AWS has the infrastructure to deliver games in 4K in ways that DirecTV (or Dish or anybody) can’t do right now. Amazon could be a big player here to get us better options for money we are likely already spending.

So, Should You Cut The Cord Now?

5-CableTVI tried and I failed with the Fubo TV experiment. I choked again when playing with local cable. I need traditional TV for sports, but I don’t need a pre-streaming $350 data bill every month. It is well over $500 per month if you add Verizon into the conversation for mobile phone service. That’s insane.

Sports fans have the hardest time cutting the cord. Movie lovers can do so more easily. People who love watching shows binge-style can buy into an app for a month and watch the entire show and then cancel. That’s a more cost effective way to stay up on your Billions or Succession or whatever else you like these days as there are so many brilliant shows.

With our travel budgets slashed, streaming and entertainment at home was of paramount value during COVID. Now that we are back out and about in a world with some very high consumer inflation, it is good to look at all of your costs and services. What do you need? What could you live without (think: my second DirecTV receiver)? What can’t you live without (high speed Internet, backup Internet etc…). Is every streaming service giving you the $10 to $15 per month value? If not, cut back. Would Amazon Music help you cut another music service and lower your spend as it is part of your Prime membership already? These are the types of moves that you can make to save money, lower stress, yet not give up much (or anything).

One last tip, before you cut off any service, call them and specifically ask for “client retention” meaning you plan to cut off their service. This will get you to the most friendly, most capable and smartest people at the company and quickly. They do not want to lose your money every month and often they will lower your prices for a while to keep you happy. Perhaps that makes a difference too, as it has with me in past calls to DirecTV.

Tell us about your stage of cord cutting at this part of your journey. What have been your concerns? What have been your victories? We want to hear from you!


About the author:
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Jerry is the Creator and former Publisher of AVRev.com, HomeTheaterReview.com and AudiophileReview.com. Currently, he publishes FutureAudiophile.com, an enthusiast site trying to bring the audio hobby to a new, younger audience.

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