The primary idea behind this web site is simple — people who watch sports should be the ones who pay for sports.
If you subscribe to cable or satellite TV, this concept could apply to every one of the dozens of channels in your lineup. Sports channels just happen to be the most expensive. Still, if you do subscribe to a pay TV bundle specifically to watch sports, you’re paying for dozens of other channels you never watch.
Think of the kitchen appliance or two that might be collecting dust in your cupboard right now. You certainly intended to use them regularly when you bought them, but even those gadgets got some use before you forgot about them. Cable bundles are full of channels that are like those dusty gadgets, except you never even realized you bought them in the first place.
After all, nobody wants to feel like they’re wasting money. If you have some entertainment dollars set aside, you want those dollars to pay for things you’ll actually use. This is why online services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime have grown in popularity — they’re full of shows people want to watch, and so people pay for them because they use them.
So when Slate introduces this cord-cutting calculator that focuses solely on the financial aspects of cord-cutting, it misses a large part of the appeal of cord-cutting.
Yes, if you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, and HBO Now all at once, you might end up spending a bit more for TV than you would pay for cable or satellite. But does that cable bundle include HBO, beyond the three-months-free deal most pay TV carriers offer? Does that cable bundle include the huge catalog of on-demand shows that Netflix, Amazon, and HBO can offer? Does that bundle include too many channels that you don’t want to support with your money? Does the “introductory price” of that bundle include all the hidden fees that cable companies don’t tell you exist until you get the bill?
Those hidden fees are one of the biggest weaknesses of pay TV that streaming services can attack. Most streaming services keep it simple and honest — here’s how much you pay, here’s what you get. Netflix and Redbox ultimately destroyed Blockbuster by introducing straight-forward movie rental services that called shenanigans on Blockbuster’s late fees.
The market ultimately sided with Netflix over Blockbuster, because Netflix was more honest with its customers. The market also punished Netflix when it appeared to be engaged in shenanigans of its own. Who enjoys feeling cheated out of their hard-earned money? Nobody.
This makes keeping it simple the best policy for streaming services. They can use simple pricing to attack the local cable monopoly, because those cable monopolies can’t even pretend they aren’t trying to rip off customers. Cable companies offer the worst customer service in the country, and all their promotional prices for television conveniently leave out the “broadcast TV fees”, “sports channel fee”, and “DVR fee” that end up adding more to your monthly bill. Compare that bill to what Sling TV offers — pay $20 + tax, get these 20 channels. Want more sports? Pay another $5 + tax. It’s still a compromise, of course; you might end up paying for a dozen channels you never watch. Still, this is an improvement paying for ten dozen channels you never watch.
That’s the true value proposition of cord-cutting — using what you pay for, and not being forced to pay for what you don’t. It’s the closest thing to a la carte television that we have today, and with more streaming services being introduced regularly, including new services from Apple and Sony, everyone’s TV options will continue to grow.
So when you consider getting rid of cable or satellite TV, don’t think about it strictly in terms of cost. Instead, think about whether you would get more value for your money from streaming services. That might change your approach to cord-cutting for the better.