Act I: To cut or not to cut, that is the question

Part one of a two-part series

“Cutting the cord” has been in the public's conscience, perhaps mainly due to rising cost of "infotainment" and how the internet has changed the meaning of being informed/entertained. Saving money was my primary motive when I cut the cable cord some time ago. I have never looked back!

I thought it would take a little longer before cable's crown jewels such as ESPN and HBO became truly available through the internet in an a la carte fashion. Just look at how rocky the road was for the music industry to accept digital music.

My view is that innovation in the digital world, and the strategic inflection that is often required to embrace said innovation, don’t go hand-in-hand. Change is difficult, especially when the incumbent business model of delivering infotainment through cable/satellite has been very lucrative for the providers.

So imagine my surprise when ESPN became available a la carte over the internet earlier this year, with HBO coming in April.

Some of you may be wondering where to start when exploring the possibility to cut the cord. Here are some thoughts worth contemplating:

Contract Issues

If you currently subscribe to cable/satellite TV services, are you bound by a contract? The timing of when you can actually cut the cord may be dependent on when the contract expires. This is because the penalty to break your contract, aka the Early Termination Fee or “ETF” for short, may negate all the money savings.

Network Channels

Although cutting the cord generally refers to replacing the delivery of TV programming from cable/satellite to using the internet, this next question doesn’t require the internet at all: Do you frequently watch traditional local network channels such as ABC, NBC, CBS or PBS?

If so, you'll want to make sure you still have access to those channels. Many newer TVs can receive network signals via a digital tuner built into the TV. If your TV does not have a digital tuner, you’ll need to purchase an antenna and digital tuner box (also called a converter box or set-top box) so you can receive this programming over the air.

While a simple indoor antenna may be sufficient to receive strong TV signals, an outdoor antenna will pick up signals from farther away. To determine what type of outdoor antenna will give you the best reception, visit and enter your street address. The site offers information including: (1) a list of channels you could receive at your address; (2) how far away the towers are; and (3) what type of antenna is recommended.

I use an iView 3500STB digital tuner box that I bought in early 2014. It's still available on Amazon for around $40. An added bonus feature is that this model also provides recording functionality if you attach your own external hard drive (often referred to as a Digital Video Recorder or "DVR" for short).

The antenna is connected to the digital box using a coaxial cable (the kind that screws into the cable outlet). The digital box is connected to your TV with a different cord, most probably an HDMI cable, offering you crystal clear programming in high definition.

If you want more than the traditional local network TV channels that you can pull out of the ether for free, you get into the meat of what it means to cut the cord. Stay tuned for Act II of this two-part series in the next issue.

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart consulting, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 9:44 AM, 03.17.2015