Cutting The Cord Analysis

With the announcement of the Apple TV and then the new Hulu Plus this fall, I (like many others) had grand visions of what is commonly called “cutting the cord”. Meaning, that I wanted to get out of my expensive cable contract and watch all my TV shows using only online media. After all, Apple was now touting HD $.99 rentals and Hulu Plus had just arrived with an $8/month price tag. Those two outlets, plus my current subscription with Netflix and I was sure I could now cut that expensive cable chord. Boy was I wrong.

Disclosure: For what it’s worth, I work in the TV industry and have worked at major cable networks.

The Parameters

I had a few requirements/parameters when I did my research. First, all the shows had to be in HD. I wasn’t going to sacrifice quality. And since I just bought a brand new 55" 3D TV, I wanted everything to be the best quality it could be - within reason. Secondly, I would constrain the timeframe to 4 months (September thru December). That way, I could match my cable bill squarely up against the new online option. Lastly, I didn’t want to surf from website to website watching each show on it’s individual network site. It all had to be convenient and organized into a few main devices.

The Current Setup

The first thing I needed to determine was how much my current setup was costing me. After a few phone calls to the cable company I got these figures:

Current Setup:** HD, DVR Cable + Internet

Total Bill: ($168/mo.): $672

Then, I wanted this comparison to be apples to apples so the figure had to represent JUST the cable package and NOT cable plus internet.

Internet: ($44.95 + $5.00 with Cable Package/mo.): $200

Adj Cost (Cable Only): $472

This was the number I had to beat with the online option - $472. If the online option was cheaper than this, then it would be better for me to cut the chord.

The List

Next, I set out to create a list of all the different shows I watched on a regular basis and that I wanted to continue watching for the remainder of the season. The complete season of these shows are included in the cable’s $472 figure so I needed to find everyone of these online somewhere. Here’s the list…don’t judge me!

  • Glee
  • Human Target
  • Family Guy
  • Modern Family
  • Cougar Town
  • Community
  • The League
  • How I met your Mother
  • Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Hawaii Five O
  • The Walking Dead
  • CSI
  • The Office
  • The Event
  • The Mentalist

I went to iTunes first, trying to find the shows under the HD rental section. But what I found out was that most of the shows I wanted to watch weren’t available to rent - only purchase, which dramatically increased the cost.

Next, I went through Hulu Plus and cross referenced my findings with the iTunes list - crossing off the ones in iTunes that I found under Hulu Plus. The problem though with Hulu was that some of the shows weren’t licensed to Hulu and the site just redirected you to the networks main site.


I started pricing out the different shows and how much they’d cost. Here’s how it broke down:

iTunes ($.99 HD Rentals) 1

  • Glee: x10, $10
  • Human Target: x4, $4
  • Family Guy: x6, $6
  • Modern Family: x10, $10
  • Cougar Town: x10, $10

Sub Total: $4

iTunes (HD Purchase) 2

  • Community: $55 Season
  • The League: $32 Season
  • How I met your Mother: $53 Season
  • Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia: $28 Season
  • Hawaii Five O: $56 Season
  • The Walking Dead: $16 Season
  • CSI: $58 Season
  • The Office: $60 Season
  • The Event: $50 Season

Sub Total: $298

Hulu Plus - $8/month 3

  • Family Guy
  • Cougar Town
  • The Event
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office

The Online Totals

The final step was to add everything up:

Online Only Setup: Internet w/iTunes & Hulu Plus

Internet Only4 ($60/mo.): $240

Hulu Plus: ($8/mo.): $32

iTunes: ($4+$298): $302

Total Cost: $574

The Results

This was very disappointing. The cable option was $472 and the online option was $574. Cutting the chord was way more expensive that I had previously thought. These results might not be perfect but they show that, despite all the marketing and news reports about customer subscription rates dropping, this technology just isn’t up to par with my old fashioned cable subscription - yet!

  1. Yep, that’s right. I could only find HD rentals for 5 of the 15 shows. After cross referencing those 5 against what was available on Hulu, I was only going to be renting one show. Disappointing. 

  2. This was really disappointing. The seasons of the shows cost quite a bit. And it seams there is no standardized pricing. Each shows full season was a different price. After cross referencing those 9 against what was available on Hulu, I was going to have to purchase 7 full seasons of shows. 

  3. Sadly, I couldn’t find ‘The Mentalist’ as of this posting, so I would have to lose that one. And you can’t access live sports or news yet online. Finally, without an XBOX 360 to access their exclusive ESPN footage, I couldn’t get live sports either. So no more Auburn football. That’s a big deal breaker for some people. I just figured I’d go to the local sports bar. 

  4. Cable companies give you a break when you package your internet with your cable subscription. If you decide to go Internet only, they’re going to charge you more. And if more and more people start to cut their cable subscriptions, then the cable companies will have no choice but to raise rates on their internet packages - perhaps even go to a tiered pricing system.