MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A "basic" cable bill these days, isn't very basic at all! The added "extras" and "fees" range from premium channels and an HD set-top box to paying for your remote now! If cable bills keep rising the way they have been, experts say you could be paying $200 per month in just a few years.
Larry Collett, tired of paying high cable bills, changed the way he watches TV.
"I got a digital antenna, so I could get all 3 networks, then I bought a Roku that cost me $99 and then I was able to start accessing all different types of movies and channels," Collett says. "You can hop online and go to all the major networks, so I would start watching it straight from my laptop, until I bought the Chromecast."
Collett also subscribes to Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus, and still cut his cable bill from more than $100 per month to less than $20.
To figure out how to cut your bill, you have to understand why costs are rising so rapidly. HTC marketing coordinator Nicole Hyman says it boils down to three things: competition, content and consolidation.
First, competition among TV providers has given programmers more leverage.
"We have to negotiate with programmers, [but] they're also negotiating with our competitors at the same time, so sometimes those tactics can become extreme," Hyman says, adding that content remains king. "Specifically when we're talking about sports rights and having what viewers want to see." She says both are "coming at higher and higher rates."
Also leading to higher rates: when programmers merge, creating massive conglomerates that force cable companies to absorb added costs.
"90 percent of the time it's not just one channel we're negotiating for, it's a larger media group that owns several channels," Hyman says. "They're bundling those channels and requiring, actually forcing, cable companies to purchase the lower channels in order to receive the more popular channels."
There has been talk of "a la carte" cable, or letting customers choose which channels they get, but Hyman says the idea isn't a silver bullet for lowering your bill.
"A typical customer may pay $5.99 for one channel and typically a customer views at least 15-17 channels, so in the long run, it may end up costing customers even more."
Hyman says a very small number of customers are known as "cord cutters," people so fed up with high rates they get rid of cable altogether. Collett is a cord cutter and he doesn't regret it, even though he's had to change some of his TV habits.
"[The] big difference between more video on demand as opposed to cable: you can't browse through and watch live TV, you have to know what you're looking for," Collett says. "So you go to Netflix and then you watch a particular movie or show."
Collett says his cable bill used to be about $113 per month. When he cut the cord, he bought a Roku 3 for $99 and Google Chromecast for $30. Roku allows you to access services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and even Pandora music stations, and play them through your TV. Chromecast lets you stream the internet through your TV.
Collett says the average viewer would be satisfied paying for one service. Netflix and HuluPlus both start at $7.99 a month. He has both, plus an Amazon Prime account, which means he gets free use of the instant video service. So for about $15 a month, he has access to thousands of TV and music channels and movies.
Those not looking to make such a drastic change are what Hyman refers to as "cord shavers," or conscious consumers looking to save on their bill.
"We recommend our members choose from a bundle of channels that fit their needs," Hyman advises. "The additional value is coming with new technologies that includes video on demand and TV everywhere."
One of the big reasons more people don't cut the cord is sporting events. Historically, if you wanted to see a game live, you had to watch it on TV. But Collett says even that is slowly shifting with the MLB, NBA and NHL all offering streaming of games. He says everyone is still waiting for the big player, the NFL, to decide cost and availability of games, which alone could change the whole direction of how sporting events are viewed.
Thinking about cutting or "shaving" the cord? Click here for a comparison of popular cable, satellite, and digital streaming services and products.