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On the rise: 'Zero TV' households

Sam Chada • Jul 17, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Cutting the cable cord

I am proud to say that I have not subscribed to cable in over two years. I’m a streamer; I rely solely on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime’s Instant Video and Internet TV for my television and movie viewing. In total, I’ve probably saved over $2500 from cutting the cable cord two years ago.

But I’m not the only one. According to a recent Nielsen study there is a shift towards “Zero TV” households. A “Zero TV” household is defined by Nielsen as a group who has “bucked tradition by opting to get the information they need and want from non-traditional TV devices and services” or folks who get their content on other devices like a computer, internet, smartphone or tablet.

You may be wondering how one cuts the cable cord, but still has access to premium content. It’s actually pretty simple, and I’ll walk you through the process on how to get started.


I stream content directly to my TV using a TV-top box; you can stream to a computer, game console, tablet, or smartphone, but for the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus specifically on TV streaming.

Before we get started, see if you already have a streaming device in your home. Some televisions, Blu-ray players, and game consoles will also connect to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

If you don’t already have something, there are a couple of options that are pretty cost effective:

Apple TV: If you’re an Apple fan, you may really enjoy the Apple TV. It offers iTunes integration and AirPlay. AirPlay lets you wirelessly stream what’s on your iOS device to your HDTV and speakers via Apple TV. The Apple TV is priced at $100.

Roku: If you’re looking for content, Roku offers the most channels and is easy to set-up. The Roku box connects to your TV using coaxial or HDMI hook-ups (just like a DVD player) and comes with its own remote. Once connected to your TV and the power turned on, you’ll have to connect it to your WiFi network and off you go. Roku utilizes a pseudo-app store which allows you to download channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. You can also download free channels for more access to content such as Crackle, PBS, and the Smithsonian channel. The latest Roku will cost around $100, but older models are still available and retail for about $50.

There have been whispers that Amazon is working to develop their own TV set-top box for streaming, but Amazon has yet to confirm this rumor.

Streaming Digital Content

There is a difference between the content available watching cable or satellite television, and streaming. When streaming content, the selection is limited and you don’t have access to every cable show that you may be addicted to. However, there are multiple online options that provide on-demand access to some of your favorite television shows and movies.

Netflix: In my opinion, Netflix has the most robust online movie catalog, as well as television shows and kids entertainment. Netflix has also developed original shows like the shockingly huge hit House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Netflix also revived Arrested Development which was surprisingly canceled by Fox after four seasons. Netflix can also be accessed using a Roku box, computer, Smart TV or mobile device. The monthly subscription is $7.99 per month.

Hulu: While Netflix shines when it comes to movies, Hulu takes the prize for the best access to TV shows. Hulu does a great job of offering most shows online the day after they air for free. Some of their stand out shows include, but not limited to, Family Guy, Hell’s Kitchen, Law & Order, Nashville, The Office, Master Chef and Scandal. For $7.99 per month, you can subscribe to Hulu Plus which provides better access to content, as well as the ability to stream to TV or mobile devices.

Amazon Prime: Amazon Prime is an annual subscription of $79 which provides access to Prime Instant Video and also free, two-day shipping on items, as well as other benefits. Amazon Prime has a nice selection of movies and television for streaming, but you can also rent new movie releases for 24 hours and buy access to premium cable shows for roughly $1.99 per episode.

At the end of the day, my monthly streaming bill averages $35 a month (which is still $100 [or more!] cheaper than what I was previously paying). I will admit that I budget an extra $20 per month for guilty pleasure premium cable shows like Housewives of New Jersey or The Wire.

To help bridge the gap in content, I also borrow a ton of DVDs from the library. Any movie lover or television show enthusiast would be proud of the library’s collection. And if the library’s copy of a certain title is checked out, I order the movie or TV show from another CLEVNET library.

So, are you ready to cut the cord and try streaming? Do you have any reservations? If so, let me know in the comments.

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