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The Hidden Costs of Cord-Cutting

Cutting the cord may seem like a good idea, but ditching cable can have far-reaching consequences hidden just downstream. If you’re a fan of video entertainment—especially live television—cord-cutting can impact your wallet, your time, and even your health.

Your Money

Saving money by cutting the cost of a cable subscription is among the leading reasons people cut the cord in the first place. But when one streaming subscription leads to another, you may find you’re spending more than you were before you cut the cord.

Let’s do the math.

Whether you have traditional TV service or streaming TV service, you’ll need internet service. Many cable companies offer a discount on internet service when you bundle it with TV service. So by canceling your TV service, you’re likely paying about $10 more per month for your internet service.

Next, you should consider that since streaming is now your sole source of video entertainment, you may need to upgrade your internet service package to either a higher speed or a higher data limit. That will likely cost you at least another $10 per month. Now we’re up to an extra $20 per month so far, and we haven’t even gotten to the streaming services yet.

Monthly CostExtraTotal
Upgraded Internet

+ $10


Loss of Bundle Discount

+ $10



+ $9


Amazon Prime

+ $8



+ $8



+ $15


A stream becomes a river.

A Netflix subscription costs about $9 per month. That’s a good rate for the amount of content it has, but when you dig in to how much of that content you actually want to watch, it’s not as great of a deal. For the first few months, you’ll find plenty you want to watch. But after a short time, you’ll exhaust your viewing preferences and be thirsty for something new. And, while Netfilx adds new programs every month, it also subtracts content every month, so once you’re up to date on your favorite shows, you’ll find yourself wanting more good shows and more good movies, regardless of the total inventory.

Figuring you’re already saving money, you may decide you can afford another streaming service to have more options. Thinking you might enjoy the shipping discounts that come with it, you decide to go with Amazon Prime. That will run you about $99 per year. We’ll call it $8 a month.

You find a few more shows you want to watch on Prime, but soon you find yourself paying for access to a lot of shows you don’t want to watch, just as you were before. Plus, Prime will entice you into spending even more money by showing you a lot of great movies you can stream if you’re willing to pay a few extra dollars for them. For the purposes of doing the math here, we’ll pretend you have the willpower of a marathon runner and not include those likely additional costs.

The costs keep flowing.

Stuck once again with nothing much you want to watch and tired of being left out of the watercooler TV talk at work, you add Hulu for $8 per month and HBO® NOW for $15 per month. If you’re a sports fan, expect to pay even more to stream live games, but we’ll leave that cost out.

When you add all these costs together, you’ll see you aren’t saving much money, and in some cases, you’re actually paying more than you would with a cable subscription. All other things being equal, this may seem negligible, but, as we’ll point out in the rest of this piece, cord-cutting carries additional costs that go beyond the monthly fees.

Your Time

Choose wisely. The ability to start and stop shows whenever you want sounds like the ultimate convenience. However, what if you don’t know what you want to watch?

With cable television, you can come home from a hard day at work, flip on the TV, kick back, and enjoy a bit of entertainment for a few minutes before making dinner or running errands. Because you have your favorite channels and know what’s on when, you can quickly pick a show and roll with it.

Choosing what to watch gets even simpler when you have a top-notch DVR full of the newest episodes of your favorite shows that you can start and stop at will.

When choosing what to watch on a streaming service, you spend your time scrolling through thousands of titles, most of which don’t sound appealing.

A recent survey found Netflix users spend an average of eighteen minutes a day searching for something to watch. The same study found cable users only spend nine minutes searching for something to watch. Eighteen minutes a day adds up quickly.

When you finally do find something to watch, you potentially could be setting yourself up for an even bigger time sink.

Commercial breaks are opportunities.

You may think of commercials as a time waster, but they may actually save you time. Streaming without commercials means you have to pause the show you’re watching to do little tasks like running to the restroom or grabbing a snack. With the show stopped, you may take longer to get those things done. When you get back to the couch, you start the show from the same place you left off, but you added all that time you had it paused to the total run time of the show.

And even if you get started watching a show in a timely manner, you may not be able to stop. Shows on streaming services play automatically, back-to-back. What this means is you’ll be saying “just one more” all night long. Shows on traditional TV services that feature commercial breaks between each episode give you a logical stopping point to move on to your post-television plans for the night.

How do you stop?

Show’s made exclusively for streaming services design their content to keep people watching continuously. Not only do they add cliffhangers to almost every episode, they also release entire seasons on the same day. That’s how streaming services suck you into a binge-watching blackhole that leaves you waking up on the couch at 4:00 a.m., lamenting that you didn’t do important things in your life, like walking the dog.

When you have a cable TV package, you not only have access to exclusive live shows like awards shows and sporting events, but you also can watch shows in their current season so you won’t feel like the last to know about big cliffhangers and exciting plot twists.

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Your Health

Binge-watching the latest season of your favorite show may seem like a safe way to spend an evening, but your streaming habits may slowly be killing you. Recent studies link binge-watching and the sedentary lifestyle that usually accompanies it to mental and physical illnesses.

A 2015 study by researchers at the University of Toledo found, “TV viewing (especially screen time) is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. With the advent of novel media for viewing television, ’binge-watching’ is a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed.”

Addiction and depression were a few of the mental health disorders this study identified as being associated with binge-watching.

The mental health risks of binge-watching are even greater for children and adolescents. According to a 2013 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand, excessive TV watching is linked to antisocial behavior. Another study in the UK that same year found that five-year-old children who watched more than three hours of television a day were more prone to violence and other negative behavior, including theft.

Long periods spent sitting and watching television, like those associated with binge-watching, have also been associated with elevated risks to physical health. Several studies conducted over the past fifteen years at major universities and research institutes link behaviors associated with binge watching to increased risks of obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, low sperm count, and more. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association even found an elevated risk of premature death related to excessive TV watching.

Granted, spending excessive amounts of time watching TV isn’t exclusive to streaming services. However, as we talked about earlier, traditional TV services have built-in breaks, while streaming services create conditions that make binge-watching more convenient and easier than ever before.

Your Inside Information

The huge number of people cutting the cord on cable and switching to internet-only television options has had rippling effects on the television industry. Cable companies and television networks alike are feeling the pinch of the lost revenue. While cable companies can offset some of that loss with their internet services, television networks have been forced to make cutbacks. Those cutbacks hurt the quality of reporting you receive as a consumer. The clearest example of this comes from the realm of sports.

Following an 11% year-over-year loss in revenue, the sports television giant ESPN executed massive layoffs of on-air talent. The loss in revenue was attributed to rising rights fees and to an estimated 10 million subscribers cutting the cord.

The bulk of layoffs came on April 2, 2017, when ESPN let about 100 people go in a single day. A huge chunk of the people who lost their jobs that day were field reporters or those embedded with specific teams or leagues. In other words, they were insiders.

ESPN decided the price of in-depth reporting was too high and opted to keep its in-studio talent instead. This means you, as the viewer, receive more speculative analysis and fewer insights from direct sources.

If a staple of the industry like ESPN—that also happens to be backed by Disney—could face such a harsh reality in the face of cord-cutting, it could happen to virtually any television network. The creator of your favorite show may be next.

As you can see, cord-cutting may not be as liberating as it seems. If nothing else, it’s definitely not a decision you should rush into. Perhaps a better solution is to simply find for your viewing habits. To see which packages are available in your area, enter your zip code in the box below.

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About the Author

John Dilley is an endless source of new ideas. With a background in both sports and music, he offers a unique perspective. He has written for The Daily Utah Chronicle, Filler, and has contributed content to several commercial websites.

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