Entertainment Television

Cutting the cord: Five things to consider before ditching traditional TV

By Steve Tilley, Special to Postmedia Network

(File photo)

(File photo)

Snip. Snip. Snip.

That’s the sound of hundreds of thousands of Canadians cutting the cord, choosing to leave behind traditional television in favour of online streaming alternatives. Whether they’re fed up with sky-high cable bills or simply part of a generation that never really tuned in to begin with, more and more of us are turning our backs on old-timey TV.

But while giving TV the boot can be a liberating experience – especially for your wallet – it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Here are five questions you need to ask yourself before you consider cutting yourself loose.

WHAT DO YOU SPEND TIME WATCHING? LIKE, REALLY WATCHING?

This is where a generational divide seems to come in – older folks who can’t imagine missing the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory the moment it airs might have trouble surrendering their TV packages, while millennials who don’t care – or who are fine with watching free episodes on the various networks’ websites a day later – have little use for a traditional TV. How many hours can you wait for your Sheldon fix?

HOW TECHNOLOGICALLY COMPETENT ARE YOU?

Traditional TV is easy to access: point the remote, press a button or two, and suddenly Dr. Phil is right there in your home, like a malignant tumour on your colon. Cutting the cord means diving into online content that may require watching shows on a tablet or laptop (or streaming them to your TV from another device), installing set-top devices like Apple TV or Roku, and having good Wi-Fi throughout your house (the new-to-Canada and easy-to-install Google Wifi is awesome for this, blanketing your home with a rock-solid signal.) You don’t have to be Bill Nye, but technophobes might find it a tough transition.

CAN YOU GET A DECENT OVER-THE-AIR TV SIGNAL WHERE YOU LIVE?

We sometimes forget there’s still such a thing as free TV. The major Canadian networks broadcast crystal-clear, high-definition signals in most cities and larger towns, and if you live close enough to the U.S. border, you can probably get some American stations, too. But a lot of factors affect the quality and quantity of channels you can pull in, like how close you live to an urban centre and whether you’re able to mount an outdoor HD antenna, or can get by with an indoor unit (decent ones can be had for less than $100, or even built by hand.) Again, some work is required to earn your freedom.

HOW WELL CAN YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT LIVE SPORTS?

This is where cord-cutting gets tricky. Workarounds range from buying a sports streaming subscription (such as SportsNet Now or Rogers NHL GameCentre Live) to watching bootleg online streams of varying reliability and quality. Things can get expensive if you want a wide selection of sports, as subscriptions to three or four streaming services can easily add up to the cost of a monthly cable bill. Another solution: convince one of your still-corded friends to lend you their cable service login so you can watch live TV online.

HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH BREAKING THE LAW?

We can’t ignore the fact that plenty of people dump cable or satellite and turn to their high-speed Internet connection for all their entertainment needs. Some sources are totally legit, of course – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and their ilk have thousands upon thousands of hours of content available for a reasonable monthly subscription, and movies and TV shows can be easily purchased or rented on iTunes or the built-in stores on the Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

But with the plentiful proliferation of torrent sites, newbie-friendly services like Popcorn Time and Android TV boxes pre-installed with copyright-infringing software, skirting the law to watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or (if you really must) The Big Bang Theory is becoming easier than ever. But will you still feel good about yourself in the morning? What would Sheldon do?

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