Do you really need cable TV?

By June 19, 2015 October 20th, 2015 Blog

According to the Television Bureau of Advertising, nearly 60% of U.S. households subscribe to cable television. More than 30% use alternate delivery systems, including satellite TV.

If you get full-service cable TV or satellite television, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you really need hundreds of channels of cable TV programming?
  • Are you actually watching those four premium services that you added on to your subscription package?
  • Are your kids better off watching 10 hours of Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel every week?
  • Are CNN and CNBC providing information that you can’t get from the Internet for free?

The answer to these questions is almost certainly no. According to Nielsen, which tracks TV viewing habits, the average U.S. household receives 189 cable channels but only watches 17 of them. Yet people don’t hesitate to shell out $100 or more every month.

Take a look at the extra charges on the following telecommunications bill, which piles on more than $50 in premium channel charges in addition to the $135 base price for Internet/cable/phone service. The grand total is $226 per month:

RCN cable TV bill

There are some situations which do require cable or satellite television. Residents of rural areas or distant suburbs may be too far away from broadcast towers to receive over-the-air broadcast signals. If you want foreign-language programming, you will need to pay extra. In some television markets, professional sports are only offered through a cable television subscription. And there are some people who can’t imagine life without HBO or ESPN — they consider the dramas, games, and other programming to be life priorities!

But not everyone needs expensive subscriptions to premium channels. Millions of households would do fine with just the basic service package that brings in the nearest terrestrial broadcasters. A recent FCC study found the average cost of basic service is a little over $20 per month. For people who live near major urban centers, basic cable can be replaced by an antenna that plugs in to the back of a flat-screen TV. For a single one-time charge of $40, an antenna can bring in 20 or more digital television signals.

This post was excerpted from Personal Finance For Beginners In 30 Minutes, Volume 1:
How to cut expenses, reduce debt, and better align spending & priorities.