The Internet is taking over everything. For the first time, the number of people watching cable TV in America dropped by a quarter of a million subscribers in 2013. That's not a lot out of 100 million subscribers, but fast forward to 2018 and you see the direction things are going: In that year, the number of cord-cutters jumped 33% to roughly 33 million adults.
It's not just the money, although cable is really expensive, averaging an amazing $156 per month; it's simply the fact that if you have Internet access, you really don't need it anymore. We haven't had a cable connection for about nine years, and the alternatives just keep getting better and better.
There have been times that we missed it. My wife is obsessed with the Academy Awards, so we go to a friend's house and watch with them. It has turned into an annual ritual; the awards were streamed last year, but we still continued the party because it's so much fun. In the first few years, I will admit to doing a whole lot of illegal BitTorrent downloading, but with the exception of "Game of Thrones," I don't do that anymore — I promise, Scout's honor. I don't have to.
Tools of the trade
I wrote earlier about our new Apple TV, but there are all kinds of other plug-in streaming boxes like Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast. Even Wal-Mart is getting into the game with its own service called Vudu, although it garnered the most hilarious damning review I ever read on Gizmodo:
I suspect the Germans have a word for taking something great and then stripping it of everything remotely joyful until it's a cold hollow shell not fit for existence. Now I do too! Well, two words, I guess: Vudu Spark.
Then there are Netflix streaming monthly subscriptions, or you can buy shows on iTunes or Amazon. There are new players joining the pack all the time. With Hulu, you can get network programs. There's also HBO Go, which MNN's Michael d'Estries calls "the beginning of the end for cable's reign." The most recent addition is Disney+, described by CNN as "basically Netflix ... but stuffed with Disney films and TV shows."
The main reason people keep cable is evidently sports, which nobody in our family cares about. But a lot of people do, and they should know that more and more sports are coming online. (Though isn't that why they invented sports bars?)
The other reason some people keep cable is that the box is always on as a baby or grandma sitter. One cable cutter complained in Fortune that "the option of turning on the TV and watching whatever's on just to occupy time no longer exists." However, he also says he's spending more time with his family instead of staring at a screen.
One other variable to keep in mind is cost. Even though cutting cable will save you money, all those streaming devices and monthly fees can quickly add up — from $5 for Apple TV to $12 for Netflix. Just don't go overboard like this twitter user who racked up $90 a month in subscriptions and it will still be worthwhile.
The next step will be the cutting of the Internet cable as we switch to doing it all on our phones. You can see this north of the border in Canada, where I live; the cellphone companies have bought up TV networks and are moving their content to their phone systems. Way back in 2012, I watched five different streams of Olympic coverage on my cellphone in a cabin in the north woods; They charged five bucks for the whole thing. I had a video adapter connecting my phone to my projector, and it worked perfectly.
Just as millennials today will never own a land line, the next generation will probably never have an Internet connection that isn't wireless without WiFi, seamless Internet everywhere and in everything. They won't think about cutting the cable; they might not even know what cable was.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was published in January 2015.