Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Have you cut the cord from pay TV yet? The latest numbers from Nielsen indicate that 5.1 million households are getting over-the-air reception and supplementing it with Internet-delivered pay programming. That trend is up by roughly 25 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the average American household pays about $800 annually for cable and around $1,000 for satellite. It’s a battle I’m waging at our house. We’re with an expensive satellite player and I’ve floated the trial balloon with my wife and kids about cutting the cord entirely — they’re not having it. For me, it would be no big sacrifice because the only thing I watch on TV is the NFL. I would lose a handful of Monday night and Thursday night games, but the rest of the games are on regular network TV. It’s similar to when cellphones became ubiquitous some 10 years ago. There was a lot of talk about people cutting the landline, but it was more like a drop here and a drop there of people doing it. However, now that it’s 10 years later, you have monopoly local phone companies reporting big losses in customer numbers every quarter. I think it will be a similar slow progression with pay TV. For many, the process starts with cutting back on your package. It’s also a great idea to shop your plan. Many people now have access to four providers — two satellite companies, one cable company and a monopoly phone company providing TV. Pit them against each other and let them slug it out so you can get the best deal. And remember, loyalty hurts. A new customer at any pay TV provider can get an introductory deal with a contract. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website. And get more savings tips from Clark’s previous blog posts. — Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog