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Cutting the Cable

Video on demand (VOD) and streaming services are changing the way viewers watch TV. Users no longer have to wait until nine o’clock to watch their favorite shows, and many are skipping commercials. New movies don’t have to be rented from a store, ordered via cable TV, or even seen in a theater. Affordable online subscription services are expanding TV options and, in some cases, replacing cable.

With the average cost of a cable TV bill in the U.S. at $99—results of a steady 8% rise since 2010—many viewers are cutting the cord simply due to costs. As costs rise, so have VOD subscribers and the number of services available. In 2010 the VOD giant Netflix had just over 20 million subscribers worldwide. Now at 83 million subscribers, that number has more than quadrupled. At $8 a month for a basic Netflix package, it’s easy to see why.

In northern Michigan, the Harrison District Library and Pere-Marquette Library hosted a series of classes offering money-saving tips and tricks during Money Smart Week, including instruction for residents looking to use online video streaming services in lieu of cable.

“The main focus was showing people how to use media opportunities that exist with the Internet to get rid of possible cable or satellite connections,” said Nick Loomis, Harrison District Library IT Director and class instructor. “Internet streaming, uses a service that many already have, and expands it to eliminate a redundant bill. How many of us already have this technology and aren’t using it to its fullest potential?”

A 2016 Nielsen study found that 35% of North Americans use some type of paid online service to watch TV and 32% of responders plan to cut their cable service. With almost every big technology player and most broadcast networks now offering their own on-demand services, choosing the right one can be a challenge. Dozens now exist, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Sling TV, YouTube Red, PlayStation Vue, and more.
“The best way to do it is to decide what to watch,” said Loomis. Some services offer new content immediately, while others will add a TV show or movie after it has fully aired, making the difference between episodic viewing and “binge watching.” Some offer news and sports stations, others offer kid-friendly programming, others offer popular exclusive programs, like House of Cards on Netflix or The Path on Hulu.

With interest in VOD viewing growing, Loomis says the libraries plan to offer another class during the holiday season to help residents save money during an expensive time when new technology is circulating. “A week or two after the class, we seem to have a lot of people saying ‘I wish I could have done that.’”

See how the Internet is changing everyday life all over the country and learn more online at