FARGO — Watching TV is America's favorite pastime, with nearly 80% of the population watching TV on any given day.
That's according to data from the 2018 American Time Use Survey, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that collects information about how people use their time. But not all of those TV-watching Americans are getting their televised entertainment through "traditional" means.
When it comes to TV subscribers, 2018 was the year of the snip. USA Today reported that cable providers lost around 1.1 million subscribers in the third quarter of 2018 alone, while over 725,000 left satellite providers.
So, why did millions of Americans choose to cut the cord in 2018?
"Financial purposes, mostly," says Stephanie Krumvieda, an East Grand Forks, Minn., resident and mother of two. She and her husband got rid of their DirecTV subscription in 2017. "We only watched maybe five or six of the channels they offered and (we) hated spending that much money to watch a fraction of what (DirecTV) had to offer," she says.
Oftentimes, customers choose to scale back on their subscriptions simply because they didn't use the services as much as they thought they would.
"I was sick of paying for a large group of channels that I never watched," says West Fargo resident Brian Kleespies, who previously had cable through Midco and decided to switch to streaming services three years ago. "It seems a lot less wasteful to purchase pieces of entertainment, rather than paying $130-plus for cable or satellite that I know I'll never get my use out of."
Fortunately, more and more streaming options are becoming available every day, including the launch this fall of Disney Plus that offers up some of the entertainment world's top properties, including Marvel, Pixel, "Star Wars" and, of course, Disney.
Some don't even make the switch, instead choosing to forego cable or satellite TV from the get-go.
Alex Kizima, a recent graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, says she never really thought about getting cable once she moved out of her parents' home.
"To be honest, I've never 'missed' cable," she says. "So after I moved out from my parents' (home), I didn't even try to set it up. I don't know how or where to get it. Plus, I've heard it's expensive, so why pay for it?"
While some don't start out as cable or satellite users, others see the benefit of cutting out the extra "stuff" they don't use.
Streaming services like Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV have features that allow users to watch broadcasts from local stations, too, oftentimes helping customers make their decisions.
Amy Ouren, a Fargo resident and mother of three, says her family canceled their subscription to DirecTV just three months ago after realizing they were paying for more than they used. However, because of their setup, they still get the local stations they love through YouTube TV.
"I still get my local stations and my main shows that I enjoy watching," says Ouren. "I feel like I actually watch less (TV) now, too, because I don't have so many stations and dumb reality TV shows that I always get hooked to."
What are the options?
When it comes to enjoying TV and movies, the options can be a bit overwhelming. A quick internet search returns dozens of possibilities — each offering unique content and options to watch.
Cable: The tried and true option for over 50 years, cable television brings shows and movies straight into customers' homes via signals transmitted through coaxial or fiber-optic cables, as well as over the airwaves. Originating in the U.S. in the late 1940s, cable television was designed to improve reception of network broadcasts in remote areas. It wasn't until the 1960s when cable was introduced to metropolitan areas as a way to resolve issues with tall buildings blocking over-the-air broadcasts.
Satellite: Like cable, satellite TV brings shows straight into consumers' homes; however, unlike cable, signals are delivered to viewers by relaying them from a communications satellite orbiting the Earth. With features like ease of accessibility and exceptional high-definition quality, customers across the globe have taken advantage of this unique service since the first communications satellite was launched into space on July 23, 1962.
Netflix: Although it seems to have burst onto the scene only recently, Netflix has actually been around since the late 1990s. It was originally founded by entrepreneurs Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings as a website-based movie rental service — allowing customers to rent DVDs online. Today, Netflix is a media services provider and production company that features subscription-based streaming of an online library of films and TV programs — produced both in-house and by other companies.
Hulu: Released to the general public in 2008, Hulu is a U.S.-based subscription video-on-demand service that offers original content, as well as content from partners, along with ad and ad-free options. With Hulu, viewers can enjoy thousands of different programs through their streaming devices, oftentimes just one day after they're broadcast through cable or satellite. Hulu also includes add-on options to give viewers the opportunity to enjoy live TV, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and more.
Amazon Prime Video: Amazon Prime Video is an American internet video-on-demand service that's developed, owned and operated by Amazon. It offers TV shows and films for rent or purchase, as well as original content and licensed partnerships. All of this is included in an Amazon Prime subscription — which also includes everything that Amazon has to offer, like free shipping on millions of products. Amazon's video service was introduced in 2006, and was rebranded several times before becoming Prime Video in December 2016.
Disney Plus: The newest streaming service just launched earlier this month, Disney Plus is a subscription video-on-demand service owned by the Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International division of the Walt Disney Co. Focusing on the film and TV content produced by Disney Studios and Disney Television, Disney Plus features original films and TV series based on new and existing properties, as well as content from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Lucasfilm/Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar. In addition, because of partnerships and subsidiaries of the Walt Disney Co., Disney Plus users have the option to expand their plan to include a Hulu subscription as well as ESPN Plus.
Sling TV: The first live TV streaming service, Sling TV launched in February 2015. It allows subscribers to watch a collection of live and on-demand TV channels on their internet devices. It's basically cable, without the cable. Sling TV offers two tiers of options for viewers to choose from, as well as add-ons like NFL RedZone, NHL Network, HBO, Showtime and more.
What about the money, honey?
Entertainment isn't cheap — which is why it's one of the first categories to get the snip when that pocketbook gets a bit tight. However, there are ways to trim excess if needed, especially when it comes to TV.
Cable companies offer customers a variety of options to suit their viewing needs. Packages start at $23 for the Fargo-Moorhead-area providers, and add-ons can also be purchased for an extra fee. Contracts generally last from month to month.
Satellite, while often being the most expensive of the options, features the most channels for the price. The smallest packages in the major satellite companies (DISH Network and DirecTV) start at $59.99 per month, with add-ons raising the price quickly from there, all within a two-year contract.
Streaming services all start around the same price — $5.99, $6.99 and $8.99 for Hulu, Disney Plus and Netflix, respectively — while Sling TV comes in at the priciest of the bunch, starting at $25 per month. All of the services include add-ons (Hulu has the option to watch without ads for a few dollars more than the initial price), and include month-to-month subscriptions.