There was a time when cable was the be-all and end-all of home entertainment. This was the ’80s and early ’90s, and you either had cable, or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you envied those who did. There was no Internet for the cable-less to provide easy access to all of our favourite shows, at least, not the Internet that we know today.
We’ve come a long way from that time. Today, Americans can rent DVDs at a kiosk while grocery shopping, stream entertainment from their computers to their flatscreen TVs and download their favourite shows onto their phones and portable tablets to watch on the go — all for a fraction of what it costs for cable TV. Now, if you don’t have cable, you have other options. A lot of them, according to Money Crashers. Is this the end of cable?
Americans are increasingly embracing services like Netflix, iTunes and Hulu to access their favourite shows and movies — some more than others.
We looked at spending data for the largest 100 cities in the U.S. to see which cities spent the most to access their entertainment through the following five services: Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Redbox, and Blockbuster Online. We scaled the data for each city and put the national average at 100 — anything above that would be higher than the national average.
Click here to see the graphic in full resolutionIt turns out that residents of the great state of Texas are spending the most on digital media and rentals from kiosks. Dallas, Texas, which ranked number one on our list, spends 1.89 times the national average on services like Netflix, Hulu and Redbox. Two more Texas cities, Austin (ranked No. 4) and Plano (ranked No. 8) also made it into our list of Top 10 cities, spending 1.69 and 1.46 times the national average respectively. Washington D.C. ranked second on our list, followed by New York City in third place. [Take a closer look at our rankings here]
“I had never been crazy about Comcast due to their exorbitant prices and poor customer service, but I lived in an apartment, so if I wanted more than basic TV, I didn’t have a choice,” says Theresa Hedrick, a dietician who lives in Atlanta. “A little over a year ago, I bought a condo two blocks down the street from where I had been living. Comcast wanted $75 and four hours of my time to hook up the cable in my new place. I thought that was ridiculous since I was quite capable of plugging the box into the wall myself. I asked them to waive the fee and they refused, so I canceled my service.”
Hedrick ended up cancelling cable for a Netflix subscription. “Instead of cable Internet, I got Clear,” she says. “It cut my monthly bill from about $125 (for cable, Internet, and a DVR) to about $55 (for Netflix and Clear). I definitely went through withdrawal for the first month, not because I missed cable, but because it was such a habit to walk in the door from work and flip on the TV for background noise. After that, though, I didn’t even miss it.”
Hedrick’s not the only one. According to data from the U.S. Census, online media consumption rose by 37 per cent between 2003 and 2009. We’ve all heard of Netflix’s success, but Hulu Plus paid subscribers are also growing at a rapid pace. Hulu added more paying subscribers in June 2011 that it did in the preceding two months combined, Hulu’s CEO Jason Kilar announced.
“My husband and I ditched cable for Netflix and Hulu,” says Sarah Welle, a Colorado resident who blogs about food on two-tarts.com. “We got rid of cable 2 years ago, and switched to Netflix — three discs and streaming. We were very happy with that but then after two years we started to feel like we’d worked our way through most of the series on DVD that we were interested in seeing. So, two months ago we also signed up for Hulu in order to gain access to new programming. The only thing I miss from cable is the programming on HGTV and the Cooking Network. If Hulu or Netflix would offer more of that programming I wouldn’t miss cable at all.”
Welle and her husband were paying around $100 for cable, and now they pay a combined $24 for Hulu Plus and Netflix subscriptions. When Netflix announced it was hiking up its prices, Welle reduced her three discs at-a-time subscription to one disc. The hikes have caused Hedrick to move completely over to streaming services.
“I’m bummed that Netflix upped the price so much,” she says. “Rather than paying a higher price, I’m just going to go with online streaming and forgo the DVDs. On the rare occasions when I want to watch a movie on DVD, I can hit up the Redbox two blocks from my place.”
If prices for Netflix and Hulu gets out of control, Hedrick has another option. “I downloaded the free Kindle app for my iPhone and am now reading some fantastic books that are free or only $0.99,” she says.
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