Cord Cutting 4: Why did I take so long?

There’s a quoted stat in the Wikipedia article on cord cutting that states that cord cutters numbered about 900,000 in 2008, and 9 years later, it had increased to 22.2 million. I’m a tech guy, to be certain, but I don’t really tend to jump at every new tech trend, and cord cutting is yet another area where I was late to the party.

Apparently there are plenty of people far more hip to all this than I’ve been. DISH Network is just one example, but The Hollywood Reporter has had headlines all year about DISH’s subscriber losses, most recently this one, which claims that they lost 341,000 subscribers in their most recent operating quarter. The Reporter deducts the gains DISH is seeing on their streaming offering, Sling TV, to arrive at that number, only slightly masking the fact that they have actually lost:

  • 185,000 satellite subscribers in Q1 2018
  • 192,000 satellite subscribers in Q2 2018
  • 367,000 satellite subscribers in Q3 2018

You can do the math, but that’s almost 3/4 of a million satellite TV customers in 2018 so far. The year’s not over.

To really wrap your head around the scope, consider this: All the equipment returned to DISH from those customer losses creates a resulting pile of DISH Network receivers that — if stacked one on top of the other — would be a nearly 26-1/2 mile high pile of e-waste.* My guess? Only a fraction of that equipment is put back into service given the pace of the bleeding.

But back to The Hollywood Reporter numbers; DISH simply isn’t successfully converting its satellite customer losses to Sling TV gains. It’s interesting too that when I called to cancel my DISH service, the customer service rep didn’t even mention Sling; he was doing everything possible to retain me as a satellite customer. If DISH is losing customers left and right to cord-cutting, would it not make sense to try and capitalize on it?

But back to the focus here: Why did I wait so long to cut the cord? The reasons are many, and somewhat ridiculous:

  • Contactual commitments. DISH is smart (and consumers are apparently stupid); forcing people to commit to two year terms in exchange for some supposed benefit is a smart tactic to lock people in. People remember they did the commitment early-on, but forget later, and may believe they’re still committed when they’re not. And in DISH’s case, do you think they put anywhere on their web site when your commitment is up? Nope. Even customer-hostile cellular companies make it obvious when you can upgrade (and recommit).
  • Resistance to change. Change is hard, even when you want to change. Moving from DISH to a cut-cord new reality has consumed over a week end-to-end, and I’m still not actually done with all the work. I like the new television reality in my house, but getting here, while easier in some ways than I would have expected, took a substantial investment of time, and it’s no wonder I dragged my feet.
  • I don’t actually watch that much television. Others in the house do; I don’t. But since I’m the guy who had to deal with all the tech, well, there wasn’t a massive motivation to make the switch — aside from the ever-growing DISH Network bill.
  • Worries we’d be unable to replace what we lost. Assembling a cut-cord solution that has all the pieces you want requires more thought and planning and analysis than I expected. In the end, we did cover all the bases.
  • Canceling services is a pain. The DISH rep was nice, but I spent a lot of time on-hold, and had to put-up with his repeated attempts to keep me subscribed. Sure, it was only about 20 minutes of my life, but it’s unpleasant, and easy to put-off — especially when considered against the much larger amount of time I was facing to pull everything out, and put the new gear in.

At the end of the day, cutting the cord wasn’t all that tough. And I’m pretty happy to have reduced the monthly bill for television by about 60%. Once it was all said and done, not only did we replace everything we actually used, we ended-up with more than we had. Sure, the majority of it isn’t stuff we’re going to watch a ton of, but I’m already finding things we didn’t have before that I actually enjoy. So the net-net? 60% less money out the door, and some percentage of a better, more unique array of programming and options in.

I like it when things work-out that way.

* I can’t help but wonder what DISH is doing with all those enormous piles of used electronics. Considering there aren’t exactly droves of new customers signing-up, DISH must certainly have a considerable e-waste challenge. The numbers I quoted are based on the 2.25″ height, bottom of rubber foot to top of receiver, of the DISH Hopper with Sling unit. Even if my math is way off, it’s still a considerable volume of unwanted hardware.