'Cutting the cord' going mainstream with TV viewers

TACOMA, Wash. -- Ditching pay TV services in favor of online entertainment was once left to techies who knew how to cobble together various media streams of popular programming found on the internet.

But with the advent of devices like Apple TV, Chromecast and the Roku Player, mainstream TV watchers are "cutting the cord."

A survey of 24,000 adults found that households with a Netflix or Hulu subscriptions were three times as likely not to have cable TV subscriptions. Experian Marketing Services said that 6.5 percent of the US households in the survey dropped their subscription pay TV service in 2013. That represents roughly 7 million people.

Shannon Bardwell of Tacoma was one of those people who ditched Comcast cable for a Roku Player and Hulu Plus.

"I was just tired of the big bill," she said.

Bardwell was paying $135 dollars a month for both digital TV and internet from Comcast. Now she pays a base of $8 a month for Hulu Plus and $50 a month for Clear, a wireless internet service.

"It adds up over time, and I'm watching the shows I like to watch, just not at the exact time they come on," she said.

Bardwell, like other users of streaming internet services, knows of the trade off -- you'll have to wait a day after a program normally airs to watch it on Hulu Plus.

"We can live with alternatives to cable TV," said Jeanette Brizendine-Jurgensen of Edgewood, who cut the TV cord from Comcast more than a year ago.

Her Samsung wide-screen, wi-fi enabled TV came with streaming apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix preloaded. She still pays Comcast $50 a month for high speed internet access, but she says her family is saving hundreds of dollars.

"Eight hundred dollars a year saving was a huge impact to our household," she said. "That, combined with our service issues we were having, made it a pretty easy decision".

She used to call Comcast every six months and try to negotiate a lower rate. It's a practice many comcast customers have done with some success.

"I had a certain point where this is how much I' will pay for my service, and there would be more and more negotiating. I was having to call back another person, it was just frustrating," said Brizendine-Jurgensen.

She eventually got tired of the routine and decided to ditch the service.

"Cord cutting is defiantly happening, it's especially happening with millennials who spend more time on YouTube and online channels than they do on television," said Hason Hosein, Director of Communication Leadership at the University of Washington.

"The cable companies are not necessarily feeling a massive financial impact, it's still being held to a fairly small percentage," Hosein said.

A spokesman for Comcast disputes the cutting the cord trend, saying the company has seen an increase in new pay TV subscriptions over the last two quarters.

Vice President of Communications for Comcast Washington Steve Kipp says channels are charging the pay TV service providers more money for their programming.

"We have to pay for the programming that we carry, and that programming is typically offered in packages," Kipp said.

While many customers don't like the fact that they're paying for a bundle of channels they don't watch, cable companies must also sometimes accept channels that have low viewership because they are bundled by the program providers with popular channels.