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Cord Cutting Versus Cord Shaving: What You Need to Know

We've all been there: when we signed up for cable a few years ago, we picked the cheapest package. But then we added some kids channels for the ankle-biters, the sports package when the Jays started doing well, upgraded when we saw a new Internet bundle . . . then one day we open our bill and realize we’re paying $100+ for a few hundred channels when we only want maybe a dozen.

If you're frustrated with your cable package, you're not alone. 3.1 million Canadian households, or about 20% of the country, don't have cable or satellite TV packages. And numbers seem to be growing. And with the CRTC-mandated launch of the 'skinny bundles', in March, this question has never been more relevant: should you join them?

Cord Cutting

First, let's talk cord cutting. Cord cutters take a look at that $100+ bill and think to themselves, "Know what? I don't need this."

Then they cancel their service, full stop. Once upon a time, cord cutting spoke to a certain kind of alternative lifestyle (think Dharma from Dharma & Greg) or kind of a luddite approach to modern culture (think Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec). These days, though, more people are doing it because they can get their TV, news, movies, and sports from elsewhere.

Netflix has an estimated 4 million subscribers in Canada right now, and those numbers are growing. Netflix isn't the only streaming service out there, though. Free services have been launched by companies like Crackle and PBS, and Netflix has some direct competitors in the form of Apple TV.

Sports are a big hurdle for potential cable cutters, so leagues are starting to offer their own packages. For example, NHL fans could've bought a $75 season pass this year, and baseball fans can watch all the baseball they can handle for around $110 a year.

Cord Shaving

Still, even with all the new TV, movie, and sports options out there, some people prefer to keep a few channels. A news junkie, for example, might unsubscribe from all their packages except the news one, essentially buying cable for channels like CNN and Bloomberg and skipping other channels with shows that'll just get released on Netflix anyway. Or a sports fan might shell out the $18 for the Sportsnet package but rely on the web for their news.

Basically, cord shavers are doing everything cord cutters are doing but keeping their TV service for a few specific channels that aren't available elsewhere.

So Which is Best?

If you're looking to cut down your cable bill and can't figure out whether you want to cord shave or cord cut, you need to answer two questions:

How diverse are my family’s TV viewing habits?

How good is my Internet connection?

To the first question: the less stuff your family watches, the easier it is to replace with free or digital subscription services. If you're a hockey family, buying an NHL subscription makes a lot of sense. But if you're an all-sports all-the-time kinda group, keeping a toe in TV-land makes sense.

To the second question: all of the stuff you're replacing cable TV with will be streamed over the Internet, so you need to have an excellent connection with enough bandwidth to watch all the stuff you want.