Wal-Mart courts cord cutters

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Wal-Mart’s crash course on cord cutting

Wal-Mart wants to help you cut the cable.  A new page on its website is dedicated to helping customers shed their triple-digit cable bill.

But you’re probably wondering: are they really helping you?

We reviewed what Wal-Mart is offering potential cord cutters to see if it’s actually useful. We also outline what you might want to weigh if you are thinking of cutting cable.

Getting rid of cable television can be an intimidating process. Wal-Mart is now trying to attract the growing demographic of people who eschew traditional cable television for streaming devices like Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV.

Wal-Mart’s web page for cutting cable is definitely targeting the uninitiated. They empathize with you.  Suffering from those triple-digit cable bills every month gets kind of old. And how many channels are you really watching? And, they tell you, there’s now a fairly easy way out. (Hello, breaking news!) Here’s what they’re saying…

Just a few years ago, cutting the cord meant a complex setup to stream the content you wanted, and even then you would have found that at least one of your favorite shows or channels wasn’t available. Rest assured that that isn’t the case today: with just a few devices (including some you may have already) you’ll be streaming your favorite programming at a fraction of the cost.

Very true. Wal-Mart’s new truth-to-power stance on cord cutting is essentially a crash course on how and why you should get rid of cable. It includes a savings calculator where customers can type in the amount of their monthly cable bill to estimate how much money they’ll save.

Just about anyone could break out a calculator without the help of Wal-Mart. But the cut-the-cable page might be enlightening for those who are not that tech savvy. The calculator includes a customer’s potential use of on-demand subscriptions like HBO Now and live TV streaming services (PlayStation Vue and Sling TV). But it’s unclear how it calculates the price of some of those subscriptions. A PS Vue subscription, for example, has three subscription tiers priced between $30 and $45 per month.

PROS of using the site are:

It gives an easy step-by-step process of what equipment is needed to watch programming through a streaming device instead of a traditional cable subscription. Some people may not know that they should use a cable modem with DOCIS 3.0 (instead of renting one from a cable provider) for a quality TV streaming experience.

It offers a decent variety of streaming devices, including options you can’t find on Amazon. Wal-Mart stocks streaming devices that are considered competitors to the Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV. An inexpensive Google Chromecast, or pricier Apple TV are options offered on Wal-Mart’s website and retailers like Best Buy.

CONS of using the site are:

It offers unnecessary protection plan. It’s a minor point, but worth mentioning since one of the benefits of cutting cable is saving money. If you’re buying a Roku Streaming Stick, then you don’t need Wal-Mart’s protection plan for a few extra dollars. Why? Because Roku offers its own one-year warranty on the device.

It lacks some of the nitty-gritty. Details are always important, especially when it comes to making a major purchase. If someone was buying an Insignia TV with the expectation that they would also replace their pricey cable subscription with PlayStation Vue, they would be very disappointed. Not all Roku TVs currently have the capability to use the PlayStation Vue app because of a software issue. An explainer by Wal-Mart and other retailers would go a long way in terms of educating customers.

Cable companies vs. streaming device retailers

Wal-Mart’s appeal to customers looking for alternatives to traditional cable draws a line in the sand. It’s an interesting development for the House of Sam Walton, which first attracted customers with low prices.

Companies like Amazon, which sells its popular Fire TV stick and Amazon Fire TV, already has long been promoting itself as a cable alternative with TV shows, movies and original programming offered through Amazon Prime subscriptions.

Wal-Mart doesn’t want to be left behind with the emerging technology of streaming media or the profits that go along with it.

A recent story in MarketWatch about Wal-Mart noted:

Cable TV has been struggling with rising content costs amid growing competition and higher re-transmission fees — the amount providers pay local TV affiliates for access to their channel. These costs are often reflected in subscribers’ bills and have led to subscribers dropping service in droves. Cable companies have recently been able to reverse course and add back some subscribers through improved offerings and services.

CONCLUSION:

Using Wal-Mart’s web site for cord cutting alternatives is worthwhile, especially for those living in parts of the U.S. where retail options are limited. That’s especially true for people wanting devices like a Google Chromecast that aren’t sold by Amazon. Customers should pay attention to potential shipping costs despite what online retailer they choose. But Wal-Mart may gain an edge if they can undercut competitors on overall price.

Want the latest news and analysis from the worlds of cord cutting, politics and gaming? Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and check out the Getting Started section if you are thinking of cutting the cord.

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