The Muino family switched from Optimum to streaming services DirecTV and Netflix to save money. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Long Islanders, like millions across the country, have been "cutting the cord" of their cable or satellite-delivered TV services in growing numbers. These services — including Optimum and Verizon Fios on LI — are on track to lose 7 million paying customers this year, while accounting firm PWC says the total number of people paying for cable and satellite will drop below 50 million in 2027, from 64 million today.

Where are these customers going? What are they doing? The five Long Islanders profiled below just might be representative. As cord cutters, they've discovered what they say are ideal alternatives: Services that provide exactly what they want, and at costs substantially lower than what they were paying before.

The bottom line with each is simple. They like what they now have and they aren't going back to what they had before.

Sheila and Chris Korte, Babylon

Sheila and Chris Korte of Babylon have cut the cord from traditional cable in favor of streaming services. Credit: Danielle Silverman

What service did they have? Optimum
How much were they spending a month? $200 
When did they cut the cord? 2019
What services do they subscribe to now? YouTube TV continually, and rotate other streaming services 
How much are they now spending a month? $70 for YouTube, plus $100 maximum total for a rotation of streaming services including Netflix, Apple TV, HBO Max, Showtime, Paramount+, Disney+ Hulu and Peacock 
The Verdict: “Never, ever would we go back to traditional cable TV.”

At 68 and 70 years old, respectively, travel agents Sheila and Chris Korte can remember the days when TV was free, so they were happy to learn there were cheaper alternatives to paying for traditional cable, and to find services that offered different programming. And the grandparents of three said they weren’t reluctant to switch to something new.

“A lot of older people want to just continue with what they know,” Sheila Korte said. “They don’t want to have to figure out a lot of new stuff.” She added that besides the cost of cable, the couple “hated being tethered to boxes that would inevitably break down. We also travel a lot and love the flexibility of being able to watch our local channels on YouTube TV.”

In addition, Chris Korte likes to watch news, sports, reality TV and adventure movies while his wife likes news, movies, and police, legal and travel shows — and cable wasn’t doing it for them when it came to variety.

“We had a Cablevision package back in the day, and then when they changed over to Optimum we had their cable service,” Sheila Korte said. “The [Optimum] package we had offered Wi-Fi, cable with [three] boxes included, and two house phones, but the prices kept going up and we felt like we never had anything good to watch.”

The opportunity for change conveniently arrived at the Korte's doorstep. 

“We have a tech guy that comes to our home about once a year to go over our rather complex computer, phone and smart house system,” Sheila Korte explained. “He kept talking about YouTube TV. We were able to get a free trial and really liked it.” Then she read up on other streaming services, which the Kortes said they rotate to keep costs down.

Peter and Kerry Muino and family, Holbrook

The Muino family switched from Optimum to streaming services DirecTV and Netflix to save money. Credit: Rick Kopstein

What service did they have? Optimum
How much were they spending a month? $345
When did they cut the cord? 2019
What services do they subscribe to now? DirecTV, Netflix
How much are they now spending a month? $174
The Verdict: “The only thing we miss is live News 12 Long Island coverage — other than that we wouldn’t switch back, no matter what," says Peter.

Peter and Kerry Muino and their three children all have favorite things they like to watch on TV, with their combined must-haves including sports, documentaries, cooking shows, crime and law programming, sitcom reruns, movies, current TV series and game shows. The family had Cablevision before it became Optimum.

“We paid $285 a month back in 2017. It went up over $345 a month in 2019 when we had enough,” said Peter Muino, 56, who owns a food truck with his wife, who is 53. They have two daughters — ages 17 and 19 — and a son, 25. “We had home internet and four cable boxes — medium package — not the full movie or sports package.” He added, “We went to AT&T across the board. Combining our cellphone service with the streaming platform gave us more options.” DirecTV was formerly AT&T TV.

“We have all the movie channels, unlimited DVR" with DirecTV, Muino added.

Muino said one of the best features of streaming is being able to easily create a movie-theater-like experience in his backyard.

“We love to blow up our 20-foot big screen outside and stream a movie … can’t do that with a cable wire and cable box without the hassle,” Muino added.

Danielle Cuffie, Medford

Danielle Cuffie of Medford is one of the Long Islanders who have cut the cord. She cord-cut five years ago, which makes her something of an experienced cord-cutter. Credit: Rick Kopstein

What service did she have? Optimum
How much was she spending a month? $256
When did she cut the cord? 2018
What services does she subscribe to now? Hulu
How much is she now spending a month? $11 (plus broadband)
The Verdict: "I'm as happy as a clam."

A certified nursing assistant who commutes to Greenport from Medford, Cuffie, 56, cut the cord in 2018 when she was living in Central Islip in a four-bedroom house she shared with her children — and five cable boxes. "Honestly, I could not afford it," she says. There was a cable box in each bedroom, also one in the living room as well as a landline for the phone, and internet. "My sister-in-law said, 'Danielle, you need to get rid of cable and you need to stream.' I really didn't understand it [but] I went to Cablevision, gave them the boxes and said I just want internet."

She doesn't subscribe to streaming services but uses a Firestick to access free apps such as Pluto and Tubi, on her five-year-old 55-inch Samsung. The shows she gravitates to? "I watch a lot of reality [unscripted] TV." Cuffie says there are some basic rules of the road when cord-cutting, and things to watch out for — notably clicking on apps "that you might have to pay for. You have to watch out for that too because you might click on something, then download it, and on your next bank statement see some charge. 'Why am I paying an extra $20?' Because I downloaded it!" There's an easy fix to that, says Cuffie — she just cancels whatever she doesn't want.

Allison Funk, Mineola

Allison Funk, with her son, Liam, 5 switched from Verizon Fios to Hulu, Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Premium, Apple TV+ and Max. Credit: Howard Simmons

What service did she have? Verizon Fios
How much was she spending a month? $334
When did she cut the cord? 2023
What services does she subscribe to now? Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Premium, Apple TV+ and Max
How much is she now spending a month? $213
The Verdict: “I am so happy that I cut the cord! I feel like I’m now paying for channels that I actually watch and I am still saving over $100 a month.”

Liam Funk, 5, likes to spend a lot of time watching his cartoons, Disney movies, and dinosaur shows. His mother, Allison, is partial to TV series, anything history-related and cooking shows, and she’s put together a recipe of streaming services to accommodate both their programming tastes.

“I was getting the Fios internet, TV and phone bundle, which included a gigabit internet connection, FIOS Ultimate TV HD, and Movie Package Unlimited HD, which included Max, Starz, Showtime, Epix, and some more I never watched,” Funk, 43, said. “I didn’t have any problem with the service itself, but it was incredibly annoying that I had to have a cable box for each TV, whereas I don’t need any equipment with the streaming services I have.” 

Funk said that when she discontinued cable from Verizon Fios she was already a subscriber to her current streaming services. Until earlier this month she also had YouTube Premium for news, but she never watched it and canceled it when she realized the same channels were available on her Samsung Smart TV. YouTube had been $79.99 a month. 

Toni DeFelice, Babylon

Toni DeFelice uses a small antenna to watch TV, thanks to the elevation of her Babylon house. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

What service did she have? Optimum
How much was she spending a month? $170
When did she cut the cord? 2020
What services does she subscribe to now? Netflix, Max (which she gets for free)
How much is she now spending a month? $65.99
The Verdict: "A great way to save money … it's so expensive to live on Long Island and you need to find ways to cut corners and have money in your pocket … this is one of the ways to save over $1000 a year."

DeFelice, 58, is a program coordinator for Catholic Charities in Bohemia, and lives in what she calls a "Sandy house" in Babylon. That fact was critical in her choice to cut the cord because the house is elevated, and gives her home a relatively unobstructed means of getting TV signals — that's right, she watches local TV for free now, with the use of a small antenna she bought on Amazon and hangs out her window. (She still gets broadband too.) But DeFelice readily admits the transition has been complicated. "Everyone was very upset — my daughter [Stevie Lynn, who just moved to Florida] was devastated — no News 12! and my husband [Vincent] was upset he wasn't getting the news channels he used to, and kept threatening to go back." Her son, Thomas, 21, "who just moved back to Ocean Beach" had "no complaints, because he played on his Xbox and watched shows on YouTube."

But things have smoothed out, and, well, savings are savings. The family still gets broadband, so Vincent can find his favorite channels via apps on their smart TV, while Toni has more than she can ever watch with over-the-air TV: "You attach the antenna to your TV and hang it out the window and depending on the weather, if you place it just right, you can get up to 25 or 30 channels."

Correction: Toni DeFelice is a program coordinator for Catholic Charities. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect job title.

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