Is Cable Cord-Cutting Worthwhile?

Tired of spending a ridiculous amount of money on cable bills every month for hundreds of channels you don’t watch? Thinking about cord-cutting? Well you aren’t alone. According to recent data, cable TV subscriptions have steadily declined over the past decade. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, for example, cable TV subscriptions dropped by 2.4%. That is bad news for the industry. Some experts predict over the next several years the entire cable TV business model is going to shift to a more a la carte style. In the meantime, great alternatives to traditional TV exist, some of which include streaming live TV. All you need for cord-cutting is reliable Internet access, a subscription or two, and a streaming device.

Cord-cutting options are increasing
Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Cable Alternatives

Lucky for cord-cutters, alternative subscriptions to cable TV seem to keep popping up. While most won’t give you hundreds of channel options (which you probably don’t watch), these services are much cheaper monthly, have no contracts, and no installation fees. And many even offer packages with live sports and news channels. These are your best options right now, but more companies are continuing to get in on the action (see: Facebook TV):

  • Hulu Live TV: For $39.99 per month you can get access to Hulu’s normal on-demand content (which includes some critically acclaimed shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale), in addition to 50+ live channels, including news and sports. You can also record live TV with 50 hours of storage. Bonus: Hulu allows you to view 2 screens at a time and you can add on premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.)
  • Playstation Vue: You can choose from four tiered packages ranging from $39.99 to $74.99, with the most expensive tier including sports and premium channels. Most content can be recorded to the DVR. Vue is not just available on Playstation; you can also watch on your normal streaming devices.
  • YouTube TV: YouTube TV launched in April 2017. For $40 per month, YouTube offers more than 73 channels, which include news and sports. YouTube TV’s standout features are the unlimited DVR cloud storage and its shareability, offering 6 user accounts included in one subscription. YouTube also offers premium channel add-ons.
  • DirecTV Now: DirecTV offers four packages, starting at $35 per month (60+ channels) and runs as high as $70 per month (120+ channels). The platform is compatible with most streaming devices, including Roku and Chromecast. You can also add premium channels to your package for as low as $5. And AT&T users can get a $25 discount each month!
  • Sling TV: Sling offers a la carte television streaming. With two packages costing $25 each ($40 for both), and the option for numerous add-ons and premium channels, Sling TV truly is quite customizable for a low price. And for $5 per month, customers can get 50 hours of DVR storage. Sling TV offers a 7 day free trial.
  • HD Antenna: While you will only get basic channels (NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, Telemundo, etc.), an antenna won’t cost you a dime monthly. You can snag an antenna for cheap on Amazon. And setup is quite easy. Fun fact: they don’t look like bunny ears anymore.

Streaming Options

In addition to the alternative cable options, there are several great streaming services with excellent TV shows and movies. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are the most popular and each offer unique and original content. Some of today’s most popular shows can be found only on these services – Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, Transparent, Stranger Things, Master of None. Other services such as Crackle, which has TV series, movies, and original content, is completely free!

Additionally, most of the premium movie channels are offering independent a la carte services. HBO Now is available without a cable subscription and you can add Showtime to almost any other service.

Streaming Equipment

Any cable-cutter will need a device to stream their alternative TV content on their TV.

  • Roku or Roku Stick: Roku is like the OG of streaming devices. Their devices are reliable, dependable, and frequently updated. The Roku plugs right into an HDMI port on your TV. Easy peasy.
  • Amazon Fire TV: The Fire TV is Amazon’s take on the Roku. The Fire TV has all the apps you might need to play your favorite shows. And its cheap!
  • Apple TV: This is Apple’s streaming device, which offers access to more than 60 services. And the app is also available on your other Apple device, so you can continue watching from any room in the house.
  • Samsung Smart TV: These TVs have built in apps for all the streaming your heart desires. They are known to be a bit buggier than the Roku or Fire, but their functionalities have vastly improved in recent years and allow you to switch between cable TV (if you aren’t cord-cutting) and apps seamlessly.
  • Gaming Consoles (Xbox One or Playstation): The popular gaming consoles can also stream the mainstream services. So when you are done killing some zombies, you can switch over to Netflix without touching your TV remote.
  • Chromecast: These Google-created dongles are similar to the Roku or Fire TV and have all of your favorite apps. The Chromecast is integrated with Google Home, so you can start watching with just your voice!

Our Experience with Cord-Cutting

A few years back, when Ken and I moved to New York, we became cord-cutters in an effort to save some money (NYC is hella expensive). We made the shift before some of the aforementioned services existed. So, we opted for an HD antenna for live TV and kept our subscriptions to Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, which we watched through our Roku. We are big TV buffs and survived it just fine. The key for us was always having a selected “background show.” That way, if we were using our computers or folding laundry, we could always put something on without thought. Admittedly, we went back to traditional cable TV once we moved again. But after seeing all of these new, great (and cheap) options and looking at my Fios bill this month, we are seriously considering cord-cutting yet again.

 

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