The reason American consumers are abandoning their cable subscriptions is not a mystery: It’s expensive, and cheaper online alternatives are everywhere. But who exactly is responsible for the slow demise of the original way Americans paid for television? That’s a far trickier question. The answer can be traced to a few decisions in recent years that have set the stage for this extraordinarily lucrative and long-lived business model to unravel: licensing reruns to Netflix Inc., shelling out billions for sports rights, introducing slimmer bundles, and failing to promote a Netflix killer called TV Everywhere.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
One of the advantages of unplugging from the physical cable sticking out of a socket in your home is that you’re free to enjoy the entertainment you’re paying for on any screen you happen to have handy, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, keep track of what you’re watching and will let you pause a show or movie on one device, then pick it up later on another device.
Now here’s the golden nugget of it all: We live in a very hilly area of Southern California. Over-the-air reception is awful in most of our house -- especially where our TV sets are positioned. I’ve tried many of the latest, over-the-air antennae and they are all incapable of mastering our topography. Although we’re closer to San Diego, we mainly get Los Angeles stations -- when we get stations at all. But because I don’t need to plug the antenna directly into a TV by using Tablo -- remember, I plug it directly into the Tablo box, which by the way has its own internal amplifier that strengthens incoming signals -- I can move the antenna to anywhere I want. In my case, it’s at the back window of our home upstairs where it receives just about every LA station. Then Tablo transmits wirelessly to all of my devices. And unlike other over-the-air arrangements I’ve considered, I don’t need to buy a separate antenna for each TV. One will do for the house with Tablo.
When we refer to “cable TV,” we think of it as any kind of programmed subscription TV service. That's why you'll find a variety of TV provider types on CableTV.com, including satellite providers like DISH® and DIRECTV; traditional cable companies like Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox; and other wired providers like AT&T®, Verizon, and Frontier. Not all providers are available in all areas, so start your search to see which providers are actually available where you live.
Internet streaming services also require a high-speed internet connection. If your internet isn't fast enough, you'll probably experience lots of buffering and lagging during your shows. Many cord cutters end up paying extra for a faster internet plan, just so they can stream their shows. Cable, fiber, and satellite TV aren't dependent on internet, so you'll never have to worry about inconsistent sound and picture quality. If you do need internet, why not get all of your services in the same place? You can bundle your TV service with internet to save even more every month.
Parker’s commentary suggests that the deal is good news for all parties, but she touches on something in passing that shouldn’t be overlooked: end-users are “growing fatigued with the dizzying number of choices they have for watching multiple video services over a myriad of devices.” At one point, switching from traditional television to streaming was a simple proposition that involved one or two online subscriptions, with Netflix and Hulu as the hubs for the majority of available content.
As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.
The premium cable channel Starz—home of some great shows like Counterpart, Power, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Outlander, and The Girlfriend Experience—is both streaming for those with a cable/satellite subscription to it, available as a discrete streaming service (Starz Streaming), or as an add-on to Amazon Video. There are many apps allowing Starz viewing on almost any hardware (except PS4, but you can get around that by using the Amazon Channel add-on option). The cost is the same no matter how you get Starz.
The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
The dirty secret about internet-based TV services is that they are far more profitable for the pay-TV industry than their traditional lines of business. U nlike video, high-speed internet is growing. Leichtman estimates that the largest cable and telephone providers had 455,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in the most recent quarter compared, topping the 235,000 gain from a year earlier.
Know what you want - and stick to it. Are you looking for the basic cable channels, like your local television networks? Or do you specifically want a certain channel, such as a regional sports network so you can keep up with your home team? Regardless of your goal in subscribing to cable television, you will need to stick to the plan in order to keep your bill where you want it. The customer service representative's job is to try to sell you the highest tier they possibly can, so you'll likely need to be firm when ordering.
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time.