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Cut the Cord or Keep Cable?

Stranger Things. Game of Thrones. The Crown. Everybody loves television shows. Arguably, some of the best TV shows ever made are all available to you right now. Traditional pay TV via cable and satellite is still popular. Add to that, newer streaming platforms and devices have added literally hundreds of shows to the TV landscape. Unfortunately, the bills we pay to watch them right now have never been higher.

Consumer Reports‘ research shows more of us are dumping cable for cable-like streaming services, which have picked up about 4 million subscribers. But a few things should go into a decision on whether to cut the cord. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons to help you decide.

PROS

COST SAVINGS
The reality is cable television is ex-pen-sive. The cost savings to cord-cutting can be significant. It’s is one of the main advantages of cord-cutting.

According to tech news publisher Technadu, “cable TV subscribers pay on average $120 per month and get close to $1500 per year. Added to this, about $900 to $1000 could be spent every year for high-speed internet connection. That’s about $2500 spent every year for both services. But with high-speed internet and just a fraction of what is typically spent on cable and satellite TV, a family could very well enjoy all the TV content they get from their cable subscription.”

ALTERNATIVES GALORE
Cord-cutting usually gives you more control and flexibility over when and where you watch. Newer services out now include HBO Max and Disney+. Add that to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others—that’s a lot of content providers. And the list of devices you use to get the content is growing, too.

With many of the streaming services you can watch what you want, when you want, for as long as you want. Why pay for 500 cable channels or premium channels you never use when, for a fraction of the cost, there are cable alternatives that can satisfy all of your binge-watching wishes?

Word of Caution: If you sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu, your bill will start to add up. Will it still be cheaper than a cable bill? Sure. But be careful that you actually use the streaming services you sign up for.

And there’s the bonus of no commitment. Most services can be canceled with the push of a button and you’re never tied to any lengthy contracts.

EASE OF USE
The television interface for cable users involves a lot of button pushing and menu selecting. For cord cutters, many say it’s a lot easier to get around and get what you want. Others, not so much. (See CONS below.)

If you’ve had to worry about high winds or heavy rains interfering with your satellite picture, those days are gone. As long as you have a strong internet connection, you’re good to go.

PORTABILITY
Another advantage—you get to watch streaming content anywhere by default, using your mobile devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone, Kindle etc.) It’s perfect for anyone who travels a lot, or has multiple residences throughout the year. (Note that some cable companies now offer this service, too.)

INSTANT ACCESS TO ENTERTAINMENT
Once you switch, you will control everything you’re watching. You can pause and stop something and go back to it later. Binge-watch to your heart’s desire. And you won’t see ads, or at least you can pay to omit them.  And you might be able to cut out junk content.

As a side benefit—you may be able to cut the amount of time you sit watching television. The likelihood of channel surfing disappears as you’ll be more inclined to turn it on to intentionally watch a specific program.

CLOUD RECORDING
For most services, you’ll get a Cloud DVR (rather than a physical DVR box). The Cloud DVR comes with many live TV subscriptions at no extra charge and lets you record shows to watch at your convenience later—on any device you choose.

CONS

INTERNET SPEEDS
After you cut the cord, you’ll need to rely on the internet to deliver everything—from the March Madness tournament games to your favorite Mr. Robot episodes. According to HuffPost, depending on where you live, you might have a better shot at having reliable cable than internet.

Those with limited internet options face a couple of problems:

  • If I drop my cable service, how will my old provider charge me for that premium internet service going forward? It seems to cost almost as much as my bundled cable service.
  • Broadband-width is sometimes capped for streamers. Will I have to pay more to make sure I don’t overload my internet connection?

VIDEO PERFORMANCE
HuffPost readers identified this as the most widespread problem with making the change from cable. Since cord-cutting is dependent on the Internet connection, low quality video, buffering and even disconnects can occur. Nothing is more frustrating than streaming live sports on a connection that is not stable or keeps on stuttering.

EASE OF USE
As reported by Forbes, it can be “…cumbersome to move between channels. For some reason, Hulu Live doesn’t have an online TV guide, for instance. So you may need to consult a separate guide to see what’s coming on next…You may find cable TV easier to navigate, but is that worth an additional $40 a month?”

For those without a smart TV, you’ll need a streaming device such as a Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick to stream to your television.

On some services, you’ll have to wait longer to watch shows that are still releasing episodes. Instead of enjoying new content each week, you might need to wait until the season has finished before it’s available.

COMMERCIALS
Yes, broadcast TV has commercials. But some live TV streaming services have commercials you can’t fast forward through. Hulu Live lets you choose from a free commercial option or commercial-free paid subscription. The commercial option has messages that tell you how long ad breaks will last, so you can run to the bathroom or kitchen for a snack.

WILL YOU GET ALL OF THE CHANNELS YOUR HOUSEHOLD WANTS?
Does your new service not have Animal Planet, or HGTV?  You might find it hard to get every channel you had before. Streaming packages usually don’t add up to what you could get on cable—so you might be missing something.

To get all of the content you want, you may need to add a replacement package (or two, or three.) That eats up the savings.

Some services—such as YouTubeTV—now offers local channels. But not all do this.  Even ESPN’s new streaming service won’t have all of the games that the cable channels air.

Some streaming companies are pivoting to more original content, and will remove shows and movies they don’t own, or will remove them sooner than you expected. That vast library of content you signed up for is getting chipped away. And sometimes their content is loaded with a lot of B- and C-grade series and movies.

USER & DEVICE LIMITS
Depending on the service, some restrict how many household users will be able to access programming at the same time. Also, most every streaming service has some limits on the number of separate devices.

In addition, not all of the services are available on every streaming player or smart TV platform.

Resources: Consumer Reports, TechNadu.com, Ziff Davis, TomsGuide.com, HuffPost Entertainment, Forbes, The Daily Reckoning, Unite Innovations