Cable TV is expensive, and people that are looking to reduce their budget often see it as a large expense that they wish they could eliminate. But many of us rely on TV for news and entertainment, and it has been a big part of our lives for a very long time. So determining if cutting the cable cord is the right decision for you can be difficult, and one that should not be taken lightly.
Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime now offer massive libraries of content, and their low monthly costs can be very appealing. So if you are wondering whether cancelling your cable TV subscription is the right decision for you, then continue reading below to learn about the reality of what you will be giving up and what your new TV viewing experience will be like.
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What Will I Need?
If you want access to movies and TV shows after you cut the cord, then you are going to need subscriptions to Internet-based streaming services. This also means that you are going to need to keep your broadband Internet subscription.
Note that I specify “broadband Internet connection” here. When you start relying upon the Internet to stream video, especially if it will be to multiple TVs or devices, you are going to need a significant amount of bandwidth to deliver the content.
If you already have a cable, fiber or DSL Internet connection, then you can simply keep that service. It’s always a good idea to test it out before cutting the cord completely, though. An easy way to do this is to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime on two different devices, simultaneously, and see what the picture quality is like. If it is good on both devices, then your Internet will probably be able to handle the load. If not, then you will need to find a better provider for your Internet service. Additionally, try this out at different times during the day, at times when you are likely to be watching television. You might have a much simpler time streaming HD video at 2 AM than 6 PM, for example, depending upon your cable provider’s network.
You are also going to need the hardware that will allow you to stream content to your TV. The best option for Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime streaming is a set-top box like the (click any of the following links to view the product on Amazon) Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV or Chromecast. You can also connect a computer to your TV with an HDMI cable and use your TV as your computer monitor. I have this setup in my home and find that I use it a lot. It’s especially nice if you can get a wireless mouse and keyboard to control it so that you can comfortably use the computer from your couch.
The final thing to consider is an antenna, if you want to be able to watch live network TV from NBC, CBS, ABC and a few others. Your signal strength will rely on your geographical location, but there are some great antenna options available like Movu, and even Amazon’s own branded antenna from Amazon’s site option.
How Much Will This Cost Me?
If you decide to get a set-top streaming box, then the price will vary depending upon your choice. However, they typically range in price from $50-$100. Note that this is a one time purchase, however. There isn’t a monthly or yearly subscription fee for using a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast or other similar device.
If you elect to use an antenna, then you will also need to purchase that as well. Those range in price from $50-$100.
Your streaming subscriptions will also vary, depending upon which options you elect to use. Netflix is $8.99 per month, Hulu Plus is $7.99 per month, and Amazon Prime is $99 per year, which averages out to $8.25 per month. If you choose to subscribe to other services, such as MLB TV, then you will need to take that into account as well.
You will also need to consider your monthly broadband Internet service charge. This price can vary wildly depending upon the providers in your area, but fast cable Internet service is often about $75 per month.
So that provides you with an initial cost of:
Set-top streaming box – $50-$100 per TV
Antenna – $50-$100 per TV
And a recurring monthly charge of:
Netflix – $8.99
Hulu Plus – $7.99
Amazon Prime – $8.25
Internet service – $75
So a two TV household will need to spend between $200 and $400 initially for the hardware, then about $100 per month for everything else.
What Will I Be Missing Out On By Cancelling Cable?
The biggest drawback to cutting the cord is simply the inability to watch live TV (including live sports). The antenna will provide you with some live TV options, but your live viewing choices will be reduced dramatically. You will also not have access to HBO Go, unless a friend or relative is willing to share their subscription with you. HBO Go is only available to people that have an HBO subscription with their cable provider, and it cannot be purchased or subscribed to separately. HBO’s back catalog came to Amazon Prime at the end of May 2014, but is missing some noteworthy shows, such as Game of Thrones and Sex and the City.
What Am I Going to Be Able to Watch?
If you already have a Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime account, then you are probably aware of everything that is available on there. If not, then it is definitely worthwhile to sign up for free trials of each service and browse their library.
Everyone’s viewing preferences are different, so it is a good idea to see what you will be able to watch after you cut the cord.
You can also elect to purchase episodes of TV shows from Amazon or iTunes, if you want to watch new TV before it makes it to Hulu Plus, or if a show that you watch is not available through any of your subscription services.
Most of the set-top streaming boxes will also offer free content options, such as YouTube and Crackle. YouTube can be a fantastic source of free content, and you will probably find that you watch it even more without a cable subscription.
You can view lists of available channels for set-top boxes at the links below.
This is another reason why it can be beneficial to connect a computer to your TV. You will be able to view content on your TV that you find on the Internet, which gives you even more entertainment sources. This can include episode streaming that networks provide on their own websites, which may not be available through streaming subscription services.
Cutting the cord isn’t the right choice for everyone. It will typically provide a significant savings for people that are already paying for cable and Internet, but it comes at the expense of live TV. If you subtract your current cable bill from your expected Internet streaming bill, then you will have a value that you can place on monthly live TV. In many cases that could be as high as $130, which is a significant amount of extra money to have every month for a family on a tight budget.
If you are looking for more information about some of the set-top streaming boxes mentioned in this article, then check out our reviews:
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