How would you like to save money on your monthly cable bill? Cutting out your cable subscription in favor of streaming services has become very popular. Most people save a lot of money this way and still have plenty they can watch on their television. What are your options to cut the cable cord and start streaming?
There are a few factors you should take into consideration first. Some families don’t find it as worthwhile as others. Here are a few.
What Channels Do You Want To Keep?
Some channels are more difficult than others to replace with streaming. This is where your costs can head back up toward what you were paying with cable.
Some channels, such as CBS, now offer their own streaming services, and so are no longer offering their shows elsewhere. You can watch them over the air if you can get them with an antenna, but otherwise you have to pay for them.
Make a list of the channels you absolutely want, as well as the exact shows you watch most on them. This will help you figure out which services will give you the shows that you want most. List the services you would need, and what it would cost per month.
What Channels Can You Get With An Antenna?
In some areas, lots of local channels are available for free if you simply hook up an antenna. This is great if you like your local networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and your local Fox station.
Others will get few or no local channels with an antenna. This is the situation I have in my area. We aren’t close enough to anything to get the local channels over the air, plus there are hills in the way. The disadvantage of living in the mountains.
You can get a good estimate of the local channels you will get with an antenna. There are a few services that do this, but I like http://www.antennaweb.org/ best. The website is kind of ugly, but it uses your address to give you its best estimate of what channels you can get with an antenna.
The list I get tells me an antenna probably won’t be worth the trouble. I would have to get my local channels some other way.
What Other Objections To Streaming Do You Have?
My husband’s biggest objection to streaming is that he loves to channel surf and just see what’s on. Streaming isn’t the same to him and he’s not at all sure he would like it.
You may find objections like this in your family too, that don’t simply come down to “I need this channel/show!” Take them into consideration. They may not change your mind, but you should be ready for them.
Streaming Companies To Consider
There are so many streaming companies out there that I won’t try to list all of them. I will give you a sample listing here, along with current costs. Don’t take my prices as accurate, as they’re subject to change at any time. Also, remember that most don’t have contracts. You could change services monthly if you felt like it.
Most will work on whichever streaming devices you have, along with computers, smartphones, and tablets. Some will not work with older devices, however.
Netflix – $7.99-$13.99 per month – Netflix has been around a while now, and produces some great shows that are exclusive to them, as well as streaming popular and not so popular movies and TV shows. Their selection changes a little every month, which can both delight and infuriate customers.
Hulu – $7.99-$39.99 per month – Hulu has two levels of service. The main one is the $7.99 service and it gives you access to thousands of movies and shows. Like Netflix, they also have shows produced just for their platform. The pricier $39.99 per month option is for those who want to watch live sports, news, and more, as well as having access the the full Hulu library. This is one of the ways you might get your local channels.
You can also add on premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime for an additional fee.
Sling TV – $20-$40+ per month – Sling is another option if you want access to some of your local channels, as well as ESPN. Sling offers three basic channel packages to give you more control over what you’re paying. The plus in the pricing is because they offer addon packages for $5 each, with the exception of premium movie channels such as HBO, which will cost more.
CBS All Access – $6-$10 per month – CBS All Access makes some people nervous about the future of streaming. No one likes the idea of having to pay a fee for each network. That would get more expensive than subscribing to cable, fast. But if you want the shows they have, such as Star Trek Discovery, this is how you do it.
Amazon Prime Video – I won’t list Amazon Prime prices here, as they’re picky about affiliates listing prices online. It’s an annual subscription, and you may have it already for the shipping. You can get Prime Video separate from Amazon Prime as a whole, but you won’t save a whole lot. If video is all you want from them, go for the lower price. Amazon has some great original shows.
HBO Now – $15 per month – If you love HBO’s original shows such as Game of Thrones, this is a hard subscription to skip. Some subscriptions, such as Amazon Prime, will allow you to add on your HBO subscription to your account with them, but it will still cost the same.
DirecTV Now – $35-$70 per month – DirecTV Now offers much of what you would get if you got DirecTV through a satellite dish. It has a lot of on demand options and some deals on premium channels. There is also a 72 hour rewind feature and a new cloud DVR. It is limited to two users at a time.
PlayStation Vue – $40-$75 per month – This is the expensive option. It’s not that different, in many ways, from what you would get from the cable company. The most expensive options include HBO and other premium channels. It has a DVR so that you can watch record shows to watch later. PlayStation Vue does not require a PlayStation, as it works on many other devices.
More streaming companies keep coming. Disney has a streaming service they plan to launch in 2019, for example. The potential to always want to add new services is one of the risks of using streaming services. On the other hand, most are month to month, so you can cancel one and start another if you like to keep each month’s costs down.
If you have a smart TV, it may already be capable of streaming from several services. Most also have apps so that you can use them on your computer, tablet or smartphone. And of course, there’s always the Playstation if you have that.
If you don’t have a smart TV, you may need to get a little equipment. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost a lot. Look into Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV Stick. Any current version of any of these devices should be able to handle streaming from a range of services.
If you have to buy something, make sure it can do what you need it to do. You won’t be happy if you buy a device only to find out that it’s not compatible with a service you want.
Make A Comparison Chart
Once you have enough data, you can make a comparison chart, or use this sample one I have created in Google Sheets. It has a sheet for listing the channels you need and where to find one, and a second sheet to compare costs. Contact your cable company to find out what your monthly bill would be for just internet. If you need to keep landline phone, keep that in there as well. We have very poor cell phone reception where I live, making a landline still necessary. You want the most exact numbers you can get for what you would be paying, so this comparison may include keeping or dropping a landline phone.
Make sure you include any streaming services you’re already using on the cable side of the bill. You’re probably going to keep those regardless.
Depending on your need for local channels, you might decide to keep a very small cable TV package just to get those local channels. You don’t have to be a complete cord cutter unless it makes sense for you.
On the cable cord cutting side, include the cost of a high enough speed cable plan for your family’s needs. This includes whatever is needed for the entire family. You will need more speed depending on how many people are likely to be using your connection at once.
It may also be worth throwing in what it would cost to switch cable companies. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you change companies because your old package deal has expired. Cable companies aren’t always nice about giving you a new deal when they already have you as a customer. Take a look at where else you can take your business. It’s inconvenient, but the savings may be worthwhile.