Cutting the cord. You’ve probably heard that term a lot in recent years, but what does it mean? Well, the term generally refers to a mom letting her grown children go. A figure of speech relating to the actual cutting of the umbilical cord. However, nowadays, cutting the cord is used in reference to one canceling their cable television subscription. This is something which millions of Americans are doing these days.
The Alternatives to Cable Television
The proliferation of streaming services spurred on by digital technology has made it possible for people to pick and choose how they watch television. People no longer have to, nor need to sit down at a specific time to enjoy their favorite show. Of course, the advent of the VCR first changed all that. It was then followed by Tivo, cable DVRs, and recordable DVDs.
Nowadays, live-streaming services such as Sling TV (whose ad campaign is all about cutting the cord), DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, and PlayStation Vue offer content to anyone who doesn’t want to be tied to a cable subscription. YouTube and Hulu, who both offer tons of content, are just stepping into the live-streaming game this year. Netflix and Amazon, the binge-watch kings, don’t offer live-streaming yet, but have been the solid go-to for families and singles for years. They are being joined by even more channels and companies who want to get in on the digital trend.
Disney, which also owns Marvel and Lucasfilm, recently announced that they’re parting ways with Netflix next year to start their own streaming service. CBS is going the HBO GO route and getting into the streaming game with CBS All Access. Most of these services above can be viewed on/with Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and other forms of devices.
While all of the above options seem like a huge win for viewers, they really aren’t. Yes, the mass amount of content out there is a couch potato’s dream, but it all comes at a cost. The more services you partake in, the higher that cost. Sometimes, it can even be higher than cable!
The Cost of Cutting the Cord
What people are starting to learn is that these streaming services and their additional bundle packages add up. Obviously, if you go with only one or even two services, you’ll be able to beat the price of a cable subscription. However, what a lot of cord-cutters are realizing is that they aren’t getting everything that they really want. They’re still getting lots of extraneous content they could care less about.
A person can’t get every show from any one outlet. Different providers have deals with different companies. While all of the content providers offer enticing bundles that could up the ante for each individual’s wants, none of them offer a true a la carte option. You just can’t pick and choose which shows you want to pay for. You have to settle for a bundle or several bundles in order to get nearly everything you want. It’s essential to be extra careful because piling on all of these additional bundles can raise your overall cost to the average $102 cable subscription bill. This defeats the purpose of cutting the cord.
The Top Options for Cutting The Cord
Now that you’re aware of what cutting the cord is and how great or not-so-great it can be, here are some of the top cable television alternatives out there (along with what they offer and how much they cost):
The Cost: $20 a month or more
Sling lets you stream about 30 popular cable channels in its basic package for $20 a month. These include ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN3, AMC, CNN, Disney Channel, TNT, Food Network, IFC, A&E, Bravo, TBS, Cartoon Network, and more. You can watch them on your television, phone, tablet, or computer. Plus, it’s possible to upgrade to two higher priced packages with more channels (one costing $25 a month, the other $40).
Otherwise, you can just add extra channels, bundled by genre, for $5 a month to your subscription in a limited a la carte fashion. Local channels such as ABC, NBC, and Fox are only available in limited markets (meaning near a big city). You can also add premium channels per each one’s price packages, but this all adds up quick. With that being said, the basic Sling package is great for cost-cutting cord cutters.
The Cost: $35 a month or more
DIRECTV NOW is a streaming service app that offers a basic package called “Live A Little” which costs $35 a month. What’s great about this package is that it contains more than 60 common cable channels that people want (ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, A&E, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, AMC, The Weather Channel, TBS, TNT, USA, Spike TV, Comedy Central, Animal Planet, Bravo, Discovery, FX, FOX, MTV, and more).However, you can’t get any local sports – that will cost you more in an additional package.
Premium channels will cost you even more! If you’re not close enough to a big city that’s linked to DIRECTV, you may not get ABC, NBC, and Fox. Oh, and you’ll never get CBS because Direct doesn’t have a license with them.
The Cost: $35 a month
If it’s sports you’re looking for then fuboTV will be your choice. Fubo used to be a sports-only streaming service that began by catering to soccer fans. It has expanded to include over 50 channels that are not all sports related. These include FS1/ FS2, NBCSN, regional FOX Sports Networks, regional NBC Sports networks, Big Ten Network, and NBA TV, along with MSNBC, FOX News, FX, USA, FXX, Bravo, A&E, and The Weather Channel. It’s a great service for those afraid of losing their game viewing opportunities if they cut the cord.
The Cost: $30 a month or more
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to have a PlayStation to watch PlayStation Vue content. The service works on Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, iPad, and Chromecast. However, it does not work on any Roku, Apple TV, or Android devices. It offers a wide variety of content similar to those above, but charges more money for local channels in certain cities. When this is paired with the initial cost of $30 a month, it can make its overall cost closer to traditional cable bundle prices.
The Cost: $7.99-$11.99 a month
Most cord-cutters start with Netflix. This grandpa of streaming services has been around since before streaming even existed. It started with DVD rentals at the end of the last century and adapted to the changing technical times. Netflix offers unlimited streaming of hundreds of thousands of movies and television shows for the whole family. It has been getting rave reviews for its original content like Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and Marvel’s Daredevil.
The price for Netflix is incredibly affordable, especially for all that you get. Also, having different profile options makes it easy for parents to set up lists of entertainment for each member of their family. Netflix is one of those services that non-cord cutters pay for in addition to their cable bills.
The Cost: $99 a year for a full Amazon Prime membership or $9 for video only
Incredibly, so many people have Amazon Prime Instant Video and don’t know it. The company’s streaming service comes free with their $99 for Amazon Prime yearly subscription (the one that gets you free 2-day shipping on most of their products). Prime members get access to a library of movies and shows that rival Netflix’s cache. Amazon is wowing critics and fans with its original shows like Man in the High Castle, Transparent, and Mozart in the Jungle. Another Prime perk is that you get access to a large music streaming library and free eBook library.
The Cost: $7.99 a month or more
Hulu beats Netflix and Amazon for its offerings of current television shows. Those who want to keep up with what’s happening now while binging on past seasons of their favorite drama or sitcom come to Hulu for their large selection of network programming (except, once again, CBS). Like the other big guys above, Hulu has jumped into the original programming pool and scored big at the 2017 Emmy Awards with The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Conclusion … For Now
So, there you have it, all of the top options and reasons for cutting the cord. For some, it’s the best thing they’ll ever do. For others, it could be a very big mistake, albeit, one that they can recover from within a month. The best thing that anyone can do is research exactly what they want from a streaming service and what they can/cannot live without. Then, see how much of their wish list they can get with 1 to 3 of these services.
If you can live with that, you’ll probably make out in the long run. However, keep in mind that with every service you get, there are limitations to how and where you can partake. Your location, data plan, and the number of people using these services can limit your enjoyment and add to your stress. This makes cable look all the more like the better choice.
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