In our house, the worst word you can say is “budget.” Anytime my husband mentions the word budget, I immediately think about all of the Amazon Prime packages that I have received in the last week and tell myself I should really cut back.
In the spring of 2018 my husband brought up our budget again, but this time we discussed our monthly expenses and how we could trim back unnecessary spending. Our enormous cable bill immediately caught our attention, and we decided to research alternate ways of cutting back on this expense.
We are not alone. Each year it seems more and more people are ditching traditional cable and looking to streaming services to fill the gap in their television-watching habits.
Figuring out all of the different options can be tedious and time-consuming. Lucky for you, I have been there and wanted to share some FAQs, along with some information about the most popular streaming options so you can decide if cutting the cable cord is right for you.
Q: Why would you want to get rid of traditional cable?
A: This is a completely personal question that you have to evaluate with your family. I would suggest writing down all of the TV shows and channels you watch so you can know what to look for in different packages. Most services offer different channels and shows, so it’s important to know your preferences before you ditch cable.
One benefit is that there is no external hardware that a company has to come out and set up. I would always be beyond frustrated when there would be something wrong with our TV and I would have to stay at home all day waiting for the repair technician. The company gives you a window of time, but do they ever actually come during that window? (Never!) Ditching cable eliminates this frustration. All you need is an internet connection and a smart TV or streaming device, and you are good to go!
Q: How do you stream content to your TV?
A: To stream content from the internet to your TV, you will need to have either a smart TV or a streaming player device such as an Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Firestick. On this device, you will have apps to download to access your streaming content. Once you set up your device, you will download the apps and be able to watch streaming services in no time.
Q: There are so many options. How do I know which is which?
A: That is what I am here for! I have divided this article into two parts: streaming services and cable replacement options. Many people have a mixture of both, but what you decide is completely up to you.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of Netflix. This is the original streaming service that started it all. One major pro of Netflix is that it has an amazing original content platform, so you can watch TV shows and movies that are only available to Netflix subscribers (hello, Stranger Things). Since Netflix has its own production studio, the content can be more original and edgier than traditional production studios. It also pours a ton of money into its original content: $8 billion (with a “b”) in 2018. Netflix is good for adults and kids, and its original content should continue to increase with the amount of money it is reinvesting into its business. The con of Netflix is that it still carries other production company shows, and therefore the risk of those shows leaving at any time is high. Earlier this year it was rumored that the beloved Friends TV show was going to be taken off Netflix. After a huge backlash from fans, Netflix reversed course and is going to be on the platform until January 2020, when it will leave for good.
If you have Amazon Prime, then you are eligible to watch Amazon Prime Video. In addition to watching Amazon Prime original content, you can also access other shows on their platform. You can also rent movies from Amazon’s library; these will be charged to your Amazon account, which makes things very easy. (To be completely honest, faithful readers, I don’t understand Amazon Prime Video. I find the interface confusing, and every time I see a kids’ show I want to turn on, Amazon tells me it is not available. Although we subscribe to it from our Amazon Prime account, it is the streaming service I use the least.)
HBO Now (changing to HBO Max in spring 2020)
Chances are, you’ve heard of HBO before. HBO produced classic TV shows such as The Sopranos and Sex and the City. HBO Now is great for the subscriber who does not want to pay for traditional cable. You can access all HBO shows (both currently running and previously aired) so you can be completely up to date with all the Big Little Lies chatter on the playground. In addition to original content, HBO also offers studio movies that it rotates monthly, and its documentaries are fantastic. Upon doing research for this article, I learned that Friends is leaving Netflix for HBO Max, which will hold all the original content for HBO and the CW among other networks.
Hulu is another option for streaming content. The big show on Hulu right now is The Handmaid’s Tale, but it also offers lots of TV shows from other networks on its platform. You will also find wonderful movies and documentaries on Hulu as well.
Cable Replacement Options
Whenever I talk about YouTube TV, I have to make sure I explain that it is completely different from regular YouTube. On regular YouTube, you can watch millions of videos uploaded from users around the world. YouTube TV is a cable replacement service on which you can watch traditional cable channels without having a cable box in your living room (or dealing with service issues). YouTube TV has all of the local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox) as well as many other channels that you would traditionally get with a cable subscription (ESPN, Disney, MSNBC, Bravo, FX, National Geographic, etc). You are also able to record shows, and the recordings are kept on the magical internet cloud so there are no storage limits. When my husband first suggested cutting cable, I was extremely hesitant. After we tried YouTube TV for a week (with the free trial), I was hooked.
“More than just Live TV” is their slogan, and to be honest, I am super intrigued. Hulu + Live TV is essentially Hulu plus a bunch of live TV channels that you would regularly get with traditional cable services. In addition to live TV, you have the option to record content (up to 50 hours) and watch it on any device, at home or on the go.
When I first started hearing about PlayStation Vue, I was confused and thought it was only for people with PlayStation consoles. That is incorrect. You can watch PlayStation Vue on any compatible device. It is very similar to YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV in that you can watch local channels, live sports, and a variety of different TV channels. There are a ton of TV channels available with PlayStation Vue, and you can customize to your different preferences.
Yet another cable replacement option is Sling TV. It appears to be similar to the other three listed above, but you are able to customize your package with what you actually watch. For their unlimited access you pay a fee, but if you are only interested in a few channels, you can pay less and tailor your options to your needs.
Clearly there is no shortage of options if you do decide to ditch traditional cable and subscribe to a streaming service (or two). The good news is that most of the options above have free trial periods (usually one week), so you can test them out and see which ones you like and would actually use.
Since we have cut the cable cord, “budget” is no longer the worst word in our house. We are living in an era when you can literally customize your TV-watching experience to what works for you and your family. “What a time to be alive!”