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Pros: You will probably save money.
Most people will save around $100 per month when they get rid of cable. You can see the comparison here . If you’re able to get inexpensive, fast internet, choose to subscribe to Netflix and find all the channels you want in one streaming service, you will pay just over $100 per month.
- Internet – $60
- Hulu Live – $40
- Netflix – $12
Total – $112/month
Con: You might not save that much money.
Some people may be stuck paying more for their internet package. Other people may want certain TV channels that are only available with higher priced streaming packages. Once you add in premium channels like HBO or Showtime, your monthly expenses could be climbing up near what you paid for cable.
- Internet – $80
- Playstation Vue Ultra – $75 (includes HBO and Showtime)
- Playstation Vue Sports add on (for NFL Red Zone) – $10
- Netflix – $12
Total – $177/month
Pro: Streaming TV is more flexible than cable
My house has been cable free for about a year and a half. During that time we have used Sling TV, Hulu Live, DIRECTV Now and YouTubeTV. We have also had HBO Go and Starz intermittently. Turning these subscriptions on and off is extremely easy.
First, we had Sling TV Blue for $25/month but it didn’t have ESPN. My husband loves sports so we decided to switch to Hulu Live because it has ESPN. I was able to cancel our Sling subscription online, and our service stopped on the last day of that billing cycle. It just so happened that we had a very busy weekend immediately following our Sling subscription ending, so we actually didn’t have any streaming service for a few days. One day there was a game that my husband wanted to watch, so he signed up for Hulu Live and was watching the game within minutes.
There was no customer service to call. We didn’t spend any time on hold. We didn’t have to wait for someone new to come out and install a new service or pay a service fee. We didn’t have to return any equipment or wait anxiously for a final bill with mystery charges on it. It was easy and pain free. We repeated the process when we switched to DIRECTV Now…and then again when we switched back to Sling.
We also turn our premium channels on and off frequently. We get HBO when Game of Thrones is airing. When it’s off the air, we cancel HBO. I will sign up for Starz once the new season of Outlander is out. At some point, I will pay for a month of Hulu so I can watch the new season of the Handmaid’s Tale.
The only catch is that you will have to wait until the end of your billing cycle before your service ends. They won’t give any refunds if you cancel part way through the month. Also, if you prepay for 2 or 3 months to receive a special offer like a free Roku or Apple TV you will have to keep your service that entire time. Still, 2 or 3 months is nothing when you think about cable contracts of 1-2 years.
Honestly, this is the biggest pro besides saving money. We started streaming TV because I wanted to save money. But now, even if we weren’t saving money, I would still stick with streaming TV.
Con: you’re still paying for lots of channels that you don’t want
This was my biggest surprise when we switched to streaming. The channel count for lots of streaming services is much lower than cable but there are still so many channels that I have never heard of and will never watch. It seems like a waste.
Hulu Live offers about 60 channels. I have never heard of 10 of them. My family only watches about 15 of the channels. So, we only use 25% of the channels that we pay for.
Sling is probably the most versatile when it comes to customizing content. They offer some of the lowest prices ($25/month for Orange or Blue packages, $40 for both) plus lots of add ons for $5 or $10/month. They also offer a DVR option for $5/month.
Pro: Streaming is very portable
Lots of cable companies are now offering apps for watching TV while you are on the go. Streaming takes it a step further. When we travel, we bring our Roku Express with us. If we are in a hotel room or an Airbnb, we can hook it up (assuming we have internet access) and watch TV like we would at home. We also bring our Roku when we rent a lakehouse with our friends. There was one disastrous weekend when the Blackhawks were in the playoffs and we couldn’t watch the game on the TV in the house we rented. Never again! Now, our Roku comes with us.
Con: streaming TV isn’t as mindlessly easy cable
Watching TV with cable is easy. You turn on your TV (and cable box) and something is on. It’s easy to switch back and forth between channels quickly.
Streaming TV isn’t quite as easy. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t hard. But it isn’t as mindlessly easy as cable.
At my house, I have to turn on the TV, then the screen saver for my Roku will be on, so I have to press a button to wake it up. Then I have to choose what app I want to use (probably Netflix) then I choose what program I want to watch. This whole process takes about 15-20 seconds.
My husband wanted me to make sure I put this in here because it is more difficult to switch between different sporting events. The ESPN app is especially time consuming to switch between games.
Edit: We now subscribe to YouTubeTV and I find it to be the best for sports. They have an option to see the last 5 channels you’ve viewed, so it makes it easy to switch between games!
Con: not all streaming services offer DVR or live TV pausing
So you’ve gone through all the trouble of figuring out which of the live TV streaming services has all the channels you want. You narrowed it down to one. But then you realize that it doesn’t have a DVR option. You love your DVR. So, what do you give up? Do you chose a service that doesn’t have all the channels you want, but does have a DVR? Or do you go with all your channels but lose the DVR? That’s a tough choice.
My advice would be to do a free trial of the service without DVR. See if you miss it. Almost everything is available On Demand, I think you will be surprised (I was! We have a DVR with YouTubeTV and I don’t even use it).
Pro/Con: you might start watching less TV
I’m not here to tell you that you have to watch less TV or even that watching less TV is better. No judgments here. I love watching TV (I even started a website to help people watch TV).
Once we got rid of cable, we started watching less TV. This could be because we just had our third child and our lives were getting progressively busier. I think it was because it wasn’t quite so convenient to turn on the TV. That slight bit of extra work sometimes just made it not worth it to turn it on at all.
Bottom Line: For me and my family, the pros of saving money and the flexibility of streaming services far outweighed the cons of getting rid of cable. You have to determine what trade offs are worth it to you. Is it worth $100/month to keep cable for you to switch seamlessly between sports games? Is it worth even $50/month to keep cable so you can keep your regular DVR?
If you’re on the fence and want to experience streaming for yourself before committing: buy a Roku Express (you may even be able to rent one from your library!), pick a weekend where you don’t have a lot going on. Start a free trial of a streaming service. Don’t use your cable and see how it goes!
If you know you’re all in with streaming and want a little more in depth information on getting started – First things first