It has been a long time coming but I have finally cut the cord. Personally I know that I could not cancel cable without replacing it with some form of live TV–Netflix or Amazon prime video alone just will not suffice. So I have been waiting and watching the number and quality of live TV streaming options grow as my cable TV bill has continued to increase year after year.
Of course there are always cable TV promotions and bundles to distract and make cable TV pricing anything but transparent. I took advantage of these promotions over time, but even with the discounts the price just isn’t competitive anymore.
Over the past couple years my cable bill has gone from $127 to $149 to $182 most recently (coming off a promotional offer). That is a 43% increase (20% CAGR)!
So I finally “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription this past week. Here’s how I went about transitioning to a new TV service.
How streaming services work
If you aren’t familiar with how streaming services work, here’s a quick overview. There are two types of streaming service providers, ones that provide content on demand (e.g., Netflix) and ones that provide streaming live TV. I’m going to focus on the live TV streaming service here as that is the true competitor for cable TV.
Regardless of the service provider you select (I’ll discuss the options below), you are generally able to watch the programming over multiple types of devices (televisions, iPads / tablets, smartphones). Like cable TV there is a monthly subscription fee, but is it generally much less than cable. The number of channels you receive is generally less than what cable TV provides, but who really needs 300 channels?
If you’re ready to consider cutting the cord yourself, there are a couple of things you will need for your setup.
Requirements for streaming services:
- Internet connection – You will need an internet connection with decent speed for streaming videos, at lease 5Mbps.
- Smart TV or other interface device – You will need to connect your television to the service provider. This can be done with many smart TVs (you will want to check that your smart TV is capable and has an app for the service provider). If you don’t have a smart TV or your smart TV doesn’t have the capability for your service provider, you can buy an interface device such as an Amazon Fire Stick, Roku player, Apple TV, etc. which connects the service to your TV. This is not required for watching on iPads / phones.
Live TV streaming options
There are a growing number of options for streaming live TV over the internet. Some of the most popular providers are:
Live TV Streaming comparison
These providers have a range of different offerings. Some provide more channels and/or other services (e.g., DVR). Here’s a side by side comparison:
|Provider||Cost / mo.||Channels||Connections||DVR||Premium channel availability (for a fee)|
|Sling||$25-40||28-46||1-3||Yes (+$5)||HBO, Starz, Showtime, Cinemax, Epix|
|Playstaytion Vue||$45-80||48-93||5||Yes||HBO, Showtime, Cinemax|
|DirectTV Now||$40-75||73-134||2||Yes (beta test)||HBO, Starz, Showtime, Cinemax|
|Hulu with Live TV||$40||62||2||Yes||HBO, Showtime, Cinemax|
Live TV streaming channels
One of the most important considerations is the specific channels which each service provides. My significant other and I sat down and reviewed the options of each provider to ensure the channels we watch most often were included in the package we ultimately selected. There are already some great resources on the web to review and compare channels, so I won’t go into it here, but instead provide some links:
- https://www.wsj.com/graphics/streaming-live-tv-bundle-pickers/ – A great article / interactive comparison of channel lineups across service packages. You will need a WSJ subscription.
- https://www.groundedreason.com/best-live-tv-streaming-services/ – provides a comparison of channel availability as well as features and other comparisons
My selection and savings
After using the WSJ interactive “Streaming Live TV Bundle Pickers” resource, we selected the DirectTV Now “Live a Little” package. Although it’s the smallest channel package offered by DirectTV Now, it includes all of the channels we watch on a regular basis.
The first week is free, but afterwards the service costs $40 / month. I plan on keeping my internet service with the cable company which will be $65 / month. So in total my new cost will be about $110 / month after taxes. This results in a 40% reduction from my current bill of $182 / month (a savings of $72 / month)!
Direct TV Now review
It’s been almost a week trying out Direct TV Now, and honestly, I’m still on the fence about the service. The cost is great and the channel selection has everything’s we typically watch, however some of the features are lacking. Not being able to rewind live TV is a major drawback. Additionally, I thought the on demand library would be much larger, and it’s even challenging to tell what is available on demand.
The Sling service was originally my second choice. Now that my trial week has ended with DirectTV Now, I have decided to cancel and give the Sling orange+blue package a try.