For anyone out there who might be thinking that their cable provider isn’t that bad, let’s play a little game to put things into perspective. Would you rather date someone who’s clingy, makes you spend a ton of money on them, and bosses you around? Or someone who’s super chill, lets you do your own thing, and always makes sure you’re happy?
We’re guessing you’d probably opt for the latter. (We know we sure would.)
Well, get this: The first relationship is the one you’re stuck in with your cable company right. this. moment. And the second relationship? That’s a cool collection of carefully curated streaming services, babe.
If you haven’t yet picked up what we’re putting down, we’re talking about cord-cutting — a favorite term of the past few years that basically means breaking up with your cable company and only paying for the content you want without messing around with a cable box or satellite. After all, life is just too short to be tied down to an overpriced contract that doesn’t even include all the content you actually want to watch.
The case for dumping your cable provider
If our dating analogy didn’t convince you that it’s time to break up with your cable provider, allow us to go a little more in-depth about why we can definitively say that moving to literally any streaming service from cable is one of the best things you can do for yourself (Unless, of course, you have really bad internet service in your area, which may be the one and only case to be made for sticking with cable.)
The first thing that would probably deter you from cutting the cord right now is live events. You might think that you’ll be missing out on a lot, like award shows, news events (like debates), sports, and more. But today, that’s just not true at all. In fact, pretty much all of the big live events can be streamed and you can root on your favorite teams from anywhere — you just need to know where to look. (Or, rather, let us tell you where to look in our roundup below.)
Another area of contention is that of choice. While many cable packages offer the mere illusion of choice with their advertised 100-plus channels and whatnot, you’ll find that these choices aren’t really ones you’d ever want to make. With cable, movie and TV choices are random, and you basically have to schedule your TV consumption time around when they’re being shown, lest you catch just the very end of that movie you’ve been meaning to check out. And that’s assuming you can even find something you’re in the mood to watch after scanning the vast list of “meh” content.
And when it comes to network television, the bar is pretty much in Hell at this point anyway; all the good stuff is on streaming services. In fact, in some cases, like that of CBS’ Evil, the literally hellish content (in the best way) was apparently too good for network TV. And so, starting with its second season, the show was turned into a streaming-only exclusive to drum up subscribers for the then-freshly-rebranded Paramount+ streaming service.
Plus, you can’t really binge-watch stuff on cable like you can on streaming platforms, where an entire season is often released in one fell swoop. However, some streaming services have begun to employ more traditional weekly episode drops, just in case you find yourself missing those watercooler conversations about what happened on your favorite program that week. It should also not be overlooked that streaming services — even the ones that aren’t ad-free — subject us to fewer commercials. Because, yes, our time is valuable, thankyouverymuch.
Finally — perhaps the most important aspect of all — the price. The bottom line is that the price-to-value ratio for sticking with cable is abysmal. It’s way more expensive than any given streaming service, and can potentially reach into $100-plus-per-month territory faster than you can find something to watch.
Here’s some food for thought: You can subscribe to Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, and Hulu at the same time and still pay less per month than most cable companies will charge you. Cable companies also tend to sneak in hidden fees that aren’t included in the initial advertised price, including broadcast fees, DVR fees, and remote fees. (Yes, you have to pay monthly to use the remote. Insane.) You’ll almost always pay more than the advertised price, and in many cases, that price increases after your first contract expires. Apparently, cable appreciates in value over time — who knew!
What to consider when choosing a streaming service
We’re sure you already have Netflix for binge-watching movies and some TV shows, and it’s an amazing service for that purpose, but that’s obviously not a complete replacement for cable and live television. The reality is that you might have to get more than one service to cover all of your needs. Then again, having every single streaming service isn’t doable for everyone. After cutting the cord, there’s no sense in loading yourself up with streaming subscriptions that total up to more than your cable bill ever was. So, you’ll want to be very deliberate about which ones you end up subscribing to.
The streaming service market has grown exponentially over the past few years with almost too many plans and channel options to pick from, and you’re probably panicking and wondering which streaming service is right for you. As per usual, the answer to that is entirely dependent on what you’re looking for in your streaming service, what your TV-watching habits are, and your content preferences.
Here’s what you’ll want to take into account when browsing the vast buffet of streaming services you can choose from today:
Your watching habits and tastes: It’s a simple question. What do you like to watch, and how often? If you’re into prestige television and film and nothing else, you’ll want to look to services like Netflix and HBO Max. More into sports and live events? Check out live TV streaming services like Sling or YouTube TV to stay in the loop. Our best advice is to incorporate a mix of the two so you get the best of both worlds, but that might not be sustainable for everyone.
Your budget: How much are you able and willing to spend on entertainment? Once you arrive at your number, it’s actually pretty easy to figure out which service (or services) you’ll want to pick up. Fortunately, streaming services are way more upfront about pricing than cable companies have ever been, so you won’t have to deal with hidden fees or anything like that.
Device compatibility: Not every streaming service works on every device or smart TV immediately after its launch. For example, when HBO Max first dropped, there was a period where the streaming app wasn’t available for Fire TV and Roku streaming devices (and the workarounds ranged from frustrating to downright impossible). Eventually, it all got sorted out, but you’ll still want to heed the warning and make sure any streaming app you might want (especially the smaller, niche ones) is compatible with your streaming device before you pony up the cash.
Screen and profile limits: How many people are going to be using your streaming service or services? Just yourself? A whole family? Some platforms have a limit on how many screens or profiles can be connected to one account at the same time, so check that before you go giving everyone your login info.
Cloud DVR options: Not all live TV streaming platforms have cloud DVR, but it’s worth checking because having the ability to record and store live events and programming to watch later is a total game-changer in the cord-cutting landscape.
What is live TV streaming anyway?
We’ve dropped the phrase on you a couple times now, but we want to make sure that you’re clued in to what it is exactly because it’s actually quite different from the most popular streaming sites that first come to mind.
While a streaming service like Netflix or HBO Max allows you access to lots of great on-demand content, none of it is airing live. Like, you can’t just flick open one of these streaming apps and start watching TV like you can with your traditional cable setup. (And you certainly can’t watch any live sports.) Instead, you have to consciously pick something to watch, find it in a list, and then hit “play.”
Live TV streaming services, on the other hand, work a lot more like traditional cable — namely YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and a few others. The available channel lineup will vary a little from one to the next, but they all allow you to watch live content at the very same moment as anyone else watching live TV.
For example, let’s say your neighbor with a regular ol’ cable setup wants to watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy as it airs. They’d turn on the TV when the show is ready to start, turn the channel to ABC, and watch it in real-time, right? Well, you can do the exact same thing with a live TV streaming service — as long as it offers ABC, of course. (And most, if not all, will include your local channels.) The only difference is that you’ll open up your live TV streaming app of choice and select the channel from there, and instead of pointing your remote to an overpriced cable box, you’ll point it toward your sleek little streaming device instead.
Best of all, many live TV streaming services include cloud DVR storage as well. So even though you have the benefit of being able to watch TV live, you don’t always have to watch TV live. You can record favorites for later, whether that’s 20 minutes later so you can fast-forward through the live commercials, or a month later when you have a free afternoon for some binge-watching. The choice is yours.
So while services like Netflix are a great supplement to live TV, they can’t completely replace your cable setup, at least not in the same way. It all depends on how important certain content or TV channels are to you, and if you care about watching stuff live.
What are the best TV streaming services?
Because it can be hella overwhelming to pick from all the options out there, we’re breaking down the benefits of all the best TV streaming services right here. Whether you’re looking for live TV streaming or the latest trending original series exclusive to a big-name streaming service, this quick-reference guide should steer you toward the best ones to help you cut the cord with your cable company for good.