I'm Ready to Cut my Cable or Satellite Cord, What are my options?

The conversation usually starts with "I'm spending over $200 on my cable bill, are there any other options?"

Its become a question that eventually gets asked in almost 100% of our residential projects.

When the cost of satellite or cable TV grows into the hundreds of dollars it makes a lot of people really question the value they get from their provider. Fortunately, today there truly are some really good alternatives to a subscription to the traditional satellite or cable TV providers. Oddly enough some of the options are from subsidiaries of the satellite companies themselves. 

Hopefully this guide will give you some options to consider.

#1 Let Content Be your guide

Before worrying about what type of player to get or what provider to choose, I recommend making a list of your top 5 programs or program sources you routinely watch and you just can't live without. These are the channels that would be considered deal breakers if they weren't offered. For most people its ESPN, Discovery Channel, Fox News or the Hallmark channel. You get the idea. Once you know what content accounts for 90% of your viewing then you'll be better equipped to review the various offerings and make a choice. Each provider has very similar packages but review them carefully as there could be a sub-channel that you want (like Fox Sport Ohio, for example) that isn't included but is very important to you.

#2 How many people will be watching it simultaneously?

Some of the providers will limit the number of simultaneous users that can watch the same programming or use the service. Generally they all support at least 2 unique users simultaneously but if you're a family of 5 and occasionally everyone wants to watch something different or at be using the service then there may be limitations and someone will get "bumped" and not be able to use the service at all.

#3 Local Channels

Most people like the simplicity of tuning in to their local TV providers to catch the local news, weather and traffic. Given that most of these same TV stations have an iPhone or Android app as a source for local information, this is becoming less and less important but still there is occasion when traditional broadcast TV is the best source for news and entertainment. Some streaming content providers will provide a "local channel" but many do not. If you have an antenna attached to your TV then this shouldn't be a problem as you can simply switch to the TV antenna input on your set and get local programming. Switch between different sources on your TV does confuse some people a little more than it should so just be wary that there is an extra step involved.

#4 Movie Channels

Access to movies is one of the other benefits people like when it comes to their cable provider. The simplicity of a movie delivery system that's integrated with their cable TV system and is billed at the same time as their TV service is something a lot of people like. When you cut the cord, likely the movie service will come from a different provider like Netflix or VUDU or Amazon and this can be another set of subscriptions to manage.

#5 You'll still need an internet provider and robust networking in your house

While you might be able to remove the cable TV subscription part of your bill you will still need an internet provider for your streaming service and don't be surprised if the cost of your internet service goes up when you "unbundle" the telephone and cable TV element of your package. Also, you need to make sure you have good robust networking and/or wifi coverage in your house. At Haas Design Co, when we pull cables for a new installation we always put a dedicated network cable for each TV or "smart device" such as a Roku player or Apple TV. Your best performance will ALWAYS be from a wired connection. Our philosophy is that if it can move, allow it on WIFI. If it doesn't move connect a network cable to it.

#6 Don't discount the simplicity of Cable TV

For some people (i'm looking at you, older generation) the simplicity of a cable TV setup is worth the extra money. The cable system has an easy to use menu system, movie channels, local channels and a universal remote control. Short of having 3 broadcast channels like I had growing up, a cable or satellite TV system is about a simple as it comes and that may be well worth the extra price.

#7 Do you want or need a DVR?

If you are the type of person or family that likes to record your shows and watch them later then be sure to see if the content provider you are considering offers a DVR service. Generally there is an extra fee for this service, much like the extra cost of a DVR from the cable company, and the content isn't held indefinitely like to you can on a traditional cable DVR so your show may disappear after 30 days or so.

#8 Now you need a player or maybe not...

Once you've chosen a streaming service you really like and have probably taken them up on their 30 day free trial offer, its time to get a streaming device. I'm not going to go into all the differences between an AppleTV, Roku Player or FireStick here but just realize you will need some type of player to install your new streaming service app on to play. You may get lucky and if you have a smart TV then possibly the app is available for installation on the Smart TV itself. If this is the case then you won't need a player at all. Without going into too many details i'll tell you that the ROKU family of players are my personal favorites.

Links:

Here a few links to the more popular streaming TV service providers for your reference. As always, we welcome you to give us a call to discuss this one on one.

YouTube TV: https://tv.youtube.com/welcome/

Sling TV: https://www.sling.com/

Spectrum: https://www.spectrum.com/streamtv.html

Hulu: https://www.hulu.com

PlayStation VUE: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/?emcid=se-pi-148139

DirectTV Now: https://www.directvnow.com/

 

Hope this helps,

Tim Haas