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Can You Ditch Cable, Save Money and Still Watch What You Want?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

It seems like you’ve been hearing about people getting rid of cable or satellite subscriptions for streaming services for years now. But, did you know that it was just two years ago that the percentage of American households subscribing to streaming services surpassed those for cable and satellite?

That’s according to a 2018 Deloitte Digital Media Trends survey, which also found that cord cutters — people who have cancelled pay TV services and continue watching without it — care most about watching content when and where they want and without commercials.

So, what does this group of cord cutters look like? The majority fall between the ages of 18 to 54, with about a quarter falling within the 35 to 44 age group and a little more than 20 percent falling within the 18 to 34 age group. That’s not to say that those 55 and older aren’t giving streaming services a chance. It’s more likely that they’re adopting these over-the-top services at a slower rate and for different reasons.

Among the many reasons that factor into choosing a TV provider is, of course, money.

About two out of every five adults say that they either can’t justify the expense of cable television because they don’t watch enough of the channels or that they simply can’t afford it, the Deloitte survey found. The survey also found that nearly three out of every five adults who currently subscribe to pay TV still have the service because it helps save money on cable. How? Through bundles.

Streaming services have become so popular that traditional TV providers, in an attempt to compete, have returned to the tried-and-true tactic of service bundling, according to eMarketer. And, it’s not just the usual suspects of Internet, TV and phone services. Many traditional pay TV providers have partnered up with streaming services — mainly Netflix — to offer a better bundle.

Which group do you fall under? Do you want to cancel your cable subscription to save money? Are you one of the many wondering how to get rid of your cable subscription and still watch TV? Are you still undecided on the best way to cut the cord?

If so, you’re in luck! Our Kinetic by Windstream team has put together this list of factors you should keep in mind before you eliminate cable TV for good:

1. What You Want to Watch

Remember that many households have made the switch to streaming services because of the quality content they are producing. Think about all the hit shows that everyone seems to be talking about: Game of Thrones is on HBO Now, The Handmaid’s Tale is on Hulu, Stranger Things is on Netflix and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is on Amazon Prime Video.

Cable TV has its fair share of quality programming, too. (Mad Men or The Walking Dead on AMC or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX, anyone?) But there may not be as much as you’d like.

Before you get rid of cable TV, you should first take stock of the programming that you watch regularly. Do you mostly hover around local channels? Are there certain channels that you tune into? Are you still with cable because you want all the sports channels? These questions are the most important in determining the best way to cut the cord specifically for you.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to get every single channel that you’ve had with a cable or satellite subscription. So, if you’re a channel surfer who likes to find the best programming on what’s available, streaming might not be for you.

If, however, you mostly tune into network TV (local channels), you have a few options if you aim to eliminate cable TV. The first is having a digital antenna, though this may have limitations depending on how far away you live from the major networks in your area. Before springing on this option, try entering your address and zip code at AntennaWeb to get a feel of how strong the signals from major networks will be at your residence.

The second option — which also works if you still prefer cable TV programming — is Live TV, or linear over-the-top services, like Hulu Live, Sling TV or DIRECTV Now, which have channel lineups similar to what you would get in a pay TV subscription.

Sports fans have it a little harder. Some streaming services offer “Sports Packages” as add-ons, but you’ll have to pay close attention to whether that gets you all the channels you’ll want. As an example, Sling Blue will get you the NFL Network, but it doesn’t include ESPN. ESPN, though, has launched its own streaming service, ESPN+, that includes a selection of live sports, including exclusive content.

2. When You Like to Watch Them

Another draw of streaming services is convenience. You can start a show whenever you want and can catch any flicks as long as they haven’t left the network on a certain month. Compare that with cable or satellite TV when your options are: watch it live, catch a rerun or pony up an extra fee for a DVR service that allows you to record and watch when you want.

Know that live TV streaming services will differ in this feature. Some will include DVR features, while others have on-demand options that vary per network. If you’re going this route, you’ll want to check out these features before you commit to a service.

3. How You Like to Watch Them

Some folks love waiting week to week to catch the next episode of their favorite show, while others like to wait for an entire season to be available before they even tune in.

Streaming providers are using both. Take for example, The Handmaid’s Tale which streams new episodes weekly, whereas Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black is available to stream all at once.

How you watch can also refer to the devices that you use to catch your favorite shows and movies. If you’re one to watch on your morning bus commute, say, or while you’re waiting for an appointment, you’ll enjoy the mobility that streaming services provide. Cable TV providers may now allow subscribers to watch whatever is saved on DVR recordings on the go, but that would require you to have the premium service.

4. Are You Equipped?

If you are in the rare group that hasn’t touched a streaming service ever, chances are you’ll need some equipment. What you’ll need will depend on what types of services you end up signing up for. If you’ve found that you want local channels and will get a great signal from those networks, you’ll want a digital antenna. Most streaming services require some sort of device — unless you have a smart TV. Your device options may seem limitless (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire Stick, Google Chromecast and the list goes on!), but be sure to inspect compatibilities to ensure it works with your tech.

Even if you’ve been streaming for a while, it’s always safe to evaluate your device every now and then to make sure it’s still meeting your needs.

5. The Speed You Need

One of the biggest keys to streaming is Internet speed. Many streaming service providers have a recommended Internet speed, like this one for Netflix. Remember, though, that ultimately those are recommendations, and they don’t take into account what other devices are using your Kinetic Internet and what activities are being done on those devices. If, for example, your household includes three people who like to stream their own shows all at once, you’ll for sure want more than the recommended 5 Mbps for Netflix. If you’ve got a smart home, even if you’re streaming one thing at a time, you’ll also want more than the suggested 5 Mbps.

Use our bandwidth breakdown page to learn more about bandwidth consumption and getting the speed you need. If you’re still unsure, contact our team to see what speeds are available to you and what you might need.

6. The Money Factor

How many of you are cancelling cable to save money? The million dollar question about getting rid of cable is whether you’re saving money.

The answer, in short, is it depends.

As we mentioned earlier, traditional TV providers are offering bundles, which ultimately brings down the overall price you’re paying for all the services combined. If you eliminate cable TV and only keep Internet, say, you’d be getting rid of the bundled price, which will likely make your Internet pricing increase. If, too, you’re new to streaming altogether, you’ll have some upfront costs associated with purchasing your streaming device.

Costs will ultimately depend on how many streaming services you’ve subscribed to. Deloitte’s survey says that Americans are signed up for an average of three streaming services. Say, one of those is a linear option — costing an average of $33 a month — and you have Netflix (about $10/month) and Hulu without live TV (about $8/month). Add those up, along with however much you’re paying for a quality Internet speed (remember, speed matters), and you’ll get an idea of how much you might be shelling out if you went full stream ahead. Now, compare that with your Internet and cable bundle, and you’ll likely find you’re shaving off a couple of extra bucks. Thinking about cancelling your cable now to save money?

Again, remember that your costs will largely depend on how many streaming services you go with, how much those cost and how much a quality Internet speed will cost you.

7. Who’s Who in the Streaming Service World

Once you’ve figured out the above, you can get into the fun part: What streaming services do you want? There are more than 200 streaming services available today, and there are still more in development. As an example, Disney+ and Apple’s streaming services are expected to launch sometime this year. This will ultimately come down to preference — e.g., does live TV even matter to you? — so be sure to shop around to find what best fits your household.

Going back to the original prompt — can you ditch cable, save money and still watch you want? — you’ll find that in most cases, the answer is yes. But, before you get rid of your cable subscription, consider those seven factors and see what you find in the end!