There are a lot of reasons to hate your cable company. Fox and Cablevision recently got into a spat, and Fox cut off Hulu for Cablevision’s subscribers in addition to blacking out Fox networks in huge chunks of the Northeast. Comcast is trying to charge Netflix a special fee basically for having the nerve to compete with Comcast. And that’s just in the last two months. Cutting the cable and going streaming can seem really appealing.
But it also has its drawbacks. Here’s a breakdown of what you need, what you can get, and what you’ll have to do without.
What You’ll Lose
First things first; in terms of viewing, there are going to be trade-offs. Not everything is on Hulu, so if there’s an obscure show you just can’t live without, you might want to be sure you can get it before you cut the cable for good.
While there’s thousands of hours of movies and TV available online, you’re still going to have your choices restricted somewhat, and you are going to lose some of your favorite shows and networks. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to catch everything as its broadcast, and you may miss out on some shows entirely. For example, sports fans should be ready to miss some games broadcast only on cable channels, and foodies will have to be satisfied with Food Network’s short clips online.
What You’ll Gain
A lot of money, time, and peace of mind. The average cable bill is $75 a month, and that’s only going up. The average bill is projected to be $95 in 2015! TV is being squeezed by falling advertising rates, and in turn, they squeeze the cable networks for retransmission fees; essentially, the right to carry their broadcast on their cable network. Yes, if you have cable, you are paying a small amount for stuff given away for free. Ever wonder why cable networks make you buy tiered packaging instead of just the channels you want? That’s why. They have to make you pay for stuff you don’t want, because otherwise they’re losing money.
This is why channels get blacked out or nearly blacked out almost constantly. The cable company and the broadcaster get into an argument over how much to charge, and suddenly half your channels are dark. In other words, they’re fighting over how much more you’re going to pay…and it’s only going to get worse as the competition heats up.
By ditching cable, you basically step away from two large companies beating on each other and making you pay the price. And that’s always worth it.
What You’ll Need
If you can let go, here’s what you’ll need:
- A high-speed internet connection, the faster the better.
- Some form of media computer. A TV PC is the best option, as you can buy video from online stores, use any streaming service, access YouTube, and, oh yeah, use it as a DVD/Blu-Ray player. The next option down is a gaming console, like the PS3 or XBox 360, both of which have Hulu and Netflix and are looking to obtain as many video streaming services as possible (for example, the NHL and MLB stream games directly to PS3 consoles). The best option for the budget conscious is the Roku box, offered in three different types starting at $60.
- An HDTV antenna dongle to plug into your computer, or a digital antenna for your TV; broadcast networks are airing in digital, and they’re still free over the air.
- A subscription to Netflix and Hulu Plus. Between them, they’ve got thousands of hours of content: movies, cartoons, TV shows, and average out to $16 a month. Get a disc subscription from Netflix, to get access to shows and movies you can’t stream.
- Either a big DVD collection, or access to a bricks-and-mortar video store. Hey, the Internet doesn’t work all the time: be ready for those moments.
To Torrent Or Not To Torrent?
We’ll spare you the morality lecture. We will say that torrents, despite their popularity, are overhyped in terms of what you can access; the Internet does not actually have everything, and you’re largely at the mercy of people bothering to encode shows they like.
The biggest risk, though, are viruses. Anybody can put “Latest Episode of Glee!” on their virus and have millions of suckers downloading away with abandon. It’ll destroy your gear, and they’ll think it’s funny. So if you’re going to torrent, think before you click, and consider all your options.
Sure, it’ll a little risky, and you may be a little behind at the water cooler, but cutting the cable can save you lots of time, more money and above all a lot of aggravation. And as more people move away, more content will go where people want it. It’s not for everybody, but if you want more control over your viewing at less cost, cutting the cable might just be right for you.