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Tips for Cutting the Cable Cord

BY: Editorial Staff | Feb 4, 2016

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There was a time when cable was king, but today it faces steep competition that can make cutting the cable cord a much more viable option. Between Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now, you might never need to worry about another cable bill again. We break down key considerations before you make the leap, as well as five easy steps to getting off cable.

Are You Better Off Cutting the Cable Cord? Key Questions

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In a nutshell, what's the difference between life with and without cable?

  • Life with cable: channel-driven scheduled viewing
  • Life without cable: app-driven on-demand viewing, usually with a streaming device or Smart TV

Sure, cable offers on-demand, and a DVR can record shows for later. But, app-driven on-demand viewing is about more than watching when you want—it's also about watching how you want. As in, no (or fewer) commercials, an unlimited stash of content, and the freedom to binge-watch instead of waiting for episodes to roll out on a weekly basis. No, you can't do the same kind of mindless channel surfing, but if you think about it, isn't that a good thing?

Here's a simple look at the main differences between the two:

  Cable Streaming
Is there sports coverage? Yes, but it depends on your cable package. Yes, but you'll need to pay extra for league-supported apps and packages.
Can I watch broadcast TV? Yes (broadcast TV, even in HD, is free) Yes (broadcast TV, even in HD, is free)
Do I have on-demand options? Yes Yes
Can I watch current seasons of my shows? Yes

Yes, but it'll depend on your streaming provider and device.

Is there exclusive content? No Yes, a lot!
Do I need high-speed internet? No Yes (if you're used to slow load times and lots of buffering, streaming only may not be for you)
Average Cost $25–$99/month $7.99–$40/month

How to Get Rid of Cable in 5 Easy Steps

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Decided to go for it? We make it simple:

1) Cancel Your Cable Service

For many, this is the hardest step. I mean, how do you get rid of cable?! But be strong. Here are two failproof strategies:

  • Give a reason that can't be argued. Such as, you're marrying a lesser-known member of the royal family, and will therefore be moving out of the country.
  • Be firm. Don't give in to the free trial of HBO or the temporary reduced rate, because you'll end up paying for it eventually and then you'll be back where you started!

2) Decide What You Want to Watch

Make a list of must-have content, and search for an app that offers it. Some content will be easier to find than others:

Widely Available

    • Network shows, such as NBC's Saturday Night Live
    • Last season's shows
    • Classic shows (from Seinfeld to Gilmore Girls to Reading Rainbow)
    • Movies and stand-up comedy

Tougher (but Not Impossible!) to Find

  • Current cable-channel programs, like AMC's The Walking Dead
  • Live sports and broadcasts, such as awards shows

3) Research Top Apps

Popular streaming apps include Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as Sling TV, which gives you access to cable favorites such as ESPN and HBO. Many paid apps offer a free trial—be sure to take advantage.

Free apps include ad-free choices, such as PBS, and those with commercials, such as Hulu and Crackle.

4) Choose a Media-Streaming Device

If you want to watch streaming content on your TV, the easiest way to do so is with the aid of a media-streaming device, which can occupy one of your HDTV's HDMI ports. If you have a Smart TV, check that it offers the apps you want, and consider a streamer if not.

Check out our guide to media streaming devices to find the one that's right for you.

5) Start Simple and Build from There

Start by subscribing to one or two apps. Between Netflix and Hulu Plus, for example, you'll be able to enjoy thousands of hours of TV shows and movies. Add or subtract to build your ideal entertainment library: most app subscriptions are monthly, so you can finesse your selections as you go without waiting for a contract to end.

How to Choose Your Streaming Services

The reason your monthly cost can vary so much with streaming services is because it's likely you'll need to subscribe to more than one to get everything you're looking for. Luckily, costs are still low enough that even if you subscribe to two or three, you'll still pay less than your cable bill. Start by comparing some of the most popular cable alternatives below:

  Cost per Month (Standard Option) Available Content & Exclusives Who's It Best For?
Netflix $10.99 Stranger Things, The Crown, BoJack Horseman, Master of None, and more Lovers of Netflix original content and hard-to-find British shows like The Great British Bake-Off
Hulu Plus $7.99 The Handmaid's Tale, The Mindy Project, Casual, Difficult People, and more People that want fresh eps of their favorite shows and original content
Amazon $8.99 Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, The Man in the High Castle, and more People that already have Amazon Prime or want it (you'll save more per month that way)
HBO Now $14.99 Game of Thrones, Westworld, Insecure, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and more Anyone that wants to keep up with the biggest names in prestige dramas
FuboTV $39.99 NFL Network, Big Ten Network, NBC Sports Network, and more Sports fans, with a special emphasis on soccer fans
Showtime $8.99 Twin Peaks: The Return, The Affair, Homeland Fans of their exclusive content or those that don't want to pay extra for HBO
Sling TV $20 AMC, Bravo, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, and more People that aren't quite ready to let go of cable, but want it to cost less


Goods and Shopping
BY: Editorial Staff