Sometimes less is more. Other times, less is simply less. When it comes to streaming TV, both sayings apply.
“Cord cutting,” the buzz term for going Internet only, is catching on faster than expected. Sling TV, a $20-a-month service announced last week at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is one of the latest developments. When it goes live in a few months, Sling (owned by DISH’s parent company) will join a lineup of cord-cutting services that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.
The plethora of new options raises an obvious question: Is cord cutting a good deal from a cost and choice perspective? The less obvious answer is that it depends. If you want a giant collection of stations and don’t want to fuss around with fancy technology, cord cutting might not be right for you — at least not yet. If you can deal with a much smaller selection of channels, and you want to pay less than your current TV bill, you may want to go cable-less.
Figuring out just what you can get, and how much it will cost, can be tricky. Thankfully, Slate.com did TV fans a real service by putting together an online calculator that gives you a pretty good idea of the potential costs and savings for various combinations of Internet services.
First, you should establish a baseline. Let’s say you are on Time Warner’s 200-channel Preferred TV plan, which costs $90 a month ($1,080 a year). If you drop it and go for the same company’s introductory Internet-only offer of $35 a month ($420 a year) and don’t pay for any streaming services, you’ll save $660 a year.
Using that as a baseline, you can add streaming services. For example, let’s say you add Amazon Prime, which offers originally-produced TV shows, including recent Golden Gold winner, “Transparent;” Hulu Plus; and Neflix, which offers the broadest selection of TV. You’d pay $722 a year, including Internet service, which is $358 less per year than Time Warner’s Preferred TV plan. If you add HBO streaming, which lets you watch HBO’s premium content without cable, you’ll pay an estimated additional $180 a year (the price has not yet been officially announced) and still save $178 a year.
These numbers don’t include tax, but the savings are still significant. However, you do get fewer viewing options. You probably won’t miss many of the dozens, or even hundreds, of junky channels you get when you subscribe to a cable service. Unfortunately, you won’t have direct access to local broadcast stations, though you could buy an antenna and watch them over the air.
Chances are you’ll also want to watch TV on your TV set, not a computer monitor, so you need to be sure your TV and computer have HDMI ports to transfer video content. You can also buy a device like the Roku Box, which make streaming fairly easy. Perhaps most importantly, you need to have a reasonably fast Internet connection that can support your TV habit.
Making the switch to ditch cable takes a bit of effort, and it may not be the best option for you. However, it could save you money, and you’ll no longer have to sit around waiting for the cable guy.