Traditional cable is on its way out and everyone knows it.
However, there’s one benefit to being behind-the-times: you don’t have to put up with the growing pains of new technology.
Watching TV exclusively via streaming may be the way of the future, but it’s not quite the way of the present just yet. While Internet streaming services are much more accessible and expansive than they were even a few years ago, there are still some notable inconveniences to a strictly-streaming lifestyle that are keeping the cable companies in business, and for good reason.
Should you cut the cord and switch today to streaming television exclusively? It’s very possible that you should.
But there are a few things to consider that might encourage you to wait a little bit longer. You probably shouldn’t switch from cable to streaming if…
…You don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
Switching isn’t as simple as just unplugging your cable and loading up Netflix. It’s a process that’s going to take some planning and at least a little bit of patience.
Before anything else, getting the cable company off your back might be an ordeal in and of itself. If you call them up and tell them you don’t want cable anymore, they’re not going to let you go easily.
In one infamous case on the Internet, a customer uploaded a video recording of his phone conversation, wherein his provider’s retention department kept him on the line for hours, asking him over and over why he didn’t want their service anymore, and refusing to let him go until he gave a satisfying answer.
You probably won’t experience that much friction, but you should certainly rehearse how to be firm with them without just telling them to get lost, especially if you still rely on this company for your phone and Internet. Set aside a decent amount of time to make the call. Maybe bring a crossword puzzle or something for when you’re on hold.
As for the actual streaming, you need to do some research. Which services do you want to subscribe to and which have your favorite shows? What accessories will you need to play them on your TV? Can you play them on your TV or is that a brick now? Do you want to get a digital antenna to receive the free over-the-air channels?
Do you know how to go about doing these things? Are there other factors that may make this all more-so or less -so possible for you than for someone else?
All these questions may lead to conclusions that may also dissuade you from going completely cable-free.
…You live in a rural area and can’t rely as much on modern technology.
This is a twofold issue. Firstly, Internet in rural areas is still far behind what it is in metropolitan areas. If you’re reading this in the United States, there’s a fair chance you’re reading this via dial-up Internet, and if you are, streaming may be out of the question.
Since streaming relies completely on the strength of the Internet connection, if you can’t rely on your Internet, you’re better off sticking with cable.
People may also struggle with having reliable Internet in wooded areas, areas with persistently bad weather, or (ironically) dense inner-urban areas, where overcrowding of the shared Internet creates a logjam leading to disruptions, especially during peak hours in the evening.
But let’s say your Internet connection is fine and dandy, perfectly serviceable. Would you have any desire at all to have an antenna to catch the free broadcast stations? Well, if you’re too far from a transmitter, you may be out of luck.
Despite the 2009 transition to all-digital television, free television is very much still on the old airwaves; all you need is an antenna. But those airwaves can still only travel so far, and despite relay transmitters in rural areas, they still can’t reach everywhere. You also might be in a pickle if the line between you and the transmitter is blocked by forestry or large hills.
But wait, why would anybody still want those channels if they can stream everything online?
…You love live TV.
Because the Big Four networks are still the most widely accessible, most major sports are broadcast on them, or at least the major events of those sports. Sports, however, are one of the most notable gaps in what streaming services can cover. While there are absolutely ways to watch almost any sport on the Internet, they’re a rare commodity and will cost you as much.
Major sports’ sanctioning bodies (which all already receive criticism for putting games and events on premium-premium cable channels that are either part of an expensive sports package or just aren’t available) know the value of their product, so they sell live-broadcast licensing at an astronomical mark-up. When a streaming company bites, they have to also sell it high so they can make their money back.
Most notably, Sling TV offers many live sports, but – as of this writing – only as part of one of their highest-tier packages.
Further confusing things is many leagues have their own streaming services, but not all of them do – I see you over there, NFL. But these are even more expensive. If you want to watch baseball, basketball and hockey, you’d probably be better off paying for Sling TV.
As an honorable mention, let’s give a shout-out to your local nightly news. Sure, you can read the news online, but if you’ve grown accustomed to the anchors and the reporters, you won’t be able to see them on Netflix or Hulu.
If you’re more into the network-wide newscasts, such as NBC Nightly News, you might actually be able to find that online… the next day. You might agree that really takes the “new” out of news.
…You love specific, obscure TV.
This is a double-edged sword. There are many, many TV shows you can find online that you’ll never see on television. But conversely, there’s plenty of stuff on television that streaming services have no interest in buying the rights to. All the streaming companies combined still don’t have everything, and they probably never will, because there are plenty of shows they just don’t care about.
If you like one of those shows, don’t expect the Internet to be some goldmine that has every TV show ever made; you’ll be disappointed. And heaven help you if you support public access channels.
Of course, your cable channels could drop these obscure shows tomorrow as well, assuming they haven’t already, at which point you’re going to really need to evaluate how much you care about these shows.
But the point remains that many, many people come into Internet streaming thinking they’ll have everything they could ever hope for and are genuinely heartbroken when they find out they don’t.
If you switch to streaming, do it for the right reasons. You can probably find which shows are on which services with a quick Google search. In the meantime, good luck finding your favorite obscure TV and movies on DVD and Blu-Ray before home video is also phased out in favor of streaming.
That said, for all this anxiety about uncommon works being lost forever, there’s actually another reason not to quit cable that’s the exact opposite problem of liking too much obscure stuff…
…You like too many TV shows (and you want them all).
If you cut cable and replace it with every available streaming service in an attempt to gain access to as many shows and movies as possible, you will almost certainly not be saving much money.
If you currently bundle your cable with an Internet and phone plan to save money on all three, taking cable out will save you even less money. If the process of removing the cable setup and installing the streaming setup costs you a significant amount of money… surely by now you see where this is going.
If your main objective in switching to streaming is to save money, you’ll have to pick and choose your services because their monthly and yearly costs will quickly add up. You could very well even end up paying more than you are now with cable, especially if services keep jacking their prices up as they’ve been doing.
Experts absolutely recommend switching from cable to streaming if you’re doing it because you’re a TV and film connoisseur who wants access to a wider breadth of on-demand options and money is no issue to you.
If you’re looking to switch to save money, it can quickly become a self-defeating endeavor. If money is really that tight, the most responsible solution may be to cut back on both cable and streaming and to simply consume less on a screen.
…You’re still not sure.
Ultimately, if you aren’t 100% positive you’re ready to switch, then that’s probably your biggest hint to hold off. Give the streaming services some time to streamline their product (pun intended) and give the cable companies some time to make a counteroffer for your patronage.
Who knows? Maybe a-la-carte cable channel subscriptions will be available soon after all.
If you’re going to make the jump, good luck. If you’re staying put, don’t worry about being behind the times – the times are ahead of themselves, anyway. Whatever you do, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and from an informed position.
And remember, you can probably borrow a whole bunch of TV shows and movies on DVD for free from the library. All it will cost you is talking to the front desk clerk and hoping they aren’t judging you for your selection. I’ve heard the books there are pretty good, too.