With the rising popularity of streaming services and the growing demand for speedier Internet, more and more people are finding it easier to “cut the cord” – completely ditch cable in favor of online alternatives. With increasingly-costly cable packages and companies’ inability (or unwillingness) to stay current, it’s never been a better time to do away with your TV bundle.
Prior to my recent move, I had a TV + Internet package which cost me and my three roommates nearly $150 per month. While most would assume the Internet side of the deal was the more expensive part, in actuality, it was the cable that was denting our wallets. Although it was nice to have such a large selection of channels at my disposal, it also seemed like a waste, as I only watched two or three channels in addition to network TV. It was almost frustrating that, while I was paying for the channels I actually paid attention to, I was also paying for things like The Paint Network (probably not real) and 18 different cooking channels.
Once our year was up and our provider jacked up our prices further, we decided there were better ways to get our fill of entertainment. Here are just a few services you’d be better off spending your money on.
Everyone knows about Netflix’s streaming service, and with plans starting at $7.99 a month, you can’t go wrong with it. Netflix offers a multitude of both old and new television series, tons of recent and older flicks, and an assortment of incredible original shows like Marvel’s Daredevil, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. The service’s offerings are also changing all the time – which can be good or bad. One downside to Netflix is that, while many popular TV series are available to watch, it may take awhile for the most recent season to make its way to the platform.
The most basic plan costs $7.99 monthly. If you want high definition streaming and the ability to watch content on multiple devices simultaneously, you’ll need to shell out a few more bucks for the Standard or Premium plans ($8.99 and $11.99 per month, respectively).
While the basic, free music-streaming Spotify service may be more than enough, for $10 a month you can have ad-free, high definition access to nearly every song in existence right at your fingertips. There’s even a discount if you’re a student (and living in the U.S.)! Personally, I’m not too bothered by advertisements – I just tune them out. However, if the workings of our capitalist overlords irk you to no end, Spotify Premium may be for you, considering the standard Spotify service plays ads every so often. Speaking of advertisements…
This one’s touchy. Hulu’s a joint venture between a number of network and distribution companies, providing day-after-air streaming content. That means after ditching cable, you can still keep up with your favorite shows – you’ll just have to watch new episodes a little late.
While the standard service is free (albeit limited), Hulu Plus is also a thing, allowing subscribers total access to show libraries for a $7.99 monthly fee. While you’d expect eight dollars per month to give you an ad-free experience, you’d be sorely wrong. Controversially, the premium Hulu Plus also runs advertisements – a dealbreaker for some consumers – with no way to skip them. However, if you’re like me and find it easy to just outright ignore ads, you might not find it that big a deal. Ultimately, it’s definitely a cheaper and way more personal alternative to cable.
This isn’t so much a service than it is a platform for your streaming services. Chromecasts are these neat little things that you stick into an HDMI port on your television. Like Apple TVs, they allow users to play media from their various streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, whatever). Chromecast users can control content from their smart devices and can even broadcast media from their computers (if running Google Chrome) and some Android phones and tablets.
The best thing about Chromecast? It’s super cheap! The little stick will cost you about $35, which can be purchased directly from Google or found at various retailers. It’s a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t own a smart TV, gaming console or any other device that can provide digital media content.
Until cable service providers ditch the “bundle” business model and allow customers to pick-and-choose what they’re paying for, I don’t see myself going back any time in the near future. Hell, even premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime can be watched without a cable deal. If you feel you’re ready to cut the cord, do it! There are so many reasonable substitutes available, you’ll wonder why you didn’t switch sooner.