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I cut the cord to ditch cable — 3 things I love and 2 things I hate about it

Sling TV cord cutting
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Getting rid of cable last year, I cut the cord and moved onto the all-streaming TV experience. And in that time, I haven't thought (seriously) about going once. And the truth is, I could. Sometimes, I have access to cable, because of my roommates who refuse to cut the cord (more on why below). 

But, honestly, I haven't watched cable TV in the entire time since i turned in my cable box. And that's because the best cable TV alternatives are very "sticky" services. By that I mean, once you get yourself invested in one — I chose Sling TV, but dabbled in YouTube TV for a couple of months — it's hard to feel compelled to move back. 

For starters, your DVR is such a personal resource that going back to an empty slate with a new cable box just sounds like backtracking. But that's just the start of the big reasons why I'm sticking with Sling TV. Here's why I am not going back to cable, and what I wish Sling and YouTube TV would get better at.

I'm saving hundreds 

Our household cable TV plan costs around $127 per month, which we split. So, my sights were set on Sling TV, the only cord-cutting service with a decent channel lineup that's under $65 (sorry Philo). 

Sling TV's channel guide

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

So, my cable bill calculated out to $762 per year. And, so, with Sling TV Blue, I'm spending $420 per year ($35 per month * 12), and saving $342 annually. 

Of course, this is about to get annoying for me, as I am starting to get into Formula 1 racing, which means I want the ESPN channels, which means some months I'll be spending an extra $25 per month to go from Sling Blue to Sling Orange & Blue, which adds ESPN's channels on. That means I'll save less while F1 is in season. Fortunately, it's on a break right now, and it's not a year-round sport.

Cloud streaming is a game changer

Sling TV on an iPhone

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

A key difference maker from Spectrum cable to Sling is that the entire service is available on the go. Most importantly, I can open my DVR anywhere.

On top of those savings (the main reason why most people switch), I love how Sling TV and its competitors work everywhere. Yes, you might hear more about the "Cloud DVR" feature, that lets you catch up on the road no matter where you are, but a key difference maker from Spectrum cable to Sling is that the entire service is available on the go.

So, whenever I've got a signal, I can just tune into whatever is going on live. That means I can watch all my channels when I'm waiting at a train station — which is an excellent feature when you live in a city whose public transit is as unreliable as New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority. 

Of course, that means I can also pull up my cloud DVR on the go, too. Most importantly, anywhere I can sign into Sling, I can open my DVR. This includes a recent vacation when I brought my Roku Streaming Stick 4K with me to our Airbnb, where it worked like a charm.

Everything just works — and it's snappy

Updated Sling TV home menu

(Image credit: Sling TV)

Switching channels may have a slightly longer 'loading' time than cable does, as my colleague Mark Spoonauer pointed out when talking about how he cut the cord with YouTube TV. But, aside from that, I'm still routinely impressed by how the Sling TV app (which takes a moment or two to boot up) always feels more responsive and speedy than my old cable box.

One of my personal top reasons to leave cable was because of how antiquated the cable box feels to use. The boot up times take minutes, the dirt-slow hard drives make pruning your DVR feel like you're chopping through quicksand and the navigation menus still looked and felt straight out of the 1980s.

But...cord-cutter services aren't as live as cable

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Cable TV's best feature is one it doesn't really promote (probably because it's hard to advertise). When I timed Sling against cable TV, I found the latter upwards of 70 seconds ahead of the former. YouTube TV was a little better, 20 to 30 behind cable. 

Neither of those services, if you ask me, have any good reason to be 'behind' cable. Cable is the antiquated elephant of the industry, it should be behind cord-cutter services. But for whatever reasons, cable still has the advantage here. If Sling or YouTube TV could guarantee it was just as live as cable, that could swing my dollars, though I really don't want to go to YouTube TV, which would have me paying as much as I did 

I hate playing "Who has what channel?"

The $65 per month YouTube TV costs $30 more than Sling TV's $35 per month Blue package. So you'd assume every channel in Sling Blue is in YouTube TV. I did. And I was wrong. At the very least, the AXS network, which I like for some second-tier pro wrestling programming, isn't in YouTube TV.

YouTube TV open to the channel grid overlaid over a basketball game

(Image credit: Future)

But this is just my personal anecdotal incident. The world of live TV streaming services is filled with these curious questions. Fubo TV is marketed as a sports-first streaming service, yet it lacks TNT and TBS, which are crucial for basketball and baseball playoffs. Then, you've got the whole regional sports networks situation, which is the reason why many don't cut the cord at all. Many, if not most RSN's are kept in the $90 per month tier of DirecTV Stream, a service that does little else to stand out, aside from being the most-like-cable with that pricing.

Channel selection is important, and I understand that a free market means not all channels are available everywhere. But for regional sports networks to be so stuck, and for Fubo to be missing some of the NBA playoffs, this stuff doesn't make sense.

Outlook: Still better without cable

Sure, I'd love for Sling TV to match my old cable box and have Yankees games. I'd love it to be as-live as your average cable box as well. 

But the savings I'm making combined with the portability of this service are a 1-2 knockout combo that keeps the cable cut. I'm also over relying on a box with what seems like a very slow 5400 rpm hard drive.

Join me, and cut the cord. And let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Next: Check out the 7 new movies and shows to watch this weekend (opens in new tab) on Netflix, Hulu, Prime video and more and this is the reason why I never travel without my Roku. Also, here's what you need to know about if I Am Groot is in the MCU.

Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Allan_27
    Agree wholeheartedly! We were with Comcast, paying over $200 each month when we received a letter from them informing of a price increase.
    Fortunately, we were able to switch to Frontier fibre optic at $44.99 and YouTube TV at $73.99 each month for significant savings.
    We then received a letter from Comcast informing our cell phone charges would be increasing from somewhere around $8 a month ( light users) to $25 a month each....so we dropped that too!
    Now with Google Fi which has a strange pricing system and not very happy with that! Monthly fees vary tremendously and have been quite expensive overall.
    Anyway, I digress, YouTube TV is generally very good but we can't stand it in a commercial break when they don't show commercials but have 'interlude' music playing! Absolutely terrible! Going back to the 50's!
    Really enjoy taking our Firestick with us when we travel for some familiar TV, though!
    Reply
  • Jshoopes
    As to F1 you can subscribe to F1 TV for a yearly rate $79 and watch all the races live or on replay. Just cast from your device to your TV if you like. Includes F2 and F3 races also and some Indy races. I find it as a good value.
    Reply
  • Moose and Squirrel
    Since the "delay" has been pervasive throughout the article series, the reason for the delay is two fold.

    One, if you were right on the mark time-wise, and there was a network glitch, you'd have no buffer, so you'd have no picture until the glitch resolved itself.

    Secondly, it takes a lot of work to go from a satellite or fiber or even an antenna in some areas (like my DMA where a fiber connect wasn't plausible) to being encoded in H.264/265 to being spread to hundreds, if not thousands of servers in synchronization until the video was available to all users, as it streams live to tens of thousands of viewers.

    Longer buffers mean more resiliency to the myriad collection of things that can happen anywhere along the line in a very imperfect system.

    So THAT'S why there's a delay with live. I've had a delay with most live tv, particularly sports, for over a decade now since I've streamed a lot of it.

    So far, 0.0 instances of feeling FOMO if folks in a different house started cheering or groaning 30 seconds before I did.

    Streaming services wise, we're down realistically to youtube, sling and hulu. Fubo is weird, has an odd channel lineup and isn't cheap, so that isn't going to last, and directv anything svcks. Sorry for the technical term.

    Sling has endless technical issues and is one of the few streaming services that glitches and glorks regularly. Youtube tv has been smooth, and the 1080 and 60fps that Sling doesn't have (unless they upgraded recently) are crucial for sports and action flicks IMO.

    But like the author, I used them for a while, because Blue is all I need outside of football season, and when it was $30 that was way better than $65 for ytv.

    Now that they're 35, and I need Blue and Orange to get NFL games and that's at $50+, youtube tv is a no brainer.

    However, I'm thinking that during this season or the next we'll end up with being able to stream most sports content from within the native streaming service for the network covering the game. For example, Paramount+ having NFL games in-market.

    ESPN/Sunday Night Football is the stubborn one that doesn't seem to want to find itself on ESPN3 or some other streaming channel.

    Honestly, once sports (in my case, NFL specifically) are 100% streamable at a fair price, I probably won't need a linear tv "live" service at all anymore.

    Except for some NFL action, that's practically the case right now.
    Reply
  • Evesowner
    I cut the cord ~8 years ago. Prior to that I had Comcast with internet, TV, and phone and was paying just under $200. I dropped TV and phone and got:

    Tablo - awesome device for a home DVR for broadcast TV. A bit of an upfront cost: Tablo, external harddrive, and cost for subscription to pay for channel guide (lifetime or yearly...I paid yearly for a while and then paid for lifetime which they are going to stop offering soon). So long as you have an antenna that can get the broadcast channels you want then you're good.
    FYI: You can download your Tablo recordings with an application a Tablo user came up with years ago. Rokus - bought 2 of them back then and now have three. I've tried Firestick and Google/ChromeTV (or whatever it is called). Nothing wrong with the Firestick and Google/ChromeTV . I think I was just use to Roku by the time I tried the others. So I stuck with Roku.
    I have a home NAS with a Plex server and all of my movies I've collected over the years available to all of my Rokus.
    Plenty of free channels available on Roku
    No reason to stick to any specific streaming service for the entire year. Most of them do not offer consistent content that I want to watch for the entire year so I just pick 1-2 different ones to subscribe to at any given time and never pay for more than 2-3 months of any of them before I swap them out for something else. With the exception of Hulu...the last 2-3 years they have offered one year of service for 99 cents a month if you sign up during Thanksgiving week. Sure you get commercials at that price point but its dirt cheap.
    At the moment I have Hulu and Disney+ and I'll be swapping out Disney+ soon once I decide which other service to go with in its place.
    Obviously if you're someone who is use to the mass amount of live tv you get with paid tv (cable, satelite, Hulu LiveTV, Sling, YouTubeTv...whatever) then something like Tablo isn't necessarily for you. Which is fine. To each his own. But if you can do without that and can afford the upfront costs of the hardware then I'd really suggest something like the above. I'll be honest and say it took a while to get use to it but in the end I've saved a ton of money.
    Reply
  • jbprice
    Allan_27 said:
    Agree wholeheartedly! We were with Comcast, paying over $200 each month when we received a letter from them informing of a price increase.
    Fortunately, we were able to switch to Frontier fibre optic at $44.99 and YouTube TV at $73.99 each month for significant savings.
    We then received a letter from Comcast informing our cell phone charges would be increasing from somewhere around $8 a month ( light users) to $25 a month each....so we dropped that too!
    Now with Google Fi which has a strange pricing system and not very happy with that! Monthly fees vary tremendously and have been quite expensive overall.
    Anyway, I digress, YouTube TV is generally very good but we can't stand it in a commercial break when they don't show commercials but have 'interlude' music playing! Absolutely terrible! Going back to the 50's!
    Really enjoy taking our Firestick with us when we travel for some familiar TV, though!
    I too have YouTubeTV and wish it was still the same price it was when I originally signed up for it many moons ago but seems like YouTubeTV, Netflix, etc. have all played the price hike game after luring new customers. I also had XfinityMobile as my cell service who then hiked their prices on me when I dumped their internet service. I ended up going with an AT&T Prepaid Plan at $25/mo. for 8 GB of data and rollover (they now have a 16 GB Plan for new signees). I'm really on the fence about dumping Netflix before I get rid of YouTubeTV to lower costs. I have Disney+ at $7.99/mo. for the kids.

    I'd encourage all to watch their bills closely for price increases and to look at other options. Otherwise these companies will continue to hike prices if they aren't losing customers!
    Reply
  • jojorabbit
    I recently dropped Comcast cable, have been streaming Sling TV for about a month. As another person noted, there are lots of technical glitches, and some of the channels are worse than others (like TCM where the feed frequently pixelates and has artifacts that mar watching).

    Can anyone answer the following: I picked Sling for one reason, to be able to watch French TV channels through their add-on package known as French Bouquet. Is it possible to drop the base packages (Orange and/or Blue) and only subscribe to French Bouquet? I would like to transition to youtubetv also for higher streaming resolution on at least some channels, another area where Sling is behind the times. But I do not want to give up French Bouquet (namely TV5Monde) which is only available (in my area) from either Comcast or Sling...
    Reply
  • TheNYOkie
    We dropped Optimum at the beginning of 2022. The only thing I miss is sports. I subscribed to MLB.TV on promotion because the Yankees are finally having a season to remember (I know, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played but the first half has been historic) but I still can’t get A LOT of games bc of blackout restrictions. We are in Fairfield County, CT so home and some other games are blacked out here. Is the any other way to get every Yankees game w/o Direct TV or cable?
    Reply
  • Rich 1944
    The problem with cable is actually starting to be a problem with Streaming. To paraphrase a political saying "It is the Channels Stupid". The best shows and movies seem to be moving to Paramount plus, Peacock paid service and other pay extra services. Now you are seeing consolidation of some of those services like signing up under Prime and others. Soon the Cable channels will be nothing but crap shows.
    Reply