I felt like a dinosaur holding onto cable TV into 2022, especially since I’m supposed to be a tech savvy editor. But it recently took two things for me to kill cable forever and embrace one of the best cable TV alternatives.
- I had just added a seventh streaming service to our monthly bill — this time it was Hulu.
- I calculated how much I was paying per month for cable as prices for everything else has skyrocketed.
As someone who was already subscribing to Netflix ($19.99 for 4K Premium), Prime Video ($139 per year as part of Prime), Disney Plus ($7.99), Apple TV Plus ($4.99), Peacock $4.99, and Paramount Plus ($4.99), adding Hulu to the mix at $12.99 seemed steep considering I was already paying for cable. But I was really curious to check out Only Murders in the Building in time for season 2 (spoiler alert: it’s great).
That comes to about $67 per month for streaming services. Our household had reached a tipping point.
And then I took my head out of the sand and looked at how much I was paying Optimum for cable service each month: $334. That’s an obscene amount of money that I should have noticed creeping up in the background, even though it includes home internet (which is essential) and a home phone line (which we never used).
By getting rid of cable altogether we would be chopping $205 off that monthly bill, bringing it down to a much more sane $129.
But my journey was really just beginning. I now had to decide which service I’d use to replace cable TV.
Choosing my cable TV replacements and total cost
As much as I wanted to get rid of cable, I knew I wanted to keep some form of live TV. First, I do like tuning into CNN when there’s breaking news. Second, my family likes to sit down and watch Jeopardy and/or Wheel of Fortune during dinner. And there’s certain channels we like flipping to whenever we feel like it, such as HGTV and Food Network.
I had actually tried Sling TV (from $35) a few times over the years, but I found the interface a bit clunky and the various plans confusing (our Sling Orange vs. Blue guide is a good decoder ring).
I liked that YouTube TV had all the local channels I wanted (there’s 85+ channels in the lineup), unlimited DVR and especially its ease of use. And while its $65 per month fee isn’t cheap, it was still way less than what I had been paying for cable TV.
So I gave YouTube a shot and signed up for a subscription. But first I had to also sign up for HBO Max ($14.99 per month), which I lost access to because it had been included with my cable subscription.
My total new cost for live TV and streaming services is $147 a month, which while certainly not cheap, is a heck of a lot less than what I was paying before for streaming services and cable TV combined.
My first month without cable — what I like, and what I miss
My initial impression with YouTube TV was that I was going to miss flipping through channels like I used to just to see what was on. And it’s true that the loading time for channels is slower than cable TV. But the pros far outweigh the cons.
For one, I love that I can use the YouTube TV app to create my own channel lineup, so I can stack all my favorites together towards the top of my personalized grid. I also like that the service is smart enough to know that you’re watching something and will automatically start ‘recording’ it and let you pick up where you left off. And then there’s little things, like I can see the thumbnail of that Family Guy or Friends episode that’s on so I can tell at a glance if I’ve already seen it too many times.
One of the things I like to do on the weekends is sit down and watch SportsCenter on ESPN, and I like that YouTube TV made it easy for me to add it to my Library so I can just watch it like it was recorded on my DVR.
And that brings me to another thing I like about YouTube TV. When you’re fast forwarding through commercials on the DVR, it’s super easy to start watching at the exact right moment when your show comes back. With cable, fast forwarding through ads was almost like a game where I almost always went too far or not far enough. This added precision is a time-saver.
The main thing I miss since ditching cable is the YES Network, which is currently only available on DirecTV Stream. But we didn’t like that service when we reviewed it, so I’m going to have to get my Yankees fix when they’re on Fox and TBS as they (hopefully) start their playoff run.
Another nitpick: as my colleague Henry T. Casey pointed out in his own YouTube TV pros and cons roundup, you can’t set custom start and end times for recordings nor can you record specific episodes of a show. He tells me, though, that YouTube TV does a good job of recording the minutes after a show is supposed to end, and with the unlimited DVR capacity you can always record the show after the one you're watching.
The best thing I can say about cutting the cord with YouTube TV is that I don’t really miss cable. And I’m kicking myself a bit for not doing it much sooner. My kids have loaded the app on their smart TVs in their bedrooms — you get 6 accounts to share with your household — and my wife and I have YouTube TV on the living room TV and bedroom TV.
The only thing I really miss? Being able to see the time at glance on the cable box. But I’ll get over it.
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