Cord Cutting Dilemma: Should You Keep Cable TV?

Streaming services such as Netflix offer compelling content, even some exclusives.Streaming services such as Netflix offer compelling content, even some exclusives.Faced with bills north of $80 for cable TV service, many people think about cord cutting: shedding cable or other pay TV providers in favor of antennas, streaming video services such as Netflix or some combination thereof. 

But if you like to watch TV, the cost savings alone may not justify getting rid of cable (and cord cutting may not save as much as you’d think).  It’s still hard to beat the convenience and quantity of content that cable TV offers. You can’t beat turning on the TV, punching in a number and instantly watching something. Beyond the basics, cable companies have now made shows available in more ways to increase your options. 

Before you cut the cord, make sure you’re taking full account of what you get for your money.

MORE: 5 Easy Tips for Buying an HDTV

Watching TV over the Internet

Streaming video makes cord cutting a realistic option for replacing cable. Netflix and Hulu Plus offer thousands of shows on-demand, while new services like Aereo bring live TV to people in some markets (New York City, Boston and Atlanta now, with plans for 20 other cities this year).

Instead of ignoring this, providers like Comcast and Verizon take advantage of the technology to offer subscribers on-demand and live streams of some channels through the Web. Time Warner Cable even created a channel for Roku that offers live streaming of up to 300 cable stations (depending on your subscription) through the set-top box.

These services sometimes require that you subscribe to both TV and Internet service through the providers. But it’s a convenient option when you want to watch away from your main set.

Exclusive pay TV content

Despite how far streaming video has come, cable still offers content that you can’t find otherwise — or can’t get legally for a while, at least. HBO and Showtime, for example don’t make current-season shows available for download or streaming outside of their on-demand cable channels and streaming services HBO GO and Showtime Anytime, which you can only get if you subscribe to a participating cable or satellite provider. If you’re not a subscriber, you have to wait until after the season to get them on disc or download them through iTunes and Amazon.

Many networks are also tying their streams to subscription TV services. For example, ABC’s live-streaming app now requires an account with Comcast, Cablevision, AT&T or another participating provider. Others like Cartoon Network provide a few shows for free, but a majority of their streams require an account with a participating provider.

MORE: Improve Your HDTV Picture Quality in 4 Easy Steps

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  • Elevory
    Dilemma: Should you keep cable TV?
    Answer: No
  • kinggraves
    Do you even have a choice? I have cable TV because it's cheaper to bundle with the internet. I would pay more for internet alone. Remember these are the same lines that are so congested that they have to nickle and dime us over bandwidth, but apparently I can consistently be sent packets of dozens of channels I don't watch.
  • somebodyspecial
    What you can't beat is NO COMMERCIALS for your entire show and on demand whenever you want. Netflix alone has so much tv my retired parents can't watch it all...ROFL. They are currently going through a list of shows that are already over (fringe right now, felicity already, mcleods daughters already etc). They have no patience now for waiting for next season, and commercials are against our whole family's religion these days. I will not give you 18 minutes of my time every hour of TV. I can never go back to cable, just like I can never go back to a single monitor. That is over.

    Roku, Playon, Netflix is about all we need but I have other options that add to those. :) Hulu didn't make it past a week for us (commercials? Really? for paid? and so much WEB ONLY crap). My parents occasionally watch the rabbit ears for news but its rare. They get ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX etc on the ears (about 20 channels OTA they get). I see no need for cabletv ever in my life again...ROFL.
  • fimbulvinter
    I haven't had cable for 3 years now and haven't regretted it for even a second. I don't watch sports, don't miss commercials, and can avoid all the bullshit reality crap. Netflix works for me when I want to watch something.
  • fimbulvinter
    "Cord cutters also miss out on breaking news"

    I just noticed this on a second glance and let me just say holy LOL.

    Yeah I am really missing that breaking cable news because I somehow haven't heard of the internet.
  • flong777
    I installed and antenna a few years ago and I have never looked back. The ONLY downside is that I cannot get ESPN for sports - but I am not going to pay $100 a month for ESPN. Most of the major sports events for Arizona (where I live) are carried over the air (except for the Phoenix Suns, but I don't watch that team anyway).

    I have the Hauppauge 2250 HDTV tuner and I use Windows 7 Media Center. I can record two programs at once and my HDTV picture rivals cable in quality.

    If you do cut the cable make sure:

    1. You get a good monitor / HDTV. A poor monitor will give you a subpar HDTV picture.

    2. You get the correct antenna - the wrong kind will not receive clear signals.

    3. If you are running off of a computer, MAKE SURE you get a good GPU. A cheap PSU will give you a really bad HDTV picture.

    4. When you connect your antenna cables make sure that you install the end connections correctly and firmly tighten all of the connections.

    5. Make sure that you are in an area where you have a strong over the air TV signal. Rural areas can have problems with reception.

    6. If you are using a computer, make sure you get a high quality tuner. I recommend the Hauppauge 2250. It has two separate tuners and does a good job processing the OTA signal.
  • rzacconi
    Dilemma: Should you keep cable TV?Answer: No
  • rzacconi
    Well I have just started my quest.. into the abyss. Lol. .. I am tired of satellite t v and thehigh cost ... Thank u subscriber's for the point in the right direction ....Cut the cable!!!