Skip to main content

Cord Cutting Dilemma: Should You Keep Cable TV?

The case for cord cutting

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