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Streaming Services vs. Cable TV: Find Your Matc

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The battle of cable TV vs. streaming services continues to be fought. With so many providers out there on both sides, sifting through your options can be overwhelming. To narrow down your choices, consider how much you want to spend, which channels you watch regularly, and how powerful your internet connection is. Want more help deciding which option is right for you? Here are the pros and cons of internet streaming services vs. good ol’ cable TV.

On-Demand Streaming: Pros

Flexibility

When it comes to cable TV vs. streaming, streaming services are undeniably more flexible. Whereas cable companies lock you into strict annual contracts, streaming services let you sign up and cancel when the mood strikes you, without the dreaded termination fee. All you have to do is log into your account and you can stop or restart your service as you wish. If you tend to travel or you might have to move on short notice, streaming would be a good option for you.

Affordability

There’s no competition when looking at the affordability of cable TV vs. streaming. The monthly fees for internet streaming services are much less expensive than the big cable providers. The average cable package is $105, while you can sign up for Hulu Plus or Netflix for less than $10 per month. Many streaming services can also be purchased in different packages, ranging from $8 to $20. Prices fluctuate based on the resolution (HD etc.) and whether or not you’ll be streaming on multiple devices at once.

Customized Viewing

With streaming services customizing your viewing experience is easy — such as subscribing to your favorite shows and having the service alert you as new episodes are posted. Just finished your favorite show and looking for something new? Streaming services have your back by cleverly recommending movies and TV shows based on your viewing history.

There are also plenty of streaming services to choose from when customizing your viewing:

  • Amazon Prime Instant Video

  • HBO Now

  • Hulu

  • Netflix

  • Popcorn Flix

  • Showtime

  • Sony Crackle

  • Yahoo View

  • YouTube TV

Watch as Much as You Want

Want to throw a Mad Men party? With streaming services, you can! They often have entire seasons of shows that are no longer airing, so you can continue to play them (or binge watch) for as long as you like. A good show can be hard to turn off, so beware.

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On-Demand Streaming: Cons

High Speed Internet Required

When debating over streaming vs. cable, remember that you’ll need to have high-speed internet to ensure uninterrupted streaming. Keep this in mind when deciding how much you want to spend, because high speed internet is usually more expensive than standard internet service.

No Internet? No Viewing.

That’s right. Streaming services must be connected to the internet in order to function, so if you cannot connect to the internet you’ll miss out on streaming. This can be problematic for people who live in some rural areas with less reliable internet access.

Know Your Shows

Yes, streaming services do suggest shows for you to watch, but flicking through them is more complicated than clicking around cable channels. You have to go through a few steps to start watching a show and if you don’t like it, you have to go through a few more steps to get back to the main menu. It can be frustrating and tedious if you don’t already know what you want to watch, or if your streaming service suggests shows you don’t like. Depending on your personality, so many options can also be downright overwhelming.

Cable: Pros

More Shows

Something else to consider when debating over cable TV vs. streaming is just how many channels you watch. Are you a channel surfer? Do you have a list of shows that you watch regularly on more than 20 channels? If so, you might want to opt for a cable company since most of them offer packages ranging from 20 channels to hundreds of channels.

Sports

Sports channels on cable TV vs. streaming are superior for cable watchers. Just about all basic cable packages offer ESPN and other major sports networks. Streaming services, on the other hand, tend not to show popular live sporting events. Or, if they do, it can be a costly added fee. Can’t imagine life without Monday Night Football or the World Series? You might want to stick with cable.

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Cable: Cons

Price

As we mentioned earlier, cable packages are notoriously expensive. Sure, they may lure you in with a shiny, sparkly deal for your first year or two, but prepared for the price to skyrocket at the end of your first contract. Additionally, any price hikes imposed by networks onto their cable partners will be tacked on to your monthly bill, so it’s possible for your monthly price to increase even before your contract ends.

Fickle cables

In general, internet service is more reliable than cable because many areas have upgraded or expanded their internet to run underground and underwater. This way, when a thunderstorm rolls through or strong winds mess with your outdoor cables, your internet should still function. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for your cable. If you’re debating between cable TV vs. streaming and your area is prone to extreme weather, streaming may be the more reliable service for you.

Can’t decide? Compromise

Many on-demand streaming services are now trying to compete with cable TV by offering live streaming services. That way, you can use the same device or app to stream old episodes of Breaking Bad, for example, and new episodes of Game of Thrones.

In a similar way, cable providers are attempting to compete with streaming services by offering apps to watch your favorite cable TV shows online. The two services are blurring the lines as they provide more viewing options, which is a win-win for you! For more details, here’s a list of popular streaming services cable networks that offer both on-demand and live TV streaming:

  • AT&T Watch TV

  • CBS All Access

  • Direct TV Now

  • ESPN+

  • Hulu with Live TV

  • Philo TV

  • Pluto TV

There are also two services that just provide live TV streaming: Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. They are growing in popularity as more people choose to watch their favorite TV shows online than over cable.  

Your ultimate decision on cable vs.. streaming doesn’t have to be black and white. You can shop around and build your own hybrid package. This breakdown will help you create a package that’s right for you so you won’t have to miss out on your favorite shows, whether they’re still airing or not.