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Cord cutting thoughts (November 2021 update): is streaming still cheaper than cable?

Updated on May 8, 2022

In February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, I decided to fully cut the cord and canceled my cable TV subscription. While I’d already pared my TV side back to just Comcast’s barebones (and little-advertised) package of over-the-air channels, the cost of that kept going up. Throw in the extra fees (such as for high definition TV, which is like charging for color TV), and cable wasn’t worth keeping. So far, things are going OK (Locast’s shutdown aside), and it’s been cheaper than my old cable TV packages.

Recently, Comcast included with my bill an update on their streaming and broadband packages, including increased pricing. I thought I’d look at how my current setup compares to what a current cable TV and broadband package would cost.

Please note:

  • Prices below are as of October 2021.
  • Prices are from Comcast, and based on what they’re charging in the Seattle area.
  • My current broadband package is a now-discontinued one that’s slightly lower than the prices below. However, I have no idea how long this’ll last, so I’ll just use the current packages’ pricing for the purposes of this post.
  • I’m not counting free ad-supported streaming services, such as Tubi or Pluto TV.

Comcast’s packages

For a “double play” package of cable TV and broadband, Comcast offers:

  • Choice Double Play: basically the over-the-air TV channels and “Connect More Internet” (at 100 Mbps), $80
  • Popular Double Play: the main basic cable TV channels and “Fast Internet” (at 300 Mbps), $110
  • Ultimate Double Play: the highest level cable TV channel package, DVR service, and “Superfast Internet” (at 600 Mbps), $140
  • Premier Double Play: the same package as Ultimate, but also includes HBO Max, Showtime, Hitz, and “Gigabit Internet” (at 1.2 Gbps), $170

For broadband-only internet service:

  • Connect: 50 Mbps, $60
  • Connect More: 100 Mbps, $70
  • Fast: 300 Mbps, $80
  • Superfast: 600 Mbps, $90
  • Ultrafast: 900 Mbps, $100
  • Gigabit: 1.2 Gbps, $110

For cable TV alone (which I’m not using for the figures below, seeing as I’ll need internet service no matter what):

  • Choice TV+: the over-the-air channels, plus DVR service, $10
  • Popular TV: the above, plus most of the basic cable TV lineup, $70
  • Ultimate TV: the same as Popular TV, plus extra cable channels, $88.50

Cable TV versus my cord cutting setup

Streaming services and "TV Everywhere" with cable authentication apps on Apple TV
“HBO Now Apple TV” by Harrison Weber is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

Comcast’s “double play” packages

Under the Choice Double Play package, I’d get basically what I had before: the over-the-air channels plus 100 Mbps of broadband speed. However, Comcast’s prices don’t include the fees they charge: modem rentals, the aforementioned “HD TV fee,” etc. On my old package, these fees added about $45 extra to my bill, so I’ll go with that here. (It’s likely even higher now, but…) That’d bring the cost of this package to $125.

If I wanted regular cable TV service, there’s the Popular Double Play package, which gives me basic cable service, plus a faster broadband package (at 300 Mbps). At $110 + $45 for taxes/fees, that’s $155 total.

Finally, there’s the Ultimate Double Play tier, the version I’d need given the Popular tier is missing some channels. Cartoon Network is one big example: Comcast moved it to its more expensive tier earlier this year for “reasons.” (Among other things, I imagine this won’t help Cartoon Network’s 2021 year-end TV ratings, but that’s for another post.) So, $140 + $45 for taxes/fees = $185 to get everything, including the home of “Teen Titans Go.” Not cheap. And good luck if you’re a Comcast customer and a Turner Classic Movies fan; that channel is now only part of a sports-related channel add-on package.

My cord cutting setup

Meanwhile, my current setup, including broadband service and streaming services:

  • Connect More (100 Mbps): $85 (including $15 for router rental fees/taxes)
  • Netflix: $14
  • The Disney+ bundle (including Hulu and ESPN+): $14
  • Paramount+ (ad-free tier): $10
  • Peacock (Premium tier): $0 (free as a Comcast/Xfinity internet customer)
  • Apple TV+: $0 (free trial until January 2022)
  • Total: $123

At $123, I’m saving $62 over a cable package that actually includes every channel I’d want. While I just have 100 Mbps for speed, that’s fast enough for my purposes.

Hypothetical cable replacement cord cutting setup

Even if I went with a faster broadband package and a cable replacement streaming service like YouTube TV, it’d still be cheaper than what cable would cost. For example, YouTube TV and 300 Mbps broadband:

  • Fast (300 Mbps): $95 (after fees/router rental)
  • YouTube TV: $65
  • Total: $160

Of course, even more money could be saved by sticking with a slower broadband package and going with Sling TV instead:

  • Connect More (100 Mbps): $85 (including $15 for router rental fees/taxes)
  • Sling TV (Blue and Orange tiers): $50
  • Total: $135

Either of these options would cover every major cable TV channel I’d want, including Cartoon Network, and even come with features Comcast charges extra fees for, such as a DVR.

Conclusion

Although local TV’s been a bit of an issue (since Locast shut down), I otherwise don’t miss having cable. Cord cutting for me is cheaper than cable, has fewer bizarre fees, and is less annoying than dealing with Comcast for TV. I also still have more than enough TV to watch.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

(Updated 1/16/22)

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