A look at various free streaming video services, from Pluto TV to Kanopy.
While I largely went without a cable TV subscription (due to cost) for most of the early-to-mid 2000s, I’ve had cable TV since that time. However, several years ago, I dropped down to a cheaper broadcast-only channel package to save money.
However, as of mid-February, I’ve finally dropped cable TV in favor of just broadband internet and streaming services. The reason? The same as the previous paring-down reason above, to save money.
Several years ago, Comcast (my cable company) offered a low-end local TV channel and broadband package in an attempt to retain would-be cord cutters. Comcast even threw in HBO for free, presumably to appeal to “Game of Thrones” fans. I switched to said plan, figuring it’d save some money over regular cable TV (even if I didn’t care about HBO). I’d also continue to get Canada’s CBC (including “Hockey Night in Canada”); Comcast in the Seattle area carries Vancouver’s CBC affiliate as a broadcast channel. I also didn’t have to mess with an antenna, which A) I’m not too fond of (unpleasant memories of such from the last time I went without cable TV) and B) doubts about the TV reception quality here (with the various hills/mountains/trees, etc., unlike back in the flatter Midwest).
That said, the price of Comcast’s “cord cutter friendly” package kept creeping up, thanks to increasing TV-related fees, until it ceased being much of a deal. Thus, last month I finally called it quits and decided to just drop TV entirely, switching instead to only streaming.
The old versus new package
The previous package:
- Over-the-air local channels (including Canada’s CBC)
- Comcast’s “Performance Plus” broadband (originally 25 Mbps, but raised to 75 Mbps)
- Subtotal: $77/month
- Total (after taxes, fees, and modem rental costs): $122/month
The current package:
- Comcast’s “Performance Select” broadband (100 Mbps)
- Subtotal: $55/month
- Total (after taxes, fees, and modem rental costs): $70/month
That’s quite a bit of savings without the TV side. I’m also getting a speed boost with the current broadband plan. Comcast also gave me a new modem/router, noting the old one was obsolete; the new modem/router offers 2.4 Ghz and 5.0 Ghz WiFi, while the old one only had 2.4 Ghz.
Streaming video services used
Of course, streaming services have made going without cable a lot easier. I’m currently paying for the following streaming video services:
- Netflix: $13
- ESPN+: $5
- Hulu: $0 (I get the basic ad-supported option free with Spotify)
- PBS Passport: $5
- Total: $23
Combined with the cost of broadband, that’s $93, less than what just the old Comcast package by itself cost. I’m also using various free streaming services, such as Tubi and Pluto TV.
I’m considering switching out ESPN+ temporarily for Sling TV or a similar service for the duration of hockey playoffs/the Stanley Cup (which runs from mid-April to about early June). The playoffs/Stanley Cup itself are scattered across a group of NBC-owned cable channels (though mainly NBCSN). It’d increase how much I’d pay per month, but it’d be on a short-term basis. It’d also still be less than what a full fledged cable TV and broadband package would cost.
Pros and cons so far
So far, the main advantage is I’m spending a lot less money. Even if I added on a live TV replacement option, it’d still be cheaper and/or offer more value than what getting TV through Comcast runs. Which is ironic, given the only reason cable TV exists at all is to offer over-the-air local channels without needing an antenna.
No cable box also means one less device attached to my TV, which only has a few HDMI ports. I can now plug my Roku stick directly into the TV, instead of running it through my Xbox.
The only downsides so far are related to local TV channels. I haven’t bought an antenna yet, and thus been relying on streaming. Given I only care about local TV for live event coverage unavailable through streaming (i.e. sports and a few award shows), and I can get local TV news on their websites if needed, I haven’t felt the need to rush.
Related to the above, the only paid options for receiving local TV are either from the cable company or through live streaming services (such as YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, Fubo TV, etc., which run $50+ a month). Apparently local TV stations are increasingly reliant on retransmission fees cable companies/streaming services pay them, which is one reason such services are expensive. (Thus all those TV-related fees on cable TV bills.) There’s also Locast, a non-profit service that streams local channels for a $5/month donation. However, as it’s being sued by the deep-pocketed broadcasters, I assume it’ll inevitably go under, a la Aereo.
So far, I haven’t had any regrets about dropping cable TV. Given I’m already used to streaming most of my TV shows, it’s not had much of an impact so far, outside of missing CBC as a viewing option. (Especially during the upcoming summer Olympics.)
Do you still subscribe to cable?