Ah, the age old question: is it cheaper to have cable or streaming services? This is something I’ve been considering myself for a while. I “cut the cord” seven years ago, but it’s not as cheap as I expected. There’s the Internet bill, but then it’s hard to choose which streaming services to use. There are so many! And because of licensing, the programming options are spread out across all the different services/platforms so it can get really expensive. Luckily, someone else crunched the numbers and came up with the cheapest option.
With its contracts and fees, cable TV is nowhere near cheap. The alternative is a suite of streaming services, but paying for multiple subscriptions — or even a live TV streaming service like DirecTV Stream — could also rival your cable bill. According to a July 2022 study from Parks Associates, roughly one-quarter of American households subscribe to nine or more streaming services, while 50% of us have at least four.
These days, you can sever the cord completely and solely use streaming services like Hulu, Disney Plus or YouTube TV. You can also keep satellite or cable TV as your main dish while subscribing to a couple of streaming platforms on the side. There’s also the option to watch 100% of what you want on cable TV only.
All those choices can quickly become overwhelming, but don’t worry. Here, we do the math to break down how you can save money in most parts of the US with the best combination of cable, streaming and internet.
To compare the price savings between streaming and cable, we started with monthly cable costs across a handful of US cities. While streaming service pricing is the same no matter where you live, we crunched numbers for major cable companies in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, Kansas and Maine.
In our research however, we found taxes and fees can add between $30 and $50 to the monthly charge
Be aware that most internet plans available today should be fast enough to stream Netflix, even in 4K quality. The “slowest” budget plan we saw was 25Mbps (AT&T) but Netflix recommends a minimum of 5Mbps for 1080p or 15 Mbps to get 4K. This means even the most basic connection should work fine if you only need to stream to one TV at a time. If you have a larger household, then a 50Mbps or even 100Mbps plan should be sufficient, and we found that most budget plans offered this.
The cheapest option? Get the least expensive internet plan you can and subscribe to Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Hulu — separately or all together — and skip live TV.
If you want to have the cable TV experience without the fees and contracts, then live TV streaming is the next best thing. These services can offer a program guide, DVR and most of the familiar channels you’re used to with cable. They cost more than on-demand services like Netflix, however.
This is really helpful! So it is cheaper to do internet and streaming. And it can get even cheaper if you choose the ad options, which gives the experience of real TV and commercials if you ever miss those. The article pretty much tells you exactly what services to get: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max. Honestly, agree. That’s pretty much all you need. I have those services and a couple of others and I’m pretty happy with them. I definitely notice months where I’m mostly watching one or the other and I could probably deactivate them since they’re monthly subscriptions, not annual, but that seems like too much work. (I actually do that with Apple TV+ though; there’s just not enough content there for me to use it every month) I also like Peacock and Paramount+ too, but those are secondary and they have pretty good promos throughout the year so I think it’s worth waiting to subscribe until you see a good deal. Another tip: if you have an American Express, check the AmEx offers for coupons for the various streaming services. They cycle coupons you can add to your card for stuff like streaming services and pretty good stores and restaurants too.
Photos credit: Netflix and via Instagram