Editors Note: Heather has been writing Grounded Reason since October of last year and wanted to share her cord cutting experience.
I love TV. I accepted this a long time ago. So how did I give up cable?
I had been working up to cutting the cable cord for a long time. My impatience with our local cable giant is notorious, and I had a semi-annual battle with them to negotiate a consistent rate every time they tried to hike our prices. For a couple of years we even consistently had two premiums at $1 a month each.
However, every couple of years when I was really frustrated, I researched all my favorite programs and networks to try to figure out how I’d watch them without cable. For a long time in Baltimore City, there weren’t many options for other cable TV (or internet providers) due to the local monopoly. We still can’t get things like Fios or DirectTV easily.
But in the last couple of years, there have been so many options coming onto the digital streaming market that it finally became a possibility to drop the cable service when the bill was upped to a point where I couldn’t justify—or negotiate—the cost.
What were our needs without cable?
First, I took out of the equation the “big three” of streaming services: Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. Our household had all of those already going with a full cable package. So I knew I could watch almost all of the network shows, since I already watched most of them on Hulu anyway, as my work schedule rarely allows for “appointment television.”
In addition, most networks, such as ABC, Fox, and NBC, offer up to the five most recent episodes of current shows on their websites, without subscribing to anything. Similarly, CW had its own app, for watching important classics like Jane the Virgin, iZombie, and Supernatural. Even CBS offers recent episodes of their broadcast shows online, although don’t get me started on CBS All Access (for more on the difference between CBS and All Access, you can read the Grounded Reason review here).
What I really needed when cutting the cord was access to basic and mid-level cable networks: BBC America (Doctor Who and Killing Eve), Comedy Central, AMC (before I quit The Walking Dead), TVLand (Younger, now moving to Paramount), and the old standby comfort channels like Bravo, DiY, and Food Network.
There are a plethora of cable alternative streaming services popping up, so it was simply a matter of figuring out the channels I prioritized and how much I was willing to spend.
For me, Philo has the most bang for my buck, in terms of the monthly cost-to-channel benefits. Their base package has almost all the basic cable channels I care about and I don’t do sports, so I wasn’t looking for 125+ channels, honestly.
Philo costs $20 a month for 58 channels. They offer a 1-week free trial.
- Sling –Similarly to Philo, Sling has several channel packages, ranging from 35-65 channels, usually priced $25-$40 a month, but currently running a special of $15-25. Packages have different channel options to pick the best combination for your viewing habits. (See our review of Sling here.)
- Hulu Live – An upgrade to regular Hulu services, Hulu Live offers cable-like access to network and cable TV channels, live and on demand. Cable channels vary by area, but most package include over 60 channels, and Hulu live starts at $44.99 a month. (See our review here.)
- PlayStation Vue – While the service offers a variety of packages including basic cable, sports, premiums, and live TV, PlayStation Vue has one of the heftier price tags, starting with the most basic cable and network channel access starting at $44.99, and going up from there. (Read more here.)
What isn’t included in Philo
Premiums, for starters. However, for me that wasn’t so bad: I can swing adding HBO for a couple of months for Game of Thrones or Barry, and I lucked out when STARZ had a $1/month for six month special (just in time for season 2 of American Gods).
In terms of cost comparisons, most premiums are available for $8.99 – $14.99 a month as either a stand-alone subscription or an add-on to services like Hulu and Amazon. Warning: it can be easy to add a premium as a stand-alone or an add-on on Amazon or Hulu and forget to drop it, which can add up if saving money is your goal.
What are the downsides?
Live broadcast TV, honestly. I missed the ability to jump into live events like award shows. But my next step is to dig into TV antenna options, including some of the recommendations Grounded Reason has researched, and I think it will work out just fine.
Did Cutting the Cord Save M
For me, yes. At the end of the day, it does take a little legwork and the a la carte method can feel a bit nickel-and-dime for some people. It depends on your personal priorities in terms of money, time, or convenience, and your level of TV obsession and specific interests.
Getting down to $99 for internet, plus $20 for just Philo most months, was a good drop from a $160+ triple play cable/internet package, that is averaging a $50 a month savings, with room to splurge on HBO or STARZ from time to time. To me, that was worth a little research and careful menu selection.
About six months after I made the cut, our cable service called and offered me a new plan that, for about $5 more than I pay for just internet, I could get streaming access to cable without the box or the contract. It would work online, and via an app on devices like Roku for the TV. So, I decided to test it out.
Verdict? Sure, it’s great to have access to FX again (one of the few channels not on Philo), but since they were wrong about the Roku I have being compatible, and the app isn’t available on Apple TV, I consider it one more failing of the cable companies to honestly keep up with better service options. I’ll keep my Philo, thank you.
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