It’s an ongoing, ever-changing battle. And your hard-earned dollars hang in the balance.
With prices in flux and providers increasingly trying to emulate their competition, navigating the conflict can be a messy endeavor.
It can be deceptively difficult to figure out whether switching to a streaming TV service or sticking with a traditional paid-TV provider would be cheaper for you.
Here’s how to navigate the growing number of viewing options without tripping on a land mine that will blow your budget:
Don’t forget the internet
The cost of streaming TV is more than just the amount you pay to a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu every month.
To stream video, you need an internet connection. And that means you’ll be bowing before the likes of Comcast and AT&T, which could really cost you if you want high-speed internet access.
As there are different internet packages and speeds, you may be asking which one is right for you. For this answer, you’ll have to consult the streaming services you want to subscribe to and consider what stream quality you want to pay for.
Netflix, for example, recommends that you have an internet download speed of 5 megabits per second (Mbps) per stream for HD quality video, and 25 Mbps per stream for Ultra HD quality.
If you want to stream on multiple devices simultaneously, you’ll need even more megabits per second. For example, you’d need 10 Mbps to stream HD quality Netflix video on two devices at the same time.
Once you determine how much speed you need, check with your local service providers to see who’s offering it for the best price.
Beware the real cost of a la carte options
Can you truly replace cable with streaming, channel for a channel? Technically, it’s possible. But if you must have an array of channels, you will likely have to subscribe to multiple streaming services.
This means that if you can get by with only the internet and Netflix, you will likely save money by ditching cable. But households with diverse tastes may find cable to be cheaper than subscribing to multiple streaming services.
To determine whether streaming TV services could truly replace your current cable or satellite TV package — and how much it would cost you — you must first decide which shows and channels you cannot live without. Make a list.
Here’s another tip: Many streaming services don’t have contracts, meaning you can cancel a subscription at any time. So, you could try out one service at a time at minimal cost.
The bottom line
Walking away from cable can save you hundreds of dollars a year, if not more. But walking away from the prerecorded laugh tracks and the background roars of game-day crowds can be tough.
The right choice for you depends on your preferences, priorities and budget. So, you need to take the time to explore the options, compare prices and consider what’s most important to you.
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