Most of us have a love-hate relationship with cable. We like television. We love a handful of stations. But we don’t need hundreds of useless channels, many of them boring, some of them in languages we don’t understand.
Month after month, we pay our cable bills, yet we use only a small fraction of what we pay for.
It’s no wonder cutting the cord seems so appealing. The idea of paying for only channels you want to watch, watching them when you want, and paying nominal monthly fees sounds great.
Simple devices can help you access all this content. Tap or click here for the scoop on the best streaming boxes for getting the shows and movies you want.
But like most great things in life, cutting the cord is complicated. There are so many streaming options that it’s hard to settle on only one or two. Do it wrong, and cord-cutters might end up paying more than traditional cable, which is exactly what streaming companies don’t want you to realize.
Sure, $7 a month for something like Disney+ sounds great, if that’s all you’re subscribing to, but let’s be real: You can’t settle with just one streaming service, and these subscriptions add up.
We’re going to walk you through how these services add up and how it’s more than a little misleading when streaming services tout their abilities to save you bundles of money.
Basic Live-Stream TV Channels
The main reason people love “real” television is that they can watch events unfold live. Most of us couldn’t fathom seeing an NFL playoff game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade after the fact. Even if we’re sitting on a couch, thousands of miles from the event in question, the thrill exists only at the moment.
You want live TV. Start with getting a good HDTV antenna. If you need one, tap or click here for my picks on the best HDTV antennas.
An antenna will help you access local channels, but what about favorite cable channels like HGTV, History Channel, A&E and your favorite cable news channels?
You’ll need a live-TV streaming service like AT&T TV NOW, fuboTV, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV or any of the myriad streaming services. All of these have various packages and channel offerings, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other; it’s all about personal preference.
You choose a streaming service and opt for the ad-free, live-TV option. You’ll get access to about 60 or 70 channels, most of which you’ll never watch, but at least you’re not paying for 300+ stations from your cable company.
Your monthly cost: roughly $50 per month, maybe a little more. You are happily off to a great start.
But wait, there’s more: You need Premium Channels
Here’s where things start to add up. You want to add your favorite premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax.
You’ll probably sign up and get some sort of 3-month free deal, but after that, you’ll pay about $45 per month for the four premium channels.
Your monthly cost is up to about $95.
Channels You Must Have
If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video, you’ll miss out on all the water-cooler chat about each of their respective originals.
If you’ve already got an Amazon Prime account, you have access to all their Prime content. You’ll also have access to programming that you can rent or buy. Movie rentals start at $1.99 and go up to $7.99 and higher, but for our example, let’s say you spend about $25 a month on movie rentals.
Your monthly cost is up to $125.
With Netflix, your monthly fee gets you access to their entire library of content; there are no rentals or titles for sale. You sign up for the premium ultra-HD plan for $15.99 a month because that gets you the best quality HD, plus you and your family can share the plan and watch your own programming at the same time on multiple screens.
Your new monthly cost is about $141.
Don’t forget about Disney Plus, which debuted last November. It’s shaken things up in the streaming business, which began with its takeover of Hulu and its enormous library of content that includes the Marvel and Star Wars universes. You have to have that.
Your updated monthly cost grows to $146.
You’ve got your basic channels, your four favorite premiums, Amazon, Netflix, and Disney, but we haven’t even talked yet about all the a la carte channels you can get that offer kids’ programming, sports, independent films, and original content.
Add CBS All Access for $5.99 a month, NBA League Pass for $28.99 a month, PBS Kids for $4.99 a month, and YouTube Premium for the 20-somethings in your household, and we’re nearly at $200 per month.
And let’s not forget about the other options, like HBO Max that premiered last week. Congrats, now you’re over the $200 mark. Oh, and NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, debuts in July and will cost $10 for the ad-free experience. Now you might just be losing count.
Should You Cut the Cord?
Streaming has one key advantage over cable: On-demand programming. You can watch what you want when you want, and where you want. If you switch to streaming, don’t be misled by claims that you’ll save bundles by ditching cable. You may actually end up paying more. Do the math first.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.