Are you considering cutting the cord and ditching your cable TV bill?
Many people have gone from paying the cable or satellite company to subscribing to a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.
When those streaming services first launched several years ago, there was a clear cost advantage to switching to streaming. But as the cost of streaming services has steadily climbed in recent years, it’s fair to ask if we’re still saving money.
In this article, I’ll look at the pricing model for streaming services and see if you’re actually trimming your entertainment bill with them.
This article was updated in May 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
Cable vs. Streaming: Which Is a Better Deal?
It seems like every couple of months I’m writing a new article about how another streaming service has decided to raise prices. And each time that is met with frustration from readers who just want to “lock in” a price for their monthly bills.
After years of penning “price hike” streaming articles, it’s fair to ask the question: Am I still getting a good deal by switching from cable to streaming TV?
Here’s a look at how the pricing stands right now for the major live TV streaming services.
|DIRECTV STREAM – Entertainment Package||Frndly TV – Premium||Fubo – Pro||Hulu + Live TV||Philo||Sling Orange + Blue||Vidgo – Plus||YouTube TV|
Meanwhile, the price of a monthly cable bill can vary from as low as $20 for a “bare bones” package all the way up to $150 or more for a package with all the “bells and whistles.”
So is cable or streaming a better deal? As it turns out, the answer is probably a little more complicated than it should be and it may vary based on your cable company’s pricing.
But we can help you find the answer by asking the right questions.
1. What’s My Internet Situation?
It may seem odd for the first question in a cable versus streaming TV debate to be about high-speed internet, but this is actually a pretty important component to pricing your TV entertainment.
Streaming TV services require a high-speed internet connection of at least 10 Mbps, so ensuring you have access to that is actually a potential “hidden cost” to switching from cable to streaming TV.
And if you’re getting both your high-speed internet and your TV from the cable company, there’s a chance that you’re getting bundled pricing on those products. That means you’re likely getting a discount on both services as an incentive to keep both of them on the same bill with your cable provider.
Customers who find themselves in this common situation may have a little harder time assessing the value of streaming TV.
To make a true apples-to-apples comparison on the impact of a streaming subscription in this scenario, you’ll need to see what “internet only” pricing is from your cable company. If that cost paired with your streaming service of choice is cheaper than the cable company’s bundle price, you may want to consider moving forward with cutting the cord.
Team Clark has a guide for finding cheap internet that could also help you save money in this area.
2. What Are the Fees Involved With My Cable Bill?
We all see those cable promotions offering a great price for new or returning customers. You see them on billboards, TV commercials, flyers in your mailbox and everywhere in between.
In some cases, those offers may be more attractive than what you see the streaming services pitching.
But you need to do your homework on the fees attached to the cable bill to make sure you’re actually getting a better price.
Streaming services typically do not carry additional fees beyond local sales tax, so usually, the price is of the “what you see is what you get” variety.
Cable, on the other hand, is notorious for tacking on charges to your bill each month. Some of them are warranted; others feel frivolous.
Keep an eye on these items for potential “tack on” charges from your cable company:
- Rental of cable boxes or connection devices (may charge per TV)
- Installation fees
- Charging for cloud DVR storage
- Early termination fees on promotional contracts (live TV streaming services typically don’t require contracts)
- “Local sports fees” (Some cable companies have regional sports networks that streaming services don’t, but in many cases, you’re subject to a mandatory additional charge.)
Any combination of these fees could make the monthly charge $10-$30 more than the advertised rate.
3. What Channels Are Important to Me?
Many people start the “cut the cord” debate while watching TV on their couches and thinking: “Why am I paying for all of these channels when I only watch a handful of them consistently?”
If you’re paying north of $100 per month for cable, there’s a good chance that you can find a streaming TV package that will help you get most of the channels you enjoy at a much more palatable price.
Team Clark has put a lot of work into helping you find the best deal for your favorite channels. Our streaming channel tool helps you find the lowest possible streaming TV price for a package that includes the channels you specify.
Find all your favorite channels by typing the channel name into the search box. Pick the channel from the list or hit “Enter” to select. Add as many as you’d like!
Note: Regional sports networks and select local channels are not included in the results. To find out if you have access to these channels, input your ZIP code on the specific streaming service’s website.
Or, if you prefer, you could compare the channels offered by all of the streaming TV packages side-by-side.
When streaming TV services first emerged, they were a true bargain. But in a matter of a few years, many of these services have raised their prices to the point that they’re charging nearly twice as much as when they entered the market.
That has opened the door back up for the cable company to compete for your business, especially when bundling internet service is an option.
The best practice for finding the best deal is to assess which channels you actually want, find a price on a streaming service that offers them and then compare it to the offering from your local cable company.
I believe most of you will still find that a live TV streaming service is the cheaper route to take, especially if your needs are met by one of the “value” streaming services such as Philo or Sling TV.
If you’re looking to save even more money, you might want to consider leaving both the cable company and the live TV streaming service behind.
Video on-demand streaming services are emerging as a value TV option. Services like Paramount+, Peacock, Disney+ and HBO Max each provide original content, movies and legacy TV shows for less than $10 per month.
You also could install an antenna at your home to get an increasing number of free HD channels, including your local network affiliate channels. And now, you can even buy a DVR device that allows you to record those broadcasts and watch them at your leisure.
That, in conjunction with free streaming services, could provide you with access to hours of entertainment at no monthly cost.