It’s been five years since I cut the cord with traditional cable TV service. I don’t regret the decision. I also mounted an HDTV antenna in my attic and enabled a crystal clear picture for all local channels to every “cable” outlet in my house. This is useful if the internet is down and doesn’t require any subscriptions to streaming providers for local stations.
Last week, YouTube TV, my current provider for Live TV, announced a 30% price increase bringing the monthly cost to $64.99. From a cost perspective, I’m now paying for internet service (separate cost) and live TV what I was paying before I cut the cord. So I went back into research mode and asked if streaming live TV options have come full circle for cord-cutter nation.
What motivates cord-cutters.
I started by revisiting the “why”. Cord-cutters, like myself, are typically motivated by some of these reasons:
- Price stabilization – For years traditional cable TV has incented new contracts with teaser prices that increased after 12 months. Combining annual programming cost increases with teaser rate expirations is a big cost whammy.
- Contracts – Traditional cable companies required contracts and long-term commitments. Streaming services are month-to-month and earn repeat business with good service and content options.
- Simplify Selection – Traditional cable providers offer hundreds of channels although I found my family only watched a small subset of those channels. Why pay for programming we didn’t want to see?
- Service – If I needed to make changes to programming or cancel service it was always a hassle unless it involved something that increased my monthly service bill. Since streaming services are pay-as-go then I could always login and vote with my wallet if I didn’t like the service or options.
Have we come full circle?
It’s not a surprise that YouTube TV plus internet now costs as much as I was paying in the past. The cable company has been increasing the price of my internet-only subscription and YouTube TV is now offering 85 live TV channels. With that many channels in the package, YouTube TV has become like the cable TV option of old from a programming perspective. More programs equal more costs. It defeats the purpose of simplifying the selection and letting consumers subscribe to what they intend to use.
But streaming live TV still offers service with no contract which affords some price stability and the ability for the consumer to change service providers without penalty. Sling TV announced a 12-month price freeze after YouTube TV’s price hike.
There are some value-added advantages to streaming live TV.
The big difference between the live TV offerings today and traditional cable is connectivity and mobility. I remember having to pay a separate fee for each HD converter box from the cable company and each box was tied to the TV I connected it to. Streaming providers offer a variety of devices that can show content such as Roku, PlayStation, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and many others. This creates mobility as many of the devices are already mobile or easily moved from one TV to another (even outside my residence).
Additionally, providers offer multiple active connections. YouTube, for example, offers the ability for six different account holders to share three simultaneous streaming connections (other providers vary their options). This creates householding connectivity options outside the traditional boundaries of the house. A family member living in another house can piggy-back on the main subscription (collecting payment from them is up to you). This works great for college students. Live TV streaming has become a bit like cell phones. It’s a better deal to household multiple lines in the subscription.
If it were not for my addiction to live sports, I could do without the live TV subscriptions altogether. There haven’t been many live sports games during 2020, but I was able to see the Nathan Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN this morning. I don’t recommend watching that competition while eating your lunch.
There are lower-cost possibilities for cord-cutters to have digital programming. You can stack multiple providers such as NetFlix, Hulu, Disney+, etc. to create content options your household wants to see. Combine this with an HD antenna for local channels and there are many choices for content. The difference-maker for streaming options is connectivity, mobility, and flexibility of a month-to-month subscription.
Onward and Upward!