How much are you overpaying for cable content? An FCC report says basic cable costs an average of $22.63 per month, while expanded basic cable starts at $64.41, and that’s not including premium channels. I’m sure you or people you know are paying even more.
If you’re looking to cut costs, cutting the cable cord could be the solution. Let’s explore more affordable ways to watch the TV and movies you want. We’ve already covered some great options for free alternatives to cable programming, so let’s move on to affordable subscription services.
Netflix: Pros and Cons
Netflix provides tens of thousands of movie and television titles to stream at any time, all for a low fixed price of less than 10 bucks a month!
Simultaneous streaming – Netflix allows you to have multiple users on one account, and even let’s you watch different content simultaneously on different devices.
Original programming – Netflix’s recent push for original programming has given it an entirely new dimension. Critically acclaimed shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” have quickly destroyed any sort of skepticism associated with original online programming.
Multi-platform capabilities – Netflix is not just for your computer (or tablet or phone). Get the big-screen TV experience with your Netflix subscription via an Xbox or PlayStation console, with Smart TVs or Roku devices, or by using an HDMI cable, a Google Chromecast or an Amazon Fire Stick.
Not so current – While there are hundreds of shows to choose from, ongoing shows are usually a season or more behind. Additionally, it is rare that popular, recently released films are made available quickly (although this is slowly changing). Furthermore, Netflix will periodically refresh their catalog, so don’t count on your favorite show or movie being available indefinitely.
Amazon Prime Instant Video: Pros and Cons
For the uninitiated, Amazon Prime Instant Video is an extension of Amazon Prime, which upgrades subscribers to free two-day shipping on most purchases. At a cost of $99/year, the cost of Amazon Prime is similar to Netflix (less than $10 a month).
Multi-platform capabilities – Similar to Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video can be streamed a number of ways: Xbox and PlayStation consoles; smart TVs; Roku sticks; Google Chromecast Amazon Fire Stick or via HDMI. Additionally, you can also use your laptop, tablet or smartphone to watch your favorite content on-the-go. The user experience of getting the content onto other devices like your iPad, however, is much less streamlined than the Netflix app.
Original programming – While Amazon hasn’t gotten the same consumer and industry kudos for original programming, they are producing shows of their own. One of its shows, “Transparent,” saw Golden Globe wins for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy), and Best Actor in a TV Series (Musical or Comedy).
Additional fees – The streaming content offered by Amazon is remarkably similar to what is available on Netflix, although they offer more recent content for an additional fee. While this isn’t ideal, it’s good to have this as an option. .
Not so current – Similar to Netflix, Amazon’s content isn’t as fresh as what you’d expect from cable. While it is great for viewing older shows and movies, users have to pay extra to see Amazon’s more current programming.
Hulu Plus: Pros and Cons
Hulu Plus, not to be confused with the free Hulu option, is a cable alternative that only costs $7.99 per month.
Timely releases — Hulu Plus is best known for offering recently released TV content, with new episodes being released the day after they air. You can watch your favorite broadcast shows from channels such as NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, Comedy Central, CBS, FX, BBC, Food Network, Showtime, CNBC, Syfy and many more. The service also offers a variety of movies through partnerships with The Criterion Collection, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Universal and many others.
Supported devices — Hulu Plus is supported on a variety of devices, meaning you can watch your favorite shows wherever and however you want: through your Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Roku or Chromecast, or right on your own Smart TV; on your iPhone or iPad, as well as on your Android phones or tablets on-the-go; or right on your computer, regardless of if it’s a Windows, Mac or Linux machine.
Limited number of episodes — For many shows, Hulu only makes the latest five episodes available, and if you think Hulu Plus buys you access to the entire back catalog, you’ll be disappointed.
Ads — Unfortunately, upgrading to Hulu Plus does not get rid of the advertisements. Your TV episodes are interrupted by commercials that can’t be skipped (and are rarely relevant to you), even when you pay.
No simultaneous streaming — Hulu Plus is intended to be a “personal account.” As such, you are not able to use the same account to watch things on different devices simultaneously. So if you want to watch Modern Family while a loved one wants to watch South Park, you’ll have to take turns.
HBO NOW: Pros and Cons
HBO NOW is the long-awaited standalone streaming service offered by the previously subscription-only cable channel. The new offering is great news for those of us who want to cut the cord, especially when you consider HBO was already an added-on cost for most cable subscribers.
Original HBO programming — It’s no secret that HBO has a knack for creating quality television. Classics like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” and “Entourage” have helped make it a must-have cable channel, and shows like “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” have begun cementing their own legacies. Imagine not having to pay for cable and still having (legal) access to all these hit shows, plus other movies, documentaries, comedy specials and sports. Yeah, exactly.
Limited content — Obviously HBO NOW only allows you to watch HBO content. So if you are looking for a cable substitute that offers a variety of shows from many channels, you might have to bundle this service with something else like Netflix or even Hulu Plus. This is barely a “con,” though, since HBO content tends to be so excellent.
Device compatibility — HBO NOW is currently compatible with: Apple TV; iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices running iOS 7 or iOS 8; laptop and desktop computers, through your browser. As you can see, the list is still fairly limited, but keep your eye on HBO NOW’s FAQs to see when they add new device support.
With These Options, Who Needs Cable?
While these streaming services don’t provide 100% parity to the cable television experience, they provide enough of what matters that Americans are flocking to cut the cord in huge numbers.
And at the low price point offered by these services, you can mix and match them according to preference. Even when you choose a couple paid streaming options in combination, you may still end up paying much less than cable. So go ahead and grab yourself a Roku, a Chromecast, or even a new TV from BLINQ.com, bookmark our favorite free alternatives to cable, then try out some of the subscription services we’ve highlighted above… and join the cord-cutting revolution.