More Americans than ever are discovering how easy it is to cut the cord and move over to TV streaming.
American cable TV providers are losing around 1 million subscribers every quarter, according to recent data from Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. By 2023, Kagan predicts there will be <40.8 million broadband-only households>, nearly double the 23.3 million at the start of 2019.
The rise of cord-cutting “is not surprising given the abundance of online video services on the market,” senior Kagan research analyst Tony Lenoir said.
TV streaming is a broad term for any service that lets you stream TV content without a cable. With cable TV, programs are broadcast into the customer’s home at a specific time via electric or fiber-optic cables. With TV streaming, the user gets to watch on any device they want, at a time of their choosing.
TV streaming services involve one or more of the following:
- Video On-Demand (VOD): The user gets full access to the provider’s video library of series, films, and other programs. There are a few different types of VOD providers to know about. The most famous are Hulu and Netflix, which offer access to thousands of hours of their own content plus third-party content to which they have exclusive rights. Next, there are providers like HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax, traditional TV networks that have opened their libraries to streaming. Finally, there is Amazon’s Prime Video, which includes a service called Amazon Channels that which allows viewers to add content (at a cost) from more than 100 other content providers, such as HBO.
- Live TV: This is essentially an online alternative to cable TV, involving a subscription to multiple TV channels but without the cable box. With live TV, the user gets to stream live to their own device. Again, there are a few different models to know about. Hulu offers a subscription package that includes full VOD access plus 60+ popular live TV channels. Its rivals include standalone live TV services like YouTube, which allows subscribers to stream more than 70 TV channels. And then there are the likes Xfinity, owned by cable company Comcast, which allows customers to stream its cable channels directly over the internet.
- Cloud DVR Storage: Because cable TV goes through actual hardware, providers are limited in how much storage they can provide. Fortunately, streaming providers face fewer restrictions, and most of the top TV streaming services allow users to download programs for offline viewing.
Streaming services “touch a cord” with the average consumer, Kagan’s Lenoir noted. He pointed out that the majority of streaming services offer trial periods, can be used on any screen, and enable users to customize their own viewing experience.
A look at the best streaming services shows Lenoir is on the money. Of the top TV streaming services listed by Best Streaming Providers, all have free trial periods of either seven or 30 days. All these services are device-agnostic, meaning they can be streamed on any of dozens of compatible devices. These services are built around the concept of on-demand, where the customer chooses what to watch and when to watch it from a library of thousands of films, TV series, documentaries, and other programs.
In terms of pricing, streaming services offer far more bang for your buck than pay TV. Prices for VOD range from $5.99 to $14.99 per month. The price of live TV varies wildly, depending on how many channels are included in the subscription. As an example, Hulu charges $44.99 for 60+ live channels plus unlimited, on-demand access to its full video library. YouTube TV, among the most expensive live TV streaming services, charges $49.99 per month for 70+ channels.
When one looks at the overall picture, cable TV offers less value for money than streaming. The average price for a cable TV subscription stood at $69.03 per month, or 46 cents per channel, in 2015, the most recent year for which the Federal Communications Commission has published data. That’s less per channel than live streaming services, but how many channels do you really need? A live TV streaming service costs less per month, plus the user gets access to VOD, can view content on any device, and has the option of streaming to multiple devices simultaneously.
One of the great things about live streaming is it doesn’t require a big investment. With cable TV, you are literally connected to the service with a box and cord. With live streaming, you can stream to any compatible device. You likely already have multiple compatible devices you use for other things, such as regular TV with Chromecast or Roku streaming stick, a smart TV, smartphone, tablet, or games console.
Live streaming services are usually compatible with the following devices:
- Amazon Fire tablets
- Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
- Android smartphones and tablets
- Apple TV
- Echo Show
- iPhones and iPads
- LG TV
- Mac computers
- Nintendo Switch
- Playstation 3 and Playstation 4
- Roku and Roku Stick
- Samsung TV
- Windows computers
Cable TV will continue exist for many years, but it won’t attract new subscribers. The fact is, the cable companies are living off long-standing subscribers who haven’t yet come around to the idea of cutting the cord. Some cable TV providers, such as Comcast, understand where the winds are blowing, which is why they are launching streaming services in parallel to their traditional cable services.
Given the obvious arguments in favour of TV streaming, the question must be asked: why would anyone stick with cable TV? Aside from loyalty, there’s only one logical reason anyone would stick with cable TV: slow internet. Fortunately, internet speeds in the United States have improved in recent years. However, a minority of Americans – particularly in rural areas – don’t yet have fast-enough internet to comfortably use a TV streaming service.
If you live in an area with slow internet, then you may have to grin and bear your cable TV subscription until speeds pick up in your area. But if you’re among the majority of people who benefit from decent internet speeds, the best thing you can do is cut the cord and subscribe to a TV streaming service.