How to dump cable and start streaming

So you’re thinking of disposing of cables? Don’t make me talk you out of it.

You should definitely do it. I did it five years ago and I’ve never regretted it. It’s the best since I’ve been working from home.

That being said, without a bit of planning, you’re likely to experience a few bumps in the road along the way. Here are some things I’ve learned.

The two biggest things about cable cutting

You could save money. You will likely see fewer ads. You will probably fall in love with a show that you would never have found on cable TV.

Those are all great benefits of streaming, but for my money, two things in particular stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The first of my absolute favorites is that you are not tied to the nearest corded outlet. Everything is wireless.

There’s no cable box, meaning you can put a TV anywhere there’s an outlet. And finally, a nice, modest 24-inch TV in the bathroom to make your bubble baths even more relaxing. And put that old 42-incher on the patio, cover it up when it rains, and bring it inside for the winter.

My second favorite thing about streaming is that there are no multi-year contracts or equipment rentals.

Tired of YouTube TV? Discard it and switch to Sling. Another Netflix price hike? Cancel it on the spot. It’s never been easier to switch service or cancel altogether, and you never have to argue with a customer service representative over the phone like you do with cables.

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So there are a handful of reasons to switch. Well, here’s what you should consider before doing so.

Are you trying to save money?

An Inconvenient Truth: You might not be saving that much money, so run the numbers first.

I remember leaving Comcast upset because our television and internet bills hit the $200 mark. Five years later, and I have an $80 internet bill plus the following services:

  • YouTube TV: $65/month
  • Netflix: $20/month
  • Hulu: $13/month
  • Peacock: $10/month
  • Disney+: $7/month
  • Prime Video: $12/month
  • Apple TV+: $5/month
  • MLB.TV: $9/month

So that’s a total of $221 per month, of which $141 is streaming.

Well, you could argue that if I stuck with cable TV, I’d probably still be subscribing to $67 worth of streaming services on top of cable and internet. (I would throw away YouTube TV and though – more on that in a moment).

And it is absolutely questionable whether I don’t need all these streaming services. But I have three kids and a wife, and we actually use everything, believe it or not.

Which leads me to the next question…

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Will you lose some of your favorite channels?

This might be a special case for many of you, but check the channel lineup of the streaming TV service you’re watching to see if you’re missing out on important channels.

I love YouTube TV but it doesn’t have the channel that shows most Red Sox games. I like baseball in general so I got the MLB.TV service to watch my beloved Minnesota Twins for a cool $119 a year.

[Photo: Doug Aamoth]

And until recently, YouTube didn’t have a weather channel, so we’ve added an extra $9 a month to Frndly, which is great if you’re looking for a stripped-down cable package.

So while Netflix pretty much had it all a decade or so ago add to Live TV, you’ll probably find that you need multiple services to get all the shows and movies you want to watch.

Are your TVs ready for streaming?

You don’t have to pay for cable boxes, which is great. However, you’ll need either smart TVs that already support your chosen streaming services, or a streaming box or stick for each TV, which start at around $30 and go up from there.

[Photo: Doug Aamoth]

Check out Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Google TV, and Apple TV to see which ones work for you. Many new TVs also come with built-in smart TV capabilities, with Roku and Fire TV models starting at the lower price points.

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And if you’re like me, just keep updating them until you’ve got a bunch of old, forgotten streaming sticks like the photo you see here.

How is your internet connection?

Undoubtedly, the most taxing part of your internet connection will be trying to wirelessly stream high-fidelity video around your home.

You need a good, strong internet connection, and perhaps more importantly, a good, strong Wi-Fi network.

It’s difficult (but not impossible) to tuck a cheap wireless router into the basement and reliably stream TV into bedrooms, so you may need to upgrade to a mesh network that better covers the farthest corners of your home.

Your ISP can sell or lease these to you, or you can look into Eero, Orbi, Google Nest, and others. However, plan to spend in the $200-$300 range.

Don’t go out and do this now. Set up your streaming situation, and if it’s not working well, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

And you should aim for at least 100Mbps download speeds on the lowest end of your ISP, but you’ll want a much faster connection if you’re having the whole family streaming to multiple different devices at the same time.

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