Friday, June 19, 2015

Cutting the Cable Cord

Over the last couple of months, we've had quite a few people ask how we made the switch from cable to streaming and how we're able to still watch our favorite programs at a fraction of the price, so I thought I'd share that information with all of you in case you're interested in doing the same.

It all started the summer before Taylor was born when we decided not to renew our DirectTV agreement. Let's face it, cable is expensive and with a newborn nobody has time to watch TV, unless you're up for a feeding at 3 AM but only infomercials are on at that hour anyhow. We did a lot of research before pulling the cable plug entirely, because while I could do without 400+ channels, I knew I couldn't miss my weekly Thursday night line up (shout out to my "Grey's Anatomy" & "Scandal" fans). Since technology is Jake's area of expertise, he did the majority of the research, but don't worry, I threw in my two cents every now and then.

First and foremost, you absolutely must have a solid internet connection prior to cancelling your cable service. This is crucial to not banging your head against the wall every time you try to watch a show. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson the hard way. I was this-close to calling DirectTV until our internet provider conveniently laid fiber in our neighborhood and offered an upgraded rate speed for free. If you have Charter internet in your area, I highly recommend it. We've had nothing but stellar customer service and they do things like offer upgrades for free (at least they did for us). We also purchased a wireless AC router (instead of renting one from our provider) which has tremendously helped with the consistency of our connection.

Next, you need to have some kind of streaming device. Most people only need one of these but since my husband is a technology connoisseur, we have three: a Roku, an Apple TV, and a Samsung smart TV. Each of these devices are connected to a different TV throughout our house but they are all pretty similar in nature. The only one that is a bit of a pain is the Apple TV, but of course it's a pain because it's an Apple product and they don't make their products compatible with anyone else's. Our smart TV is awesome because you plug it in and it's ready to go. No muss, no fuss. The Apple TV and Roku are handy because they're small and can be taken anywhere. For instance, we took our Apple TV on vacation with us so that Taylor could watch cartoons in our bedroom without waking everyone else up. The absolute best part about a streaming device is you can watch what you want when you want where you want (providing there's internet to support it).

Once you have your device, you'll need to sign up for a service like Hulu Plus, Netflix, or Amazon Prime that offers the ability to stream TV shows and movies. We are members of all three services and use each for something different. We use Hulu mainly for streaming current TV series/cartoons, Netflix for viewing older TV series/cartoons/movies, and Amazon Prime for watching free older movies and buying new releases. While these services aren't free, they are cheap. Netflix and Hulu Plus run between $8-$9 a month while Amazon Prime costs an annual fee of $99 (but that includes unlimited streaming of certain movies/music, unlimited cloud photo storage, and free shipping on select Amazon purchases as well). For around $25 a month, we have access to everything that cable has to offer without the high price tag.

Lastly, and this one is optional, you can buy a digital antenna to pick up local channels in your area. We decided to go with the Mohu Leaf which runs about $40. It has been super beneficial for us as the majority of the programs that we like to watch are on ABC, NBC, and FOX, and we are able to pick them up on our antenna for free. This may sound barbaric to some of you, but I actually enjoy watching some shows on live TV. I hate commercials, but I miss the excitement of having to be home at a specific time to catch an episode. And other times I simply cannot wait until the next day to watch an episode, especially when it's a season finale.

While streaming is convenient and affordable, there are some downfalls. For example, Hulu and Netflix offer a wide variety of shows that I already love and allow me the ability to find new shows to enjoy (hello, "Orange is the New Black"), but it does have its limitations. There are a few select shows that I used to watch on cable that aren't available on Hulu or Netflix. Generally, I can find them on the TV station's app on our Roku or Apple TV, but they cost extra per episode and really my life hasn't been impacted by their absence. If anything, my house is cleaner because of it.

The biggest downfall to not having cable is Jake's inability to watch sports. While we can sometimes catch games live on our local channels, he no longer has access to ESPN or Fox Sports Midwest which poses as a big problem during football and baseball seasons. Thankfully, he receives real-time updates on his phone so he doesn't complain too much, but there has been serious discussion around purchasing the MLB package so I'm sure that will happen at some point if they lower the price. Seriously MLB, it's just baseball. You're not offering me a bag of diamonds here. In his spare time, Jake is constantly looking into other options, like Sling TV which offers specific sports channels for around $20-$25 a month, but I'm not sold on shelling out more money for sports just yet so for now we're waiting to see what other options arise.

Occasionally there are times when our internet connection fails and I'm forced to get up and do something productive as opposed to watching TV, but those times are few and far in between. Honestly, I wish we would've cancelled our cable years ago but, like all good things, I was afraid to take the risk. Silly, I know. We still have the ability to watch all of our favorite programs, and Taylor is able to get her Curious George and Mickey Mouse fix. There are times when I wish I still had HGTV or DIY, but I get over it pretty quick when I'm able to pocket an extra $75 every month.