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Cord-cutting: is it right for you?

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

Discarding traditional TV services from cable and satellite service providers is becoming increasingly popular. You can eliminate cable boxes and cut your monthly cable bill significantly, but is it right for you? Let's look at some of the factors...

Streaming service. Instead of a dedicated cable or satellite box from the service provider, you pay a monthly fee for an internet service that runs on a Smart TV, AppleTV, mobile device, or other device like a Roku. The popular services are YouTubeTV, SlingTV, Hulu, DirecTV Now, to name a few. Content producers like ESPN, CBS, and soon Disney also have their own dedicated streaming services. This space is evolving and changing rapidly so stay tuned. Cost for these services typically start around $40 a month, with options for premium channels.

Content. Most of these services provide all the local affiliates of the major networks, plus most of the major cable networks. What these streaming services don't have completely figured out yet due to broadcast rights and costs are certain regional sports networks. Here in the Southern California area, that means no Dodgers, no Lakers, no Pac-12 Networks. Of course only Spectrum's SportsnetLA channel has the Dodgers so that's not a disadvantage unless you have Spectrum cable TV service.

Video Quality. Most cable operator equipment today maxes out at 1080i (the i stands for interlaced, which means only half the 1080p signal that a TV can receive gets broadcast at a time). DirecTV is the only broadcaster offering 4K for selected content. The streaming services today are usually at 720p or 1080p, which is better than typical 1080i cable. I expect these services to support 4K quickly as the market demands it.

Ease-of-Use. These services don't look and feel like traditional cable or satellite service - it's much more like navigating Netflix. There's typically no channel up/down or even channel numbers to key in. Navigation is through a guide, search, or favorites. The best feature is a cloud-based DVR, so any recorded show can be watched on any TV or mobile device from anywhere.

Summary. If you can live without certain regional sports networks and you're willing to adapt to a different watching experience, cord-cutting is worth considering. It scales very well for all but the largest multiple-TV homes or sports bars where video sync is a specific requirement. The price is definitely right and with good Internet, it actually provides a simpler, more reliable solution with the elimination of clunky, troublesome cable boxes.

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