You probably have cable TV. We get it, it’s the norm. Unfortunately, it’s also terrible. Most of the content sucks, it’s all riddled with ads, and most importantly, it’s eye-wateringly expensive. Which is why you’re probably considering canceling your cable right about now.
You’re certainly not alone in considering cutting the cord. According to a report by Leichtman Research, the 11 biggest cable providers in the U.S. lost 665,000 subscribers in just one quarter in 2016. And estimates suggest their revenues will drop by $2.7 billion over the next decade.
However, it’s important to remember that cord-cutting isn’t right for everyone. Because, like it or not, there are some downsides.
Here are 10 things you need to consider before you cancel your cable TV subscription.
1. Is Your Internet Fast Enough?
If you’re dumping cable, you’ll be entirely reliant on the internet for your entertainment needs. Therefore, you need a fast and reliable connection.
Netflix requires a minimum speed of 0.5 Mb/s to connect to its service. Which doesn’t sound like much, but Netflix actually recommends 3.0 Mb/s for SD quality. Unless you’re happy to watch highly-pixelated content, you should consider its recommendation to be the bare minimum. If you’re hoping to enjoy glorious ultra-high definition content on your new 70-inch TV, you need at least 25 Mb/s. Which is a lot.
In the United States, only 25 percent of users have an average speed of more than 15 Mb/s. So be sure to check your internet speed before you take the plunge.
2. Do You Have Your Own Logins?
Do you want to save even more money? Share a single login between your family or friends.
Or don’t. It’s a bad idea. Almost every provider forbids the practice in its terms of service. Here’s a quote from HBO GO’s Terms and Conditions:
You agree to safeguard your login details and password(s) (if any) and ensure that they are not disclosed or provided to any other person. You agree not to disclose your login details and password (if any) or permit other persons to use your login details and password to access the Service and/or any Content.
Providers can track multiple logins and reserve the right to cancel your service if you break their terms. This has happened to people. So don’t get caught out.
3. Are Your Favorite Cable Shows Available?
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s one that too many people fail to consider. Is your favorite content going to be available through your chosen video-on-demand providers?
Netflix and Amazon are both scaling back their licensed content in favor of making their own shows, and other providers are starting to follow their lead.
You need to check which providers have your favorite shows. Can I Stream It and Just Watch are two of the most reliable services to help you do so. Using them you can search for content on Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Crackle, YouTube, HBO Now, Showtime, Starz, iTunes, Google Play, and more.
If you’re serious about cutting the cord, you need to make sacrifices. Losing access to one of your favorite shows could be one of them.
4. Will You Need Extra Devices?
Cord-cutting isn’t just about subscribing to a few online services. There’s a significant upfront cost too. You need to buy equipment to enable you to watch your services on your TV. Because cramming the whole family around a laptop for movie night isn’t very appealing.
Sure, you could just buy an HDMI cable, but it’s not practical to move your computer every time you want to watch TV.
There are lots of different devices available. And we have discussed the best media streaming devices previously. As a rule, don’t buy a cheap model like the Chromecast or Roku stick. They’re a great way to complement a cable subscription but aren’t powerful enough to support all your TV-watching needs. Instead, spend a bit more on a Roku 4 box ($83) or Apple TV (starting at $149).
And therein lies the problem. How many TVs will you need to buy a device for? If you have five (e.g. one in the lounge, one in the kitchen, one in your bedroom, one in your son’s bedroom, and one in your daughter’s bedroom) that equates to a lot of money being spent up-front.
5. Does Your ISP Support Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is a long-standing internet concept that’s now under threat. It’s the principle that all traffic on the web should be treated in the exact same way regardless of user, content, website, platform, or application.
In the United States, providers such as Comcast and AT&T have been fighting legal battles in a bid to get the law amended. They want to prioritize traffic, arguing it’ll lead to more investment in the infrastructure.
The ISPs lost the legal battle in June 2016. The court ruled broadband access is a utility rather than a luxury. The ISPs have since vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.
But what does this mean for you, a would-be cord-cutter?
Opponents argue that a loss of net neutrality would allow ISPs to act as gatekeepers. They could cripple services like Netflix and Hulu by throttling their speeds, while simultaneously allowing their own services’ traffic to travel at high speed. Given lots of ISPs double as cable providers, it’s a very real threat.
6. Do You Hate Seeing Spoilers?
Most streaming services don’t offer the latest shows on the same day they’re shown on TV. You could be waiting days, weeks, or even months before they are available.
That gives you a lot of time to inadvertently have the plot spoiled for you. Perhaps someone posts something on your Facebook feed or a journalist references it in an otherwise unrelated article.
Finally binged through the final 1/2 season of "Madmen," glad I'd managed enough of a near total spoiler embargo to surprise/delight.
— Kevin E. Patterson (@kevinepatterson) February 8, 2016
Even if the risk of spoilers doesn’t concern you, are you happy to wait a long time to see the latest hit TV show? When you eventually watch it, all the initial hype will have died down. If you’re the type of person who enjoys the collective social media experience of viewing new TV shows and movies, this factor could be a deal breaker.
7. Are You Capable of Setting Up the Devices?
Using cable TV is easy. A lovely technician comes around to your house, installs all the equipment, and leaves you with a remote control. You’re up and running in a matter of minutes.
Getting yourself started with cord-cutting isn’t quite so simple.
There are hundreds of options available (Kodi or Plex? Android TV or Apple TV? Netflix or Hulu? Roku or Amazon Fire?) and all the apps and devices have different interfaces. How will you make your decision? And once you have made it, will you be able to figure out what to do?
If you really want to maximize your cord-cutting experience, you need to play with the advanced settings of your chosen device or app to install otherwise unavailable content. It’s not a process for novices.
And that’s before you endure the utterly frustrating process of canceling your cable subscription. I can tell you from personal experience that the cable companies will try every trick in the book to keep you as a customer.
8. Will You Save Money in the Long Run?
Too many people think they’ll automatically save money by cutting the cord. But this isn’t necessarily true. It depends on what devices you buy, what services you subscribe to, and how many televisions you’re working with.
We’ve already discussed equipment costs. But what about the services? The average American spends $103.10 per month on cable TV. That’s a lot of money. Whereas a Netflix subscription is only $8 per month, so you’re bound to save money, right?
Netflix is only $8-per-month if you’re happy streaming SD-quality content to one screen at a time. A full subscription, which lets you use the service on four screens and stream in Ultra HD, is $12 per month.
And what if you need more than one subscription to get all the series you want? Add in Hulu and Amazon Prime and you’re quickly looking at shelling out more than $30 every month.
If you also want live content, you’ll be paying even more. Sling TV, which includes ESPN, AMC, TNT, CNN, History, HGTV, and Disney Channel, will set you back $20 for the basic package and $40 for the top package. Its closest competitor, DirecTV, is $35 minimum.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point is sports coverage. MLB.TV Premium costs $25 per month, NFL Game Rewind is $70 per season, the NBA’s League Pass is $170 per season, and NHL GameCenter Live is $50 per season. And if you’re a fan of the English Premier League, forget it. There is no equivalent service.
Use Slate.com’s excellent cord-cutting calculator to work out what this all means for your wallet.
9. Do You Like to Channel Surf?
I’m not sure why people channel surf. A short attention span? A dearth of quality programming? Several sports games happening at the same time? Endless ads?
If you’re the type of person whose finger is always reaching for the “Next Channel” button on the remote, cord-cutting will come as a serious shock. Channel surfing is hard, if not impossible on streaming services.
College is when you channel surf for a half hour on tv and end up watching Captain America in Spanish @rebecca_rae22
— Kate Black (@kateblack97) December 5, 2016
The likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon don’t have channels at all. But even services like Sling and DirecTV won’t give you a smooth experience. Channels need time to buffer, the TV guides won’t necessarily be accurate, and the number of channels you’ll be able to flick through will be greatly reduced.
Which means cable is the best option for those with a penchant for channel surfing.
10. Would You Rather Stay 100% Legal?
I’m not an expert, but it’s clear that some of the best private channels on Roku and Kodi are not entirely legal.
If you know where to look, you’ll be able to find everything from HD-quality sports games to rolling 24-hour news channels — all available completely for free.
While the chances of the police showing up on your doorstep if you use these apps and channels are remote, this gray area of legality does pose ethical questions that some users might not be comfortable with. Often, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate service like FilmOn and one built on a less solid legal footing.
Even if the legal issues don’t bother you, you cannot fully rely on channels, apps, and services which flirt with the law. They are liable to go offline with no notice, especially in the middle of large sports events.
Are You Going to Cut the Cord?
We hope these 10 questions help shine some light on the issues you need to be aware of before calling your cable company.
We are not trying to talk anyone out of making the jump. If done correctly, cord-cutting can save you a lot of money and give you a much richer viewing experience. However, there are plenty of pitfalls to cutting the cord which, if ignored, could see you crawling back to your cable provider with your tail between your legs.
Ultimately, cord-cutting is not for everyone. No two people have the same viewing habits or want to watch the same content. Take the time to consider all your options and do some research before cutting the cord. Only then can you be confident you’re making the right choice.
Are you considering canceling your cable? What worries you? What excites you? Which channels or shows are stopping you from cutting the cord? Which streaming services do you consider worth replacements? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: Steve Heap via Shutterstock.com