How to dump cable and start streaming

So you’re thinking of dumping cable? Don’t let me talk you out of it.

You should absolutely do it. I did it five years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s the best thing since working from home.

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

The two greatest things about cord cutting

You might save money. You’ll probably see fewer commercials. You’ll likely fall in love with a show you never would have found on cable.

These 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’re not beholden to the nearest cable outlet. Everything’s wireless.

There’s no cable box, which means you can put a TV anywhere there’s an electrical outlet. Finally, a nice modest 24-inch TV in the bathroom to make your bubble baths even more relaxing. And go ahead and mount that old 42-incher on the patio, throw a cover over it when there’s rain, and bring it inside for the winter.

My second favorite thing about streaming is that there aren’t any multi-year contracts or equipment rentals.

Fed up with YouTube TV? Dump it and switch to Sling. Another Netflix price hike? Cancel it on the spot. It’s never been easier to switch services or quit altogether, and you’ll never, ever have to argue with a customer service rep on the phone like you do with cable.

So, there’s a handful of reasons to switch. Now, here’s what to consider before you do.

Are you trying to save money?

An uncomfortable truth: you might not actually save that much money, so run the numbers first.

I remember leaving Comcast in a huff because our TV and Internet bill had hit the $200 mark. Five years later, and I’ve got 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 grand total of $221 per month, $141 of which is streaming.

Now, you could make the argument that if I’d clung to cable TV, I’d still probably subscribe to $67 worth of streaming services on top of cable and internet. (I’d dump YouTube TV and MLB.tv, though—more on that in a bit).

And it’s absolutely arguable that I don’t need all those streaming services. But I have three kids and a wife and we actually do use everything, believe it or not.

Which leads me to the next question…

Will you lose some of your favorite channels?

This may be a corner case for many of you but check the channel lineup of the streaming TV service you’re looking at to see if you’re losing any important channels.

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

[Photo: Doug Aamoth]

And until recently, YouTube didn’t have the Weather Channel, so we ponied up an extra $9 a month for Frndly, which is great if you’re looking for a slimmed down cable package.

So, while Netflix had just about everything a decade or so ago to complement live TV, you’ll probably find that you need several services to get all the shows and movies you want to watch.

Are your TVs ready for streaming?

You don’t need to pay for cable boxes, which is great. You do, however, either need smart TVs that already support your chosen streaming services or a streaming box or stick for each TV, which start at around $30 or so 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 smart TV features built-in, with Roku and Fire TV models starting in the lower price points.

And if you’re like me, you’ll just keep upgrading them until you have a pile of old, forgotten streaming sticks like the photo you see here.

How’s your internet connection?

Hands down, the most taxing thing on your internet connection will be trying to wirelessly sling high-fidelity video all over the house.

You’ll want a good, strong internet connection and—perhaps more importantly—a good, strong Wi-Fi network.

It’s tough (but not impossible) to stick a cheap-o wireless router down in the basement and stream TV reliably up in the bedrooms, so you might need to look into upgrading to a mesh network that better covers the far corners of your house.

Your internet provider can sell or lease these to you or you can look into the likes of Eero, Orbi, Google Nest and others. Plan on spending in the $200-$300 range, though.

Don’t go out and do this just yet. Get your streaming situation set up and if it’s not working well, then it’s time to consider upgrading.

And you’ll want to shoot for a download speed of at least 100 Mbps at the very lowest end from your internet service provider, but you’ll want a much faster connection if you’ll have the entire family streaming to several different devices at the same time.

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