The Post-TV Age?

The most basic cable package from Charter (Spectrum?) costs me more than $70 per month, and that's without any equipment other than a single cable card. It's very clear why people have been cutting the cord with cable TV companies. But, what options exist? Do the alternatives actually cost less? Are the alternatives as good? I've been trying to figure that out for a few months now, and the results? It depends.

The idea of cord cutting isn't new. For years, people have been severing their ties with cable companies in order to save money. The ever-persistent question is this: how do the options compare?

Real Time or On Demand?

When replacing cable TV, there are two main types of media in question. Services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are great, but they don't provide live television. In fact, depending on the show and service, you might need to wait until the next day or even the end of a season before your desired shows are available. You usually get the advantage of no commercials, but the waiting often is unbearable if you're into television shows that end with cliffhangers.

It is interesting though, now that Netflix and Amazon have been so successful with their streaming services, they're beginning to get their own exclusive shows. This means that not only are the shows not delayed, but they're also actually not available at all via cable TV! Admittedly that phenomenon is fairly new (only the last few years), but it makes the case for streaming far stronger. Why pay $70 per month and still not get to watch Jessica Jones?

Also, many individual stations are starting to offer their own streaming options, so the days of paying for cable so you can see a particular HBO show are over. Broadcast networks are starting to offer streaming options too, so if you're just looking for the ability to watch particular television shows, even paying for multiple online accounts is cheaper than paying for cable—usually.

All Those Cable Channels...

Some of the biggest hurdles for cord-cutters are cable-only channels. I have a relative who watches only shows on the History Channel. And my mother-in-law couldn't live without watching movies on the Hallmark Channel. And everyone I know in real life is addicted to HGTV and its tiny house program. Those channels aren't big enough to support a full streaming platform (or are owned by actual cable companies, so they won't offer a non-cable alternative). So what's a cord-cutter to do?

Until recently, not much. Now, however, there are three really good options for streaming cable television stations, and one is almost really good. Those options aren't exactly cheap, and they're mostly US-only, but they're far less expensive than cable TV. The three options each have their quirks, but any of them are worth looking into if you have reliable internet speeds that aren't dependent on cable TV bundling. Currently, the three main options are Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now.

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.