cutting the cord
Alternatives to Traditional Television Viewing
With the increasing availability of affordable high-speed internet and the increasing costs and restrictions of cable and satellite, people are breaking up with traditional television by “cutting the cord.” Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video have been around for a while, but they were mostly used to supplement to an often-pricey monthly cable package. Today, many watchers are ditching traditional TV all together in favor of full-time streaming. Read on for a roundup of the basics that should help you determine whether you’re ready to take the leap.
You only need three things to get started: a television, a high-speed internet connection, and the streaming device of your choice. (You only need a smart TV to access Netflix, but other services require a third-party connection.) Devices such as Roku and the (Amazon) Fire TV Stick are among the most popular choices (see sidebar for more). Simply plug one of these small devices into your television, connect it to the internet, log in to the service, and start streaming.
The appeal of cheaper, portable access to movies and television shows is attractive to budget-minded and on-the-go individuals. By accessing your programs via a small box or stick that plugs into your TV directly, you can watch your favorite shows while traveling. If you have quality internet you can view network shows, documentaries, shorts, and movies from anywhere.
As streaming becomes more popular, so do the options for how to do it. While there are a handful of good options, the most affordable and user-friendly options are the big three: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video. Even if you don’t yet stream, you’ve likely heard of them.
Netflix is often referred to as the original streaming service, and it’s becoming more popular for its original programming. It is a great way to access full series that are no longer on television, but because the service rotates content you don’t want to wait too long to finish a season. Hulu is similar to Netflix, but it has a Live TV option that essentially gives you cable access via your internet connection. Amazon Prime Video might already be something you already pay for without realizing it. If you are currently a Prime member for the free two-day shipping, you also have access to an extensive program library that’s comparable to Netflix and Hulu.
When trying to decide if streaming is right for you, make sure the channels and programs you like to watch are available on the streaming services. Then, do the math. If you have to buy several à la carte channels plus other services to get everything you like to watch, you might not save any money. Netflix and Hulu each cost $10 to $40 per month depending on the package you select, while Amazon Video is part of the annual Prime membership fee of $119. Sling TV, a more up-and-coming option, starts at $25 per month, but that number can quickly increase with add-ons. If budget is your main motivation behind cutting the cord, you’ll want to make sure that it all adds up.
Cutting the cord isn’t for everyone or without potential problems. If you enjoy watching network news or live sports, cable or satellite still might suit you best. Slow internet connections with data limits are not conducive to regular streaming. But if have the right setup and are ready to get creative with your watching habits, streaming might just give you the freedom to enjoy affordable entertainment anywhere, anytime.
To access streaming services, you will need a smart TV, a Blu-Ray player, or a portable device. Here are some of the most popular options.
Roku: The small device is available as a box or a stick—both options function the same, but the stick only requires a USB port while the box requires a power source and HDMI cable. You can access most services through Roku.
Apple TV: If you are an iHousehold, this is the device for you. Access your iTunes account, use Siri, and control smart-home devices from your remote control.
AirTV: Ideal for accessing Sling TV and local channels, AirTV complements a traditional antenna.
Fire TV Stick: If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can access the streaming services from most devices. But the Fire TV Stick can be linked directly to your Amazon account and you can use the Alexa voice control to keep it simple.