If you’re subscribing to cable or satellite TV, you’re paying more money than you need to, and now it’s all for less access to content. That’s the narrative you can find in this week’s news about the various corporate and legal dramas plaguing the major satellite TV companies.
The biggest news of the week relates to DirectTV, which lost all channels run by Viacom. That includes MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and BET, among others. It’s a broad swath of critical content which includes some of the most popular shows on cable television, like The Daily Show.
But DirectTV isn’t the only one with problems. DISH Network lost AMC, which hosts Mad Men and The Walking Dead, not to mention Breaking Bad, which premieres its new season this Sunday night. Talk about bad timing for the viewer. AMC announced that it will live stream the 5th season premiere of Breaking Bad online for DISH Network subscribers, but the situation mainly raises the question, “Is there even a point in paying $60 – 100 per month for cable or satellite TV anymore?”
We’re sure that these channels will eventually end up back on DirectTV and DISH Network, but you’d have to watch a lot of television to justify the cost of these packaged services when a la carte digital alternatives are available. You can download Breaking Bad on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video almost immediately after it premieres on AMC, and watch it on your home TV using an Apple TV or Roku set top box. Each of those devices costs just $99 — less than many DVR boxes that you have to buy or rent to watch satellite or cable TV these days.
Some folks see the buying costs of these TV series as barriers, but for most of them it would be far cheaper than subscribing to cable or satellite packages. Let’s say you watch Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Daily Show, and The Big Bang Theory. You can catch The Daily Show on Hulu Plus and stream it to your TV for just eight bucks per month — and that goes for most non-CBS broadcast network TV, too. Season passes for the other shows are available for anywhere from $35 to $45 per year on iTunes.
Add that all together and you’re looking at $231 per year at most. Let’s say you watch a couple other shows, bringing the total to $321. The average complete satellite TV package with HD and DVR service will set you back around $50 – $90 per month. That means that by going digital you’ll see around $275 to $750 per year in savings, roughly. It’s hard to argue that’s not the right move.
The only downsides are live TV coverage (which is beginning to emerge on the web also, by the way) like sports and news, and the premium networks like HBO and Showtime which tend not to put their programming online until many months after it airs.
If you’re deeply concerned with seeing Game of Thrones or Californication the week it airs instead of in a binge viewing a few months later, then cable might be worth it to you. But there are some indications that those all-at-once, post-airing binge viewings are how many TV viewers want to enjoy their shows anyway.
That leaves 24-hour news networks and live sports coverage. The former is tarnished by poor reporting standards and rampant misinformation, so you’re probably better off without. Sports stream live online sometimes, but we have to admit that ESPN is hard to beat.
So there you have it. Are you a sports fan? Keep your cable for now. Otherwise, it’s time to turn on, tune in, and drop out of your cable or satellite TV package.