Video blogger Lane Fournerat got rid of his cable back in 2009. He built his own homemade HDTV antenna and doesn't regret the decision. "Frankly, I was tired of paying over $100 for a bunch of channels that I never watch," he says. Fournerat is tech-savvy, but getting rid of cable isn't just a great solution for techies; anyone can upgrade to more modern technology.
"With everyone carrying around a smartphone these days, through the internet, they have their TVs in their pockets," says Fournerat. "We're just substituting ABC, CBS, and FOX (with) YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. These are going to be the cable companies of the future."
We are in the era of streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, HBO Go and Hulu. Now may be the time to rethink cable.
"Consumers should absolutely educate themselves on their TV options," says Fern Feistel, head of marketing for Xumo, an OTT streaming platform built into many smart TVs, including LG and Panasonic. Xumo provides free content from media outlets like BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, The Onion and Bon Appetit. No cable boxes or subscriptions needed.
"Gone are the days when you were forced to pay whatever the cable company decided to charge," she says. "Today, TV watchers can look at all the channels they're paying for (and) don't care about and seriously consider dropping their bundles in favor of free and/or paid streaming content."
Here are some advantages and disadvantages to forgoing the traditional cable TV setup.
Cable alternatives provide on-demand entertainment 24/7 at a much more affordable price.
"The affordability of an $8 Hulu subscription to watch your favorite episodes of 'Cake Boss,' 'Blackish' and 'Key & Peele' is vastly more affordable than paying for an HD cable box, basic cable and extended packages necessary to get (specialty) channels," says Feistel. And there's an added bonus: You'll most likely have access to all seasons of a show at once.
Paying for individual streaming services also brings down the cost of your internet. It won't be bundled with the price of cable and the cable box. Some streaming devices even have a one-time fee rather than a monthly charge.
Smart TVs are equipped with certain of streaming services, but beyond that, streaming sticks are available for purchase. Fournerat notes that "you can get a Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire for cheaper than one month of billing with cable, so the upfront cost is nil."
Fournerat uses his homemade HD TV antenna to watch on-air channels, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW and PBS. "An antenna mixed with a streaming box and YouTube on my phone is all the entertainment that I need."
RadioShack's chief marketing officer, Michael Tatelman, reaffirms the fact that cutting cable and turning to on-demand viewing is appealing to many TV-watchers because of its cost-effectiveness. "Experts estimate that you can save up to $500-600 a year depending on your current cable bill."
Those who are often on the go will be happy to know that your subscription is not confined to your TV. "Many will allow you to watch your content anywhere. Your content will sync across devices, and they're great for gaming," says Tatelman. Take your favorite show with you on your phone or tablet. What's more, technological advancements are still becoming more futuristic. "Now, many of these steaming devices also allow you to change channels and programs with your voice."
Despite these benefits, transitioning to a non-cable TV service may not be the best option for everyone. Take a look at some noted disadvantages.
Fournerat cautions "not-so-tech-savvy crowd" from getting rid of cable, as they'd have to learn "a whole new way of watching TV." It's not impossible to learn, but there is a learning curve.
Additionally, sports fans may not like this alternative viewing experience. Most sports are only available on cable TV, and some are even confined to specific cable providers.
Those who enjoy staying current on the hottest shows should know that some top-rated shows and movies aren't available on streaming platforms. These are the moneymakers that studios and networks prefer to keep more exclusive.
On-demand streaming is absolutely cheaper than cable, but subscribing to many different platforms can still add up. "If you sign up for a variety of different streaming services, make sure you have access to all your favorites you'd be giving up through cable," says Fiestel. "You may find that the sum total of what you pay now for subscription-based content isn't all that dissimilar to what you were paying previously."
There's one final drawback (although it's really a good problem to have): You'll have so much access to new content that you may feel overwhelmed.
While traditional cable models rely on consumers paying for bundles of programming, Wi-Fi and even landline phones, the business model may need to change.
"The future of cable TV is hard to pinpoint," says Fiestel. But she does notice one trend. "Viewers are cutting the cord, she says. "They are ditching their cable bills and being more picky about the shows they choose to pay for."
If you think it's right for you, hit "Refresh" on your TV technology. Your entertainment and finances will get a great upgrade.