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Even for budget-minded TV lovers, traditional services remain an entertainment bargain

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Even for budget-minded TV lovers, traditional services remain an entertainment bargain

By Stewart Schley
Media & Technology Writer


A big curiosity these days is whether you can do your budget a big favor by ditching cable TV and signing up for new streaming services online.

And the answer is: Yes.

And also: No.

Pull up a chair, dear reader, as we have some ‘splaining to do.

Here’s the thing: You can absolutely find tempting bargains in streaming-video land. Some people have saved money by replacing their cable television service with a handful of streaming TV services.

Oops, check that. “Replacing” is the wrong word. It’s actually near-impossible to replicate the depth and breadth of a robust TV service by turning to the Internet.

This reality makes sense when you consider that most of the popular TV bundles from your cable company combine hundreds of full-time television channels with thousands of on-demand program choices. If you do the math, you’ll discover the cost-per-channel for a typical television package works out to pennies per day. Rich on-demand program menus make the economic calculations even better, as a low cost per program makes for one of the better deals in all of entertainment.

The flipside: It’s true you can find terrific television content from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and dozens of others. But you can’t replace everything. If you try, you’ll discover it’s easy to end up spending more than you used to. Add up the cost of a Netflix subscription, a sports-league video service and an Internet-powered live-channel video service and the bargain you were seeking starts to disappear. Plus, you don’t receive nearly as much content as you used to.

Also, for some who wander into the streaming video world, there’s an unexpected side effect: subscription fatigue. The business advisory firm Deloitte, which surveyed 2,003 U.S. adults in February 2019, found that “many say having to piece together a variety of services is a source of frustration.”

So what’s a TV lover to do? First, identify what you really want from television. If you’re happy with a limited selection of shows, but not much sports or live TV, a service like Netflix or HBO Now can help you save money and still love what’s on the screen. (You can always invite yourself to the neighbor’s house for the big game, right?)

But even then, keep in mind something important: You’ll still need to have a robust, high-speed Internet connection to your devices and to your TV set. That’s because all these new streaming TV services get to you over a fast Internet connection. And the combined cost of the Internet connection with your new TV services can start to creep up.

In the end, it’s smart to conduct a bit of self-assessment. If saving money is your priority, a streaming service or two might be perfect. Especially if you’re okay with a reduced offering.

If you decide you’re happy with the TV you have, know that you’ve got plenty of company. Most American households – more than two-thirds – continue to maintain a traditional multichannel TV subscription. They’ve figured out that with or without supplemental streaming-video services, it’s a bargain that’s tough to beat.
 
Stewart Schley writes about the business of media (and, when the mood strikes him, other subjects) from Denver, Colo. Find him at stewartschley.com.

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