Folks from around the state discuss 10 pros and cons of cable and streaming services
To cut or not to cut cable TV — that is the question.
It’s become a trend to ditch traditional cable TV and their contracts — in favor of watching shows at home or on mobile devices via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube TV.
With streaming services starting as low as about $5.99 per month, we’ve interviewed people around the state to get the pros and cons of the service(s) they use.
1. Cable TV pros
Karen Lee, 51, of Clayton, said she and her sister tried cutting the cord a few years ago. The siblings live together and wanted to see if they’d receive cost savings by just using Netflix and Prime. But it took less than a month for them to come back.
“There’s shows we like to watch, especially on the weekends, that we couldn’t get on streaming services,” said Lee, who has Xfinity (owned by Comcast) cable. “You can’t get all those channels on Netflix like Great American Country and Investigation Discovery.”
Beth Oliphant, 41, of Townsend, has Verizon cable and she subscribes to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, and primarily has cable because her husband loves watching sports.
Self-proclaimed TV junkie JulieAnne Cross, 49, of Stanton, has Xfinity cable and said it’s convenient to have for watching sports, too.
Cross also subscribes to Prime and Netflix, like Oliphant and Lee, and she enjoys Xfinity’s user-friendly X1 option. That allows Prime and Netflix customers to watch their favorite shows from those apps (and others apps like Sling Tv) in one place through Comcast.
Comcast vice president of corporate communications Lisa Scalzo said having an aggregation of those various apps on one dashboard is a good way to bring more value to their customers.
“A lot of people assume that Netflix is a competitor to us, and that is really not that case,” Scalzo said.
“A lot of our customers are actually looking for choices. They’re actually like content carnivores. They can’t get enough,” she added. “In all of our research, I’ve not heard anyone say they want fewer choices. I’ve heard a lot of people say they want to pay less. [But] that’s more derivative of the economy.”
Comcast has launched X1 Voice Remote. A customer can use a simple voice command to change channels and search for shows. For example, if you want to watch “The Walking Dead,” simply say “Show me ‘The Walking Dead.’”
You can also record your favorite shows via voice.
“You have to remember, TV is supposed to be a lean-back experience that’s enjoyable. It’s not supposed to be difficult,” Scalzo said. “Identifying that white space that allows us to differentiate our platforms and add value to our subscriptions and our customers is what we’ve been focusing on, and I think we’ve done a really good job.”
2. Cons of cable
Oliphant and her fellow cable comrades all said a downside is having to pay their cable bills.
The cost can vary from around $30 per month (with 10 channels) to more than $80 per month (with 260-plus channels). Many people buy cable and internet package deals, which can reach $130 per month or more.
“One of the reasons we started to do this streaming stuff is because of cost saving. Cable is ridiculously expensive,” Oliphant said.
About a year ago she and her husband cut back on their premium channels and have focused more on watching Netflix and Hulu, saving about $50 to $75 a month, she added.
Charles Wolfe, 38, of Dover, said he and his wife cut Verizon cable a few months ago, along with one of his phone lines, in favor of using cheaper options such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTubeTV.
“I said I’ll pay the early termination fee and cut you guys off now and keep you for internet,” Wolfe said. “It saves us about $80 a month now.”
Richard Allen Cramer, 41, of Georgetown, said he cut cable because money got tight for him after he got divorced in April. He got rid of his internet, too. Now he has Netflix and Hulu, which he likes to watch on his phone. Cramer said he’s saving around $130 per month.
Another drawback of cable TV, Oliphant said, are these strange things called commercials. Oliphant has three children, the eldest age 7, and her kids try to avoid cable shows.
“The kids don’t watch cable, which is interesting. When they do, they get upset because they don’t understand commercials. But there’s no commercials on Netflix,” she said.
“When we watch a show on TV, they’ll tell me to turn their show back on,” Oliphant added. “Then you have to explain you’ll have to wait until the commercial is over. So they’re a little spoiled in that aspect.”
3. Netflix ups
Paying for a streaming service to watch your favorite TV series and movies was started by Netflix in 2007. Its subscriptions are as low as $8.99 per month. The company boasts 158 million users worldwide, according to its website.
Netflix produces original programs like “Black Mirror,” “Stranger Things” and “Orange is the New Black.”
Lee said she just started watching the series “Unbelievable.”
Oliphant is a fan of “Workin’ Moms” and “Dead to Me,” while her 7-year-old son and husband are interested in more educational programming on the app. She and her family enjoy Netflix because it basically has something for all of them to enjoy.
“There’s docuseries on wildlife, ocean life, the rain forest, the arctic, reptiles and all kinds of stuff like that,” she said. “My oldest son has been has been watching those programs since he was 2 or 3. He really actually learns a lot from it. My husband likes documentaries about anything, really. They have a lot of documentaries on Netflix.”
4. Netflix downs
Though her 7-year-old son has found content he likes on the app, the streaming service doesn’t offer enough programming for kids, Oliphant said.
Longtime subscriber Cramer said a negative about Netflix is it has a lot of weak original programming.
“They have a lot of unknown movies that you’ve never heard of,” Cramer said. “I’ve tried to give them a chance, but they’re awful. Some of the movies they’ve put out there have B-list actors.”
5. Hulu: Happening
With north of 25 million subscribers, Hulu has emerged as one of the top streaming services.
It starts at $5.99 per month and offers original programs like “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Veronica Mars.”
The most expensive package, Hulu + Live TV at $44.99 per month, allows users to record to DVR and watch everything from local news and sports to primetime shows and movies – all airing in real time.
Its 60-plus channels include Fox, Viceland, A&E, Bravo, CBS and more. Networks such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz are available as add-ons.
Allen has been paying for Hulu for only a few days and is in love with the cheap basic version.
“I’ll dabble a little bit longer on Hulu and see what’s available and see if it’s better than Netflix,” said Cramer, who watches “Family Guy” and “Married with Children” on the app. “If Hulu is better, I’ll cancel Netflix and just use Hulu, because it’s only $5.99, which is about half the cost of Netflix.”
6. Hulu: Not so happening
Unlike Netflix, the most popular edition of Hulu, the basic version, has commercials. If you spend a little extra, there’s another version called "Hulu (no ads)," yet people have complained that ads still pop up in some of their programs.
Hulu addressed this on its website stating a few shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder” will have commercial breaks.
7. YouTube yes
Meanwhile, Wolfe has quickly become a fan of YouTube TV. The 38-year-old is loving the original series “Kobra Cai,” a spin-off of “The Karate Kid” films from the 1980s.
YouTube TV costs $49.99 per month. It offers unlimited DVR and has live TV from 70-plus channels including ESPN, Discovery, AMC, Oxygen, NatGeo Wild and YouTube Original programs.
The streaming service has more than 1 million subscribers, according to Bloomberg.com.
8. YouTube no
It would be better if channels had numbers like traditional TV, to make it easier to find programs, Wolfe said.
He has a gripe with commercials breaking up the flow of programs. Not to mention, he said YouTube TV’s DVR has made him a little frustrated.
“On cable DVR, you can set your DVR to record first runs only. But on YouTube TV, it’s not as sophisticated. It’ll record every episode [from each season],” he said.
9 Amazon Prime pros
If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you automatically have access to Prime’s streaming. There are more than 100 million Prime subscribers, according to Fortune.com. The fee is $12.99 per month.
Prime original programming includes “The Boys,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” Digital movies can be bought on Prime and saved to the app.
Thursday Night Football is free to watch via Prime.
Oliphant said she adores watching “‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’, which is amazing,” and she likes the ability to buy movies.
“We’ve bought Disney movies and stuff like that for the kids, which is nice, because we can watch them at any time,” she said.
Wolfe appreciates Prime’s a la carte option. Users can add networks such as Starz, HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, BET and more.
10. Prime cons
Although Amazon has over 100 million Prime customers, that doesn’t mean all of its users are taking advantage of its streaming service. Many Prime users join to receive free one-day shipping from shopping at the Amazon store.
What's one of the biggest knocks against Prime? A nice chunk of its advertised movies and TV shows aren’t free.
All in all, Lee said, Prime and Netflix suffer a similar problem: “There is a bunch of free movies, but it may not be something you want to watch,” the Clayton resident said. “It might be something that’s old.”