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Time to Cut the Cable TV Cord?

The answer depends on what you watch (especially if you are a sports fan)

spinner image Cutting the cable cord
With so many options for viewing shows, how do you decide what is best for your home?
Alexey Rotanov/Alamy

If your household is like most, then you watch 17 television channels and pay a cable or satellite company more than $100 a month for hundreds of them.

Tired of the overkill? You may be ready to cut the cable TV cord.

You no longer need a cable subscription to have all kinds of entertainment programming at your fingertips. You may be surprised at how many old and new television shows, movies and other entertainment programming — such as comedy specials and documentaries — you can receive with an antenna for the big broadcast networks and an internet connection. 

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However, you’ll have to do some homework to be sure you get what you want, especially if there’s a sports team you follow, a news channel you trust or specific shows you enjoy. If you need multiple services to check those boxes, then it probably doesn’t pay for you to cut cable just yet.

Subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Now each cost from $8 to $15 a month and offer thousands of programs and movies — often ad free — that can be seen on any of your internet-connected devices. They’re best suited for people who just want to be entertained, with few specific requirements. They aren’t for sports fans, although that may change: Amazon will livestream Thursday Night Football this season.

The services are distinct, so you will have to figure out which ones offer what you consider must-see TV. Most also produce their own series and movies — many of them as compelling as anything you’ll find elsewhere on broadcast or cable TV. Netflix landed 91 Emmy nominations this year for 27 shows, including House of CardsStranger Things and The Crown. Six shows on Amazon, including Transparent and Catastrophe, collectively have 16 Emmy nominations. Hulu has 18 nominations, including 13 for The Handmaid’s Tale

If you’d prefer to watch traditional TV channels — without the high cost of cable TV — then check the new livestreaming services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. They run about $35 a month, although the price can vary based on the number of channels you receive and other features.

Be extra careful if you are a sports fan who can't miss watching your team’s games live. Regional sports networks usually hold rights to local broadcasts of a major league team’s home games, and the streaming services don’t offer all of them in every market.  

Before you grab the scissors, you need to know your options. But first, take Socrates’ advice to know thyself.