I’m behind on posts and have some updates to publish soon – a drive from the Bay Area to San Diego along the coast, as well as my 3500 mile cross-country trip from California to New York. Since I’ve arrived here I’ve been kept busy helping my parents with some home renovations, but I did want to make a quick post since I convinced my family to cancel cable and switch over to streaming services. I’ll give a quick update and feedback from their perspective.
Cable TV is expensive!
My parents are retired on a fixed income, and every time my Dad paid the cable bill he complained about it. They live in the Syracuse, NY area where there is only one main provider, Spectrum (previously Time Warner). For internet, phone, and a modest cable package with no pay stations, they were paying $210 a month. And that’s just for access on two TVs – one with a DVR and one without. Every time you want to add a TV, you need another box, which Spectrum charges extra money to lease. That’s a lot of money. It is, however, one of their primary sources of entertainment – my Mom watches a lot of the shows on HGTV, DIY, Food Network, and so on, and my Dad watches Discovery and National Geographic. Surviving on Netflix alone wouldn’t work.
Streaming to the rescue
I hadn’t evaluated the options for streaming TV in a couple of years, and boy, are there a lot of choices. Sling, Hulu with Live TV, Philo, DirectTV Now, Playstation Vue, and so on, and so on. YouTube TV floated to the top for my parents for several reasons – it has a good channel lineup, capturing most of what they watch on a regular basis, including all of their local stations. It allows Family Sharing where you can connect up to 6 user accounts for individual access, with up to three simultaneous streams allowed. You can access from any device; Smart TV, iPad, phone, etc. And each user gets their own separate, unlimited DVR that saves recorded content up to 9 months. Currently this is priced at $49.99/month.
My sister’s family, on the other hand, watches a lot of sports. Several of their must-have stations such as MSG were not available on YouTube TV. In their case, Fubo was a better fit. It has much better sports coverage, but lacks one of the local channels (ABC) as well as a number of the cable channels like Animal Planet, Discovery, and TLC. $54.99/month is the base package that provides a 30 hour DVR and two simultaneous streams. In our case, we added $6/month to get 35 more channels including DIY and the Cooking Channel. Fubo has more add-ons to get one additional stream, more DVR hours, and channel packages, but it can quickly add up to be as much as cable.
This is one area that the streaming services shine. Unlike cable where you’re charged for leasing each box, you can log in to your streaming accounts from any device. Roku, Apple TV, iPad, phone, you could have 50 devices enabled if you wanted to. You can’t watch on them all simultaneously, but you have the option to watch on any device you want without paying the cable company for hardware.
My mom uses a Roku TV, it was incredibly simple to get YouTube TV set up. For local station access, it does make you verify once from a GPS-enabled device (i.e. a phone). My dad uses an iPad and Roku, also easy. I use my phone, iPad and Roku. My sister could access Fubo on her Amazon Fire stick, but we ran into a problem with YouTube TV: until recently, Amazon and Google were in a corporate fight that prevented Amazon customers from being able to access Google services, including YouTube and YouTube TV. It was resolved in July 2019 and YouTube was officially re-enabled, but YouTube TV was not. I spent some time hacking her Fire stick to turn on Google Play Services, but it was a hassle, and in the end I set her up with an Apple TV that she’s enjoying for both Fubo and YouTube TV.
My parents are saving over $1,000 a year.
I’ll say that again.
My parents are saving $1,020 a year, and in many respects have better service than they did before (multiple DVRs, better access options). After dropping cable and keeping internet/phone service, their bill dropped from $210 a month to $75. Factoring in the $50/month for YouTube TV, they save $85/month. That’s pretty great. My sister is likewise saving hundreds per year. I have myself and my sister in YouTube TV family sharing, and she allows us to use her Fubo account, so we each get to access the best of both services.
It hasn’t been all roses. There’s a bit of a learning curve to use each service, Fubo more so than YouTube TV, and recording on YouTube TV (as well as Philo, which I’ve used in the past) isn’t very straightforward, it’s more of a queued on-demand than a true recording. My mom in particular was confused why she can can fast forward some shows, and others she has to watch ads on.
If you add a show to your library (YouTube language for “Record”), it will show up to play immediately if it’s also available on demand. However, you’ll be forced to watch ads, and it will disappear from your library if it gets pulled from on-demand access. If you wait until a live airing of the program has been “recorded” (the next airing date is shown in your library), you can then fast forward and retain the recording for up to that 9 month limit.
My dad has enjoyed using his iPad to watch, and finds the interface easier to use. You also get a nice live preview in the program guide on iOS devices that isn’t available on the Roku interface.
Conclusion: Save a lot, and give up very little
If you’re watching cable TV and feel like you’re overpaying, you owe it to yourself to check out the streaming options available. They’re very good with very few sacrifices, if you pick the right mix for you. Make a list of the channels you watch frequently, then check out the channel lineups for each service to see which one is a good fit. And remember – if at some point you don’t like the service you’ve picked, or a better one comes along – you can switch at a moment’s notice, since none of these services have contracts. Happy hunting!