When it comes to watching your favorite shows, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people prefer streaming for its ease and affordability, while others prefer cable for its more customizable packages and availability. But if you fall somewhere in the middle, how do you choose the option that’s right for you?
Most people will agree that cable—even basic cable—can be pretty expensive. Streaming, on the other hand, has come a long way in terms of quality and selection, leading a lot of people to cut the cable cord in exchange for something better.
If you can’t decide between streaming or cable, here are three factors to take into consideration.
1. How important is your budget?
When you compare the cost of cable verses streaming, streaming wins each and every time. For many, this is the deciding factor – cheaper is better, if quality is up to par. The price of cable packages has skyrocketed over the past few decades, with monthly bills ranging from $100 to $200 in certain areas. Basic cable is slightly cheaper, but since these packages have limited programming, you may not have access to your favorite channels or shows.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the average basic cable package cost $64 a month in 2014. Streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, however, can cost less than $10 a month. Options like Sling TV start at $20 a month. If you’re all about the cheapest monthly price, streaming is better.
2. Do you know what you’re looking for?
How much do you watch TV? Some people only watch a handful of shows every week, tuning it without channel surfing. Since Hulu has the latest aired episode of just about every network program in its lineup, there’s a good chance your favorite programs are available for streaming.
If you spend most of your time watching cable programming, there’s also an option for you. Sling TV is an affordable TV alternative similar to cable that includes many cable networks, like TBS, HGTV, the Food Network and more without a physical cable connection.
If you don’t watch reality TV, sitcoms or dramas, but prefer movies, you’ll find a variety of movies on both Hulu and Netflix (although Netflix has a larger library). And these are available to watch at any time, so you’re not relying on the schedule a cable company decides.
Bottom line: if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a streaming service to accommodate your viewing needs. But if your program preference changes based on your mood, cable might be up your alley. It offers more stations and program options for the entire family.
3. Do you have high-speed Internet?
In most cases, people who stream have access to high-speed internet. Before you make the switch, familiarize yourself with your current internet service and consider whether it can handle a streaming service.
This is important because streaming a television show or movie in standard definition uses about 1 GB of data per hour, whereas a show or movie in high definition uses about 3 GB of data per hour. And unfortunately, if your internet package doesn’t offer enough speed, streaming can be a painful ordeal with frequent buffering and interruptions.
Fortunately, slow internet is a fixable problem (if you live in an area that accommodates higher speeds). By increasing your internet speed, you’ll receive better streaming service. Of course, more speed means higher internet costs, but spending more money on internet could end up decreasing your monthly cable bill – meaning you still may pay less for the services you want.
There are a lot of other factors to consider as well, like how many devices you want to watch TV on, how many people are in your household and more, but this is an excellent starting point if your reconsidering your entertainment services.
Not sure where to begin? Take a look at our Top 5 List of TV Services, which may help you figure out exactly which services is right for you.