In his personal technology column in the Wall Street Journal last week, Geoffrey Fowler made the argument that despite an increasing number of “cord cutters” in the U.S. (those who don’t subscribe to cable anymore, but instead watch most of their TV via digital services like Netflix and Hulu), cable is still coming out on top. Fowler argues that it’s still not particularly convenient, or cost-effective to cut the cord.
But there’s hope for those who want a change, Fowler reported. This is the year Internet will become a serious alternative to cable, he opined. Case in point: Sony’s PlayStation Vue Service debuted last week, allowing viewers to stream the big networks (as long as they’ve got a PlayStation game console). Apple TV is set to undergo a major overhaul, and will now offer access to HBO without a premium cable subscription through its HBO Now (just in time for the new season of Game of Thrones).
But up until now, Fowler has reviewed every Internet TV service, streaming box and smart TV and has yet to find a replacement that cuts costs sufficiently and offers him everything he wants to watch.
Here’s why you still need cable in the U.S., he wrote:
1. The cable companies control Internet access. For many in the U.S., the best Internet deals come from cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner. To make cable seem more attractive, the companies push Internet and TV bundles that make Internet-only service seem pricier.
2. You’ll still miss a lot of popular TV. Sling TV allows you to stream live cable channels, but only 20 of them. PlayStation Vue offers between 50 and 80-plus live channels, including NBC, CBS and FOX, but it’s missing ABC, said Fowler.
3. You may have to wait a while to watch the shows you want. If you like to be part of water cooler chatter surrounding a particular show, you often can’t if you’re a cord cutter. Hulu Plus shows some of the latest shows from FOX, NBC and ABC, but you still have to wait a day to watch them. And Amazon Prime and Netflix still require you to a wait a while before watching the newest season of a show.
4. You still need a lot of devices. “Assuming you can find the shows you want online, chances are you won’t find them all on one service. Or even one remote control,” wrote Fowler. If, for example, you want ESPN, you need Sling (on Roku or Xbox). If you want FOX News, you need Vue (on Playstation). If you want the aforementioned HBO Now you need Apple TV. That’s a lot of devices.
5. Cord cutting doesn’t save you much money. Fowler did the math for us. On average, he wrote, a cable and Internet package (including premium channels) costs around $130 per month. Buying Internet alone is about $60 a month. But cutting cable and buying Internet alone is more expensive, about $60 a month. Vue costs $50 to $70 and HBO Now alone $15. So in that case you’re spending just about $5 less but getting a whole lot less TV.