New Ways to Watch TV: Is Cable On Its Way Out?
The way we watch television is evolving pretty rapidly. Back in 1928, the first official television broadcast began in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Nearly 11 years later, and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was the first major network to do regular broadcasts, but only in New York.
In the 1930s, only the wealthy could afford a television. Accounting for inflation, a television set would have cost between $4,000-$11,000! It wasn’t until after World War II that televisions became more mainstream.
And perhaps you remember the boxy, retro-looking TV sets that were bulky and had rabbit ear antennas. They were nearly a piece of furniture, with woodworking and fabric that often matched the couch set in the living room.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that cable television came into existence, and the 80s and 90s marked an important era of new cable networks like Disney, Showtime, and HBO.
Cable television had a great run, but it’s starting to die out to make room for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. What happened?
The Decline of Cable Television
According to Business Insider, traditional cable television subscriptions were at their height in 2012 with over 103 million subscribers. However, we see that year over year, there has been a pretty rapid decline.
We also see where those traditional TV subscribers are going with the following chart that emphasizes the growth of streaming TV options.
If you’ve already made the switch from cable to a streaming service, you have your own reasons for leaving, but many may be wondering… why the sudden change?
Broadcasting Cable has a few ideas, including the fact that the experience is a little bit nicer with streaming platforms. It’s easier to find shows and movies that interest you, the video quality has improved, and perhaps most compelling is that streaming options are much cheaper.
In addition, many viewers feel like they’re overpaying for cable TV because they simply don’t watch many of the available channels. In fact, the average TV viewer only watches about 0.09% of the content available to them. When these viewers ditch cable and instead opt for a less expensive streaming option, it feels… well, it feels thrifty!
But, some people choose to keep their cable. Perhaps it’s the fact that their internet and TV service is bundled with a company they love, the programs they love aren’t available on streaming services, or their internet can’t handle streaming.
If you live in a rural area and have satellite internet that slows – or stops – when it rains, or your internet package has a data usage limit, movies and TV shows will likely end up buffering, fuzzy, or skipping.
But still, streaming services are on the rise, and if this is fairly new to you, you might be wondering what your options are.
The Top Streaming Services for Watching TV and Movies
You’ve likely heard of Netflix and Hulu, but there are a surprising number of streaming services out there. In fact, Venture Beat reports there are over 100 streaming services available, all competing for a piece of the streaming services pie. Let’s take a look at what they have to offer along with that they’ll cost you.
Netflix certainly stands out as it has the most subscribers of any streaming service (137 million). One major reason why is the fact that it has simply been around the longest (since 2007), so all of the major platforms and devices offer it (Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, etc.).
It’s widely available, and it has a massive library of content. In addition to the content Netflix has licensed, it has started making big investments in original content.
Netflix seems to have a little bit of something for everyone, from older films like Apollo 13 (1995) and All the President’s Men (1976) to popular series like Orange is the New Black (since 2013) and House of Cards (2013-2018).
At a meager $12.99 for the company’s most popular plan, it doesn’t cost much to enjoy over 4,000 movies and 1,500 shows.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime has its own video streaming service with around 26 million video viewers. If you already pay for Amazon Prime (probably for the free 2-day shipping), you already have access to Amazon Prime Video.
This commercial-free service gives you access to a lot of popular movies and TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (since 2017), The Man in the High Castle (since 2015), and Downton Abbey (2013-2015).
The downsides of Amazon Prime Video include the fact that you aren’t really given much by way of personalized recommendations. You’re sort of left to wander and browse, and what’s a bit bothersome is that Amazon doesn’t always let you know if the show or movie is included or if you have to pay extra to rent or buy it.
With around 20 million subscribers, Hulu seems small compared to Netflix, but that’s still a lot of people who use the streaming service.
Hulu operates a bit differently from the other services in that it offers you more current content, such as episodes of a show that played a day earlier on cable television. With Netflix, for instance, you generally have to wait until the whole season is over to be able to watch it.
Hulu is definitely known for its selection of updated TV shows, such as The Handmaid’s Tale (since 2017), Castle Rock (since 2018), and The Mindy Project (2012-2017), but its movie library is lacking compared to the other streaming services.
Hulu’s plan without commercials costs $11.99 per month and comes with a free one-month trial.
Also, Hulu now offers a Live TV service where you can watch 50+ live channels. That service costs $39.99 per month with a free 7-day trial.
Sling TV is a cheaper alternative to cable TV, with plans as low as $25 compared to a typical $120 cable bill. Unlike cable TV, Sling TV doesn’t have any contracts, so you can cancel the service at any time.
While many enjoy the lower-cost way to watch live TV, Sling still comes with its issues. For example, you will still need an antenna to view local stations, you will still pick a package with predetermined channels that you may or may not watch, and the streaming is obviously reliant on your internet speed.
Either way, Sling TV offers channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Food Network, CNN, Disney, and more. If you’ve been looking for a way to watch live TV without signing a 2-year cable contract, Sling TV might be the answer!
HBO Now was most recently dubbed as the only place you can stream the final season of Game of Thrones, but now that the show is done, so are a lot of subscribers.
Check out this subscriber map from Tech Crunch:
Besides Game of Thrones, HBO Now does have some other great titles, including Ballers, The Wire, and Band of Brothers.
The platform is not that easy to navigate, however, as the layout is confusing, there are menus within menus within menus, and you aren’t prompted to watch the next episode of a season after you finish one.
For $14.99 per month, you do get access to some of television’s most popular shows. Whether that’s worth it or not is up to you, but there aren’t contracts, so there’s no harm in trying it out!
CBS All Access
CBS All Access is only $5.99 per month, and there’s a huge library of CBS shows from Star Trek to The Twilight Zone. One of the major perks of CBS All Access is the ability to watch live CBS news and NFL games.
However, like HBO Now, the platform isn’t very user-friendly, and you only have access to content that has played on CBS.
When all is said and done, CBS All Access has over 10,000 episodes on-demand, and if there are several shows there that interest you, it’s an inexpensive way to watch them.
What Are You Doing for TV?
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Now, and CBS All Access are just a few of the many streaming services available today. Others include Sony PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, Philo, YouTube TV, AT&T Watch TV, DirecTV Now… the list keeps going.
In fact, Disney is coming out with its own streaming service later this year (November 12) called Disney Plus, so if nothing else sparks your interest, at least you'll have an option the grandkids will love.
The bottom line is that cable seems to be on its way out, but we want to know what you think!
What are you doing for television? Let us know in the comment section below!
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