It’s almost been a year since I cut the cord and kicked cable out of my life. And in that time, I haven’t thought (seriously) about going back to cable once. And the truth is, I could. Sometimes, I have access to cable, because of my roommates who refuse to cut the cord (more on why below).
But, honestly, I haven’t watched cable TV in the entire time since i turned in my cable box. And that’s because the best cable TV alternatives are very “sticky” services. By that I mean, once you get yourself invested in one — I chose Sling TV, but dabbled in YouTube TV for a couple of months — it’s hard to feel compelled to move back.
For starters, your DVR is such a personal resource that going back to an empty slate with a new cable box just sounds like backtracking. But that’s just the start of the big reasons why I’m sticking with Sling TV. Here’s why I am not going back to cable, and what I wish Sling and YouTube TV would get better at.
I’m saving hundreds
Our household cable TV plan costs around $127 per month, which we split. So, my sights were set on Sling TV, the only cord-cutting service with a decent channel lineup that’s under $65 (sorry Philo).
So, my cable bill calculated out to $762 per year. And, so, with Sling TV Blue, I’m spending $420 per year ($35 per month * 12), and saving $342 annually.
Of course, this is about to get annoying for me, as I am starting to get into Formula 1 racing, which means I want the ESPN channels, which means some months I’ll be spending an extra $25 per month to go from Sling Blue to Sling Orange & Blue, which adds ESPN’s channels on. That means I’ll save less while F1 is in season. Fortunately, it’s on a break right now, and it’s not a year-round sport.
Cloud streaming is a game changer
On top of those savings (the main reason why most people switch), I love how Sling TV and its competitors work everywhere. Yes, you might hear more about the “Cloud DVR” feature, that lets you catch up on the road no matter where you are, but a key difference maker from Spectrum cable to Sling is that the entire service is available on the go.
So, whenever I’ve got a signal, I can just tune into whatever is going on live. That means I can watch all my channels when I’m waiting at a train station — which is an excellent feature when you live in a city whose public transit is as unreliable as New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Of course, that means I can also pull up my cloud DVR on the go, too. Most importantly, anywhere I can sign into Sling, I can open my DVR. This includes a recent vacation when I brought my Roku Streaming Stick 4K with me to our Airbnb, where it worked like a charm.
Everything just works — and it’s snappy
Switching channels may have a slightly longer ‘loading’ time than cable does, as my colleague Mark Spoonauer pointed out when talking about how he cut the cord with YouTube TV. But, aside from that, I’m still routinely impressed by how the Sling TV app (which takes a moment or two to boot up) always feels more responsive and speedy than my old cable box.
One of my personal top reasons to leave cable was because of how antiquated the cable box feels to use. The boot up times take minutes, the dirt-slow hard drives make pruning your DVR feel like you’re chopping through quicksand and the navigation menus still looked and felt straight out of the 1980s.
But…cord-cutter services aren’t as live as cable
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Cable TV’s best feature is one it doesn’t really promote (probably because it’s hard to advertise). When I timed Sling against cable TV, I found the latter upwards of 70 seconds ahead of the former. YouTube TV was a little better, 20 to 30 behind cable.
Neither of those services, if you ask me, have any good reason to be ‘behind’ cable. Cable is the antiquated elephant of the industry, it should be behind cord-cutter services. But for whatever reasons, cable still has the advantage here. If Sling or YouTube TV could guarantee it was just as live as cable, that could swing my dollars, though I really don’t want to go to YouTube TV, which would have me paying as much as I did
I hate playing “Who has what channel?”
The $65 per month YouTube TV costs $30 more than Sling TV’s $35 per month Blue package. So you’d assume every channel in Sling Blue is in YouTube TV. I did. And I was wrong. At the very least, the AXS network, which I like for some second-tier pro wrestling programming, isn’t in YouTube TV.
But this is just my personal anecdotal incident. The world of live TV streaming services is filled with these curious questions. Fubo TV is marketed as a sports-first streaming service, yet it lacks TNT and TBS, which are crucial for basketball and baseball playoffs. Then, you’ve got the whole regional sports networks situation, which is the reason why many don’t cut the cord at all. Many, if not most RSN’s are kept in the $90 per month tier of DirecTV Stream, a service that does little else to stand out, aside from being the most-like-cable with that pricing.
Channel selection is important, and I understand that a free market means not all channels are available everywhere. But for regional sports networks to be so stuck, and for Fubo to be missing some of the NBA playoffs, this stuff doesn’t make sense.
Outlook: Still better without cable
Sure, I’d love for Sling TV to match my old cable box and have Yankees games. I’d love it to be as-live as your average cable box as well.
But the savings I’m making combined with the portability of this service are a 1-2 knockout combo that keeps the cable cut. I’m also over relying on a box with what seems like a very slow 5400 rpm hard drive.
Join me, and cut the cord. And let me know how it goes in the comments below.