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Evaluating Whether It's Time To Cut The Cord


Next month, you will be able to get HBO without subscribing to cable, as long as you have an Apple device to sign up with. Add that option to Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Prime, Netflix, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, Hulu and so on. Clearly, the alternatives to cable TV are multiplying. And more people are cutting the cable cord. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to help you decide whether you might be ready to join them. Good morning, Eric.


MONTAGNE: Now that we have all these services - streaming video over the Internet - what's your opinion about the right time to cut the cord?

DEGGANS: Well, I'd say that depends on the answer to two questions. How much TV do you watch? And what kind of TV do you watch? It you're somebody who watches a lot of television, you like a lot of live sports, you want to see the Oscars when they happen, you want to record a lot of shows on a DVR, then cable TV still might be your best option, especially if you want to see all that stuff on a conventional big-screen TV. But if you're somebody who doesn't have a lot of time for television or you have very specific tastes or you really like playing around with new technology, there's a lot of options out there that'll soon be available that could cost you less than a cable subscription.

MONTAGNE: How can people decide which services make the most sense for them?

DEGGANS: Sure, well, the problem is that there still isn't a streaming service out that gives you everything that cable offers. So you have to figure out what service best matches the channels and the technology that you enjoy. So if you get PlayStation Vue, which is a new streaming service that's coming, you're paying at least $49.99 per month for more than 50 channels. But ABC and its sister sports network ESPN isn't part of that package. And you have to have a PlayStation 3 or 4 console to use it.

Now, if you don't have a PlayStation but you have an iPhone, an iMac or Apple TV, you might be more interested in Apple's rumored streaming service, which would fit more easily into the constellation of devices you already own. And if you're a regular Amazon customer, you might want to buy an Amazon Fire TV device or a Stick, pay for an Amazon prime subscription to access the video streaming services there. And then maybe you'd buy something like Netflix to augment it.

MONTAGNE: Though, Eric, as we know, the bills may go down immediately when you break away from cable companies' packages. But it seems like there's always a way in which the bill might end up going back up again.

DEGGANS: Yeah, it's tough to make predictions when the technology and the services are changing so quickly. Cable companies often also sell broadband service. So it's possible, if lots of people shift to streaming options, that the strain on the broadband services could push those companies to increase fees for broadband access. What I really think is going on here is that there's this growing group of media consumers who just prefer to get their video by streaming. They're often young consumers. We saw, in 2014 for example, the number of people who get cable service go down for the second consecutive year. Now, it was a very small number - 125,000 subscribers compared to 95 million subscribers. But it's still a trend worth watching.

MONTAGNE: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks very much.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans
Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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