We’re living in an age where we’re rethinking almost everything about media consumption. The aging approach of paying massive cable bills to access the few shows we like is giving way to a la carte options. Increasingly, we want to view specific content, slice away bloated bills and escape the avalanche of channels that lack the content we want.
Smart TVs promise to get you connected to your favorite apps like Netflix and Hulu, but many of the built-in TV apps are sluggish and hard to navigate. Not fun.
A number of devices help in this regard. The big players are Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast. For as little as thirty bucks (even less during sales), you can pick up a device like Chromecast. These magical miniatures plug into the back of your TV and pump out your favorite streaming apps with effortless ease. You can control these devices from your phone or—in the case of the Fire TV Stick—from an easy to use remote that’s included. With these streaming devices, you don’t have to learn a new user interface for every TV, and you don’t have to rely on your TV’s slow innards to deliver content. Also, Apple and Amazon have voice searches built into their remotes. This makes searching a breeze.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for some particulars. If Santa squeezed a massive 4K TV into your living room, you’ll likely want to find a device that meshes with your new pixel-popping wonderland. The Amazon Fire TV, for instance, streams 4K content and is still affordable—tipping the scale at less than $100 and often on sale for as little as $75. Word to the wise, however: 4K content is limited, and you’ll need hefty internet speeds to make it enjoyable. Tech gurus recommend at least 25Mbps. I’d say go for as much as you can afford, because content is only going to be increasing year after year.
So, will an amped up internet connection and a streaming device help you cut the cable cord? For some folks, yes. If you find that you rarely watch TV and you’re spending most of your screen time streaming video, you might be able to say goodbye to a sizeable chunk of your cable bill—maybe all of it.
Take the streaming test. For one week, only use streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu Plus or the very intriguing Sling TV (more on this later). If you find that these services meet your needs, extend your test to several weeks. After a month, you may realize that you spent good money for a cable service you didn’t use.
Okay, on to Sling TV. It’s a neat compromise that may be the right middle ground. Sling TV allows you to choose the content that you want—stations like ESPN or HGTV—and watch them live. All this is done without contracts and for about $20 per month. There are limits. You can only stream on one device at a time per account. And you’ll need to watch local TV via a traditional antenna.
One last thing: you may be a huge fan of cable or satellite. I have cable and still enjoy it enough not to want to cut the cord…yet. I’m not trying to wage war against the good folks who have been providing news and entertainment for years. But we’re living in a time of major change, and we should be exploring what’s next.
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.