Is it Time to Cancel Cable TV?

Subscription-based cable television was once the only way to get access to extensive TV programming. Cable TV providers remain a dominant force in the market, but the influence they wield over viewers has been curbed by media streaming services provided by companies capitalizing on new ways to deliver programs to viewers.


Old Technology vs. New Gadgets and Services

Typically, old-school cable TV services, programming was delivered to subscriber locations from the provider’s headend location through trunk lines and coaxial cables. A set-top box in the home converts data into the baseband so that the broadcast displays on standard TV sets. As an alternative, satellite dish-based cable access is also available.

This type of delivery relied on rigidly scheduled programming to ensure that viewers knew what shows were running on each channel, and they could then plan their viewing schedule around preferred programs. Digital video recording (DVR) such as TiVo allowed some flexibility as pre-selected programs could be recorded and viewed later.

On-demand programming has become more popular in recent years, encouraging long-time cable subscribers to cancel their subscriptions and experiment with new alternatives to television viewing. Data generated by Convergence Online Reports indicate that over 2 million households dropped their cable services in 2011. A similar report prepared by Los Angeles consultancy firm, Ideas and Solutions, suggest that 60 percent of
Generation Y, the 18 to 29 demographic considered prime audience by TV executives, were seriously studying the possibility of cutting cable entirely.


Reasons for Cancelling Cable Subscriptions

Cable television services have endeavored to keep pace with new streaming media as subscribers' preferences skew toward customized and on-demand programming. Through creative packaging, cable providers seek to present subscription plans tailored to the specific interests of subscribers. However, there are overwhelming considerations for cancelling cable service.


Subscription Costs

Television programming expanded as the number of available TV channels grew. Cable providers bundled these channels into packages, making it convenient for subscribers to choose from basic packages with lower subscription rates to more comprehensive packages pegged to higher monthly fees. Subscription rates range from a low of $40 to a high exceeding $100 per month, depending on the premium channels included in the subscription.

On the other hand, streaming services hover between $8 to $20, depending on the provider, the streaming technology and the type of programming. Usually, subscribers have to purchase a device or application software, which cost around $100 to link to these streaming services.


Personalized Scheduling

Alternatives to cable TV provide on-demand programming that can be viewed whenever subscribers find it convenient. Available content is not tied to whatever happens to be on the air as subscribers can queue their selections into their account and watch when the mood strikes. Streaming services do not need DVR technology as content can be accessed from the providers’ servers. This makes it possible to watch the entire season of a favorite TV show during the off season instead of waiting for weekly episodes.



With streaming media, viewers do not have to sit in front a television. Programs can be viewed on personal computers, smart phones with multimedia access, tablets and other portable digital devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. When traveling away from home, portable devices allow access to streaming content so that subscribers are never too far away from entertainment programming. In contrast, traditional cable services are location-specific.


Better Picture Quality

Cable companies compress content, including high definition programming to accommodate more content. Watching the same shows through streaming services will mean better picture quality because there is no data compression.


Downsides to Cancelling Cable

Live network programs are rarely accessible on streaming media. Some shows may be available a day after the live program airs. Sometimes, the wait time is longer. However, the network channels use their websites to stream their shows as delayed telecast, making it easy for lapsed cable subscribers to check out the latest shows and episodes.

Sports enthusiasts may consider live play-by-play important to their lifestyle. Cutting cable subscription may mean foregoing live coverage or audio-only coverage of the games. Some games may be available as a live telecast on the website of the professional organization.

The quality of streaming content depends on download speeds available at the time of viewing. Subpar broadband connection almost always means a frustrating viewing experience with stalled and poor quality video.


To Quit or not to Quit Cable Services

News junkies and avid sports fans for whom up-to-the-minute updates is important may need be tethered to their cable subscription for a while. Ultimately, the decision to cancel cable subscription in favor of streaming alternatives or to avoid TV programming altogether is a personal decision. This decision is tied to economics, programming preferences and access to viewing devices and applications.

While current trends show declining cable subscriptions, providers are not giving up just yet. Fresh programming, focused packages at affordable rates and enhanced content delivery will ensure that cable TV remains a player in the entertainment game.