An explosion in the number and variety of streaming services, coupled with more time spent at home in the last year, might have you wondering whether it's time to cut the cord on cable. After all, cable isn't getting any cheaper. At the beginning of 2021, many large cable and satellite television companies announced higher prices and reinstated data caps, which were temporarily suspended in 2020 by the Federal Communications Commission.1 But is it really worth it to ditch cable in favor of streaming services? Consider the following before you make the switch.

Determine how much of your cable subscription you actually use. Are you regularly watching all the channels you pay for, or do you watch only a few of them? Are the channels you watch worth what you pay each month? The answers to these questions may help you decide whether the cost of your cable subscription is worth it.

Know your viewing preferences. Streaming services often delay the release of new TV show episodes, which can be frustrating for dedicated viewers. And sports fans might be disappointed to learn that it's difficult to access live sports coverage through most streaming services. Comprehensive sports packages are offered by some services, but usually at a higher cost, and you may need to bundle a few services together depending on whether you want local, national, and/or international coverage. Plus, delays in live programming can make it tough to tune in to your favorite teams.

Compare streaming services. A dizzying array of streaming services are available. Narrow down your choices by making a list of the ones that most appeal to you. If possible, sign up for free trials to find out what is (and what isn't) a good fit. And investigate the terms and conditions of any service that you decide to try — look for termination fees and how much any add-ons might cost.

Consider the benefits and limitations. In addition to being less expensive than cable, most streaming services are user-friendly. And as long as you have an Internet connection, streaming services allow you to view your favorite shows on the go on your cell phone or tablet. But not all streaming services offer extras such as digital video recording (DVR) or live television pausing, which are cable features you might miss. You may also have to subscribe to multiple streaming services to access all your preferred programs, which could mean you won't save much (or any) money in the long run.

Factor in the cost of extra equipment. You may need to invest in special streaming devices to access the programs you want. You might also consider the cost of high-speed Internet — you won't be able to successfully stream without a relatively fast Internet connection.

1) Consumer Reports, December 21, 2020

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