As alternatives to live television ― such as Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu Live ― improve and other streaming services ― like Netflix and Amazon Prime ― add better original programming, it’s become increasingly tempting to cut the cord.
But cord-cutting isn’t quite the obvious choice just yet. There must be a reason nearly 200 million U.S. adults still have cable.
HuffPost did a call-out to our readers to find out a few of the unexpected problems consumers have faced after cord-cutting. The majority of the responses expressed satisfaction in their decision, thanks to money saved, monopolistic cable providers avoided and the huge library of content offered by streaming services.
So if you’re thinking of making the cut and want to know what to expect ― read on.
This is part of Streamline, HuffPost’s weekly recommendation service for streaming shows and movies. Every Saturday, Streamline ranks the best shows to watch online, including a specific focus on Netflix.
1. The new live services have buffering issues.
Readers identified this as the most widespread problem with making the change from cable.
“I’ve subscribed to DIRECTV Now. But it kept freezing during the Super Bowl, sometimes for minutes at a time.” ― Sarah Cummings
“We liked Hulu live until it froze that last 45 seconds of the Super Bowl ” ― Darcy Leal DeShazer
“We cut out cable and tried to replace it with just streaming options, then with those plus PlayStation Vue (because they were the only option for live sports). That was a bust because the internet streaming couldn’t keep up with the speed of most sports, plus the DVR options were abysmal [which made missing live game broadcasts not an option]. So we went back! We are the proud payers of a DIRECTV bill and I’m not even sad about it.” ― Stephanie Bowen Earley
2. It’s impossible to get every channel you had before.
The different streaming options don’t offer the exact same packages as the cable companies, meaning you’ll almost definitely be missing out on something. If you’re one of those people who actually does watch tons of different channels, the live streaming services might offer less that what you’re looking for.
“I realized that I missed my Live TV. I bought an HDTV antenna, however the only channel I could get was NBC because I’m not close to the towers. I researched all of the live streaming options including Hulu Live ($40/month), Sling TV ($20, $25 or $40) and DIRECTV NOW ($35). I got free trials for all three. I liked Hulu Live, however the live user interface took me awhile to get used to. Plus it was the most expensive at $40, still for a bunch of channels I don’t watch. Also it did not have Animal Planet or TLC, channels that I watch. Next I was excited about Sling because of the price, however even with Sling’s $40 option, you don’t get all of the major broadcast networks. So my final selection for live streaming TV is DIRECTV NOW (Live a little package). It has the best value at $35/month with all of the major broadcast networks plus TLC and Animal Planet. Plus I like the user interface for browsing live TV. It has a nice channel guide similar to cable. The only channel that I don’t have live and would like is the OWN network, but I’m not going to pay an extra $15 a month for the next higher package that includes it.” ― Angela L. Lee
“Many apps require cable subscription.” ― Mike Legg
“I tried Aereo before they lost their court case. Then I was a SlingTV user for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. Just switched to YouTubeTV in the last week. Mostly so we could get local channels. It’s okay but I am already missing A & E, HGTV and History Channel. We are going to give it a try for a while but may check out DIRECTV now because it has most of the channels we like as well as local options.” ― Sean Cook
3. Streaming live sports can be particularly tricky.
Companies such as ESPN have spent a ton of money acquiring the rights to live events. They’re not going to let you stream every major sports event easily. Even ESPN’s upcoming streaming service won’t have all the games that the cable channels are going to air.
In many of these cases, you might have to buy the sport’s individual streaming service ― such as NBA League Pass or MLB.TV, but even those don’t have everything that’s shown on cable.
“We have Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and the T1 from Xfinity (with their best package) plus internet and sports packages. We would definitely cut cable as there is enough with Netflix, Amazon and Vudu … BUT my husband HAS to have the football and baseball packages and local channels. That’s the only thing keeping us from cutting completely as we only pay about $30 a month combined for streaming compared to almost $300 a month for cable.” ― Anna Day
“Watching the Super Bowl, Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys are all more work without cable. We have an antenna but the consistency of the channels is lacking.” ― Erin Mcnally-Goward
“Paid for an extra Hulu package to watch sports games and some live TV, but it only works on my iPad, not my smart TV or Apple TV. I was watching the Super Bowl on the networks app, and it cut off in the fourth quarter due to ‘streaming rights’… on the networks app?? How? What am I paying for? Pretty crappy time to cut me off! I had to scramble with guests at my house to find it on YouTube. I am frustrated with paying extra but then the options are still so limited.” ― Ashley Ryan Larrabee
4. Internet problems can mess with streaming.
And then if you do cord-cut, you may have to pay more for your internet to make sure the streamed shows and movies don’t overload your internet connection. As one reader pointed out, certain areas of the country with sub-par internet could have no good way of avoiding this problem.
“My internet slowed down to a crawl and no amount of resetting the box helped. Turned out it was something wrong with the box and it was replaced. However, it was still occasionally cutting out. When we moved from Los Feliz to Boyle Heights [in Los Angeles], connection with these services greatly improved. I think it’s due to it being adjacent to downtown so that connections are underground and stronger.” ― Ruby McNeil
5. You might have to fight your cable company.
Your cable company doesn’t want to lose that sweet, sweet monthly payment. So that company might try to make it really difficult to cord-cut.
This often entails pushing you to pay more for internet or hiding large overage fees. Expect some resistance.
(We should note in passing that Verizon — which owns HuffPost’s parent company, Oath — is one of the largest cable and internet providers in the U.S.)
“We did it! Finally cut the cable cord. It was an oddly empowering moment. However within a few weeks of basking in our joy and anticipation of the savings we were going to experience we started getting some rather concerning emails from our former cable company about data overages! We could stream to our hearts content while we paid exorbitant rates for cable that supplied us with an endless supply of channels we never used. The minute we took charge that old pesky cable company somehow infiltrated our lives again with the promise of extra fees. We started getting a daily deluge of emails letting us know for a few more drops of blood … I mean dollars … we could keep our overages in check and be safe and complacent again. We were floored. But alas we caved but in our small protest we vowed to neva-eva-eva-eva go hungry again… I mean pay for cable again!” ― Lucy Fellows
“My cable company tried to tell me that if I cancelled the digital service and just got internet and phone service it would cost me more… ” ― Janna Olson
“I cut dish and only use open TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime video and HBOnow, but now Comcast limited my monthly data to 1,000 gig and if I go over they charge me 10 dollars for every 50 gig above.” ― Manuel Briceño
Bonus: The shows and movies you thought were on streaming might not be there anymore or might be leaving soon.
This can be fixed with a little research. But since streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are constantly changing their content libraries, you might not be getting all the shows and movies you expected.
These companies also seem to be pivoting to more original content rather than maintaining huge libraries of quality shows and movies by other creators. So you might have to subscribe to quite a few streaming companies to get an extensive library.
“I’m really disappointed in the slow deterioration of popular film offerings from the Big 3 (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon). I remember when they started up, Netflix had an amazing selection. But now it seems like they never have any of the films I’m looking for. I have Amazon Prime, but any of the movies I really want to see inevitably require that I pay extra to rent them. The number of B and C-grade movies that are on these services is quite remarkable. That’s a lot of chaff to pad their offerings.” ― Susan Houston