OTELCO’s Summer Streaming Series Step One: Evaluating Your TV Needs

A couple is streaming TV and eating popcorn on the couch.

Taking a more in-depth look into what you like about cable can help you create the perfect streaming plan for you and your TV partner.

Welcome back to OTELCO’s Summer Streaming Series, where we explore the best way to break free of traditional TV with just three easy steps. The first step in this exploration is a full evaluation of your TV needs. Look at the channels and shows you can’t live without, the cable features you won’t give up, and most importantly, how much you are looking to spend. These answers will help develop a personal streaming plan.

Viewing Habits

As we mentioned in last week’s blog, streaming is going to take a little more work than traditional TV. As you begin this three-step process, be ready to do some research, and make some sacrifices. In the end, you may find that traditional TV is what works best for your family, and that is fine. We recommend you start by considering these four things:

Live Events: Are live TV events, such as sports or award shows, a priority for you? Do you feel like you could wait for an episode or season of your favorite show? If live TV is a must, you will want to home in on live streaming services such as YouTube TV, Sling, or PlayStation Vue. For those who don’t mind waiting, on-demand platforms, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, will work just fine.

Local TV: Local stations, including regional sports games, can be tricky because live streaming services tend not to offer them. Supplementing your streaming devices with antennas can help, but rural areas may be too far from towers to pick up any signals. A solution to keep in mind here is streaming from a local station or sports team’s website, and then connecting your computer to your TV via an HDMI cord. We will expand upon this next week, but keep in mind that if this already seems like too much work, streaming may not be for you.

Channel Scope: Every streaming platform has gaps in what they offer. There are some ways around this issue, like creating a patchwork streaming plan where you get certain things from certain places. For example, YouTube TV does not offer HBO, but you can buy an HBO Now subscription separately and stream HBO shows there instead. Some Live TV platforms offer specific channels as add-ons, but for an extra price, and they still don’t cover all the most popular networks. Either way, if channel surfing for everything from PBS to Cinemax is a fundamental part of your viewing experience, you probably won’t enjoy streaming.

Screens: How many TVs do you have in your home? How many people are watching TV in your home at one time? Streaming services have limits on how many users can watch at once. Some providers, like Hulu or Sling, have plans that allow for additional screens, but others are stricter on the subject. YouTube TV only allows three users, and Direct TV only allows for two but allows you to add a third user for an additional $5 a month. You can easily solve this problem with a combination of streaming services, or just by watching together.

Bigger families can have a harder time streaming.

Cost

The average American is paying between $90 and $300 a month for a standalone satellite or cable package, while the monthly average price for a streamer is going to be below $100 a month. Now, if cutting costs is your only concern, you could stream TV for $0.00 a month.  There are at last seven on-demand streaming services you can use for literally nothing, assuming that you are not picky about what you watch.  On-demand services are the least expensive options, with basic plans from Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime (the big three) starting at just $5.99 a month. The most basic live TV plan starts at $15 a month, but to get a plan that comes anywhere close to what cable can provide you are looking at the $20-$50 a month price range. Still, if you are paying $100 a month for cable, switching to streaming is going to save you some substantial money.

For the most part, the only upfront streaming cost is for the streaming device. Streaming from a computer or gaming device you already have in your home is a way to avoid upfront costs altogether. A new streaming device will most likely cost you anywhere between $20-$200, and those prices do not include smart TV’s, which start around $150. In next week’s blog, we will explore the different device options and go into more pricing detail.

Internet

According to Sling TV, you need a download speed of at least 5 Mbps for a single stream of video to a TV, or computer. That is a rough estimate though, and they go on to recommend a download speed of 25 Mbps for households with multiple Internet-connected devices. OTELCO knows that these speeds vary from home to home, which is why we recommend our Residential Bandwidth Calculator. The Bandwidth Calculator will help you determine the specific speed needs of your family. Download the calculator today to identify your broadband needs.