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Pay TV vs. Live Streaming: There Has to Be a Better Way

“Yesterday all my trouble seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday.” — Paul McCartney.

The lyrics from the Beatles’ 1965 ballad must resonate today with consumers looking for a return to a time when the simple act of watching television didn’t require a call to Quicken Loans, or a degree from MIT.

But pay TV costs too much with many bills from cable operators nearing $200 a month if you could include Internet service. (Comcast just yesterday disclosed to the TV Answer Man that it’s raising prices again.)

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And cutting the cord, and subscribing to a less expensive live streaming service such as DIRECTV Now or Sling TV, is guaranteed to bring at least occasional frustration with the picture buffering, pixelating or worse. (Again, just yesterday, there were new reports that watching NFL games online over the weekend was an unpleasant experience thanks to picture breakups, and a mistaken blackout of some contests on Fox.).

Despite good intentions from the Net TV companies, the technology behind live streaming is not ready for primetime, particularly if a large number of people are watching.

So, what’s a person to do?

Pay the cable guy a small fortune for a picture that’s relatively reliable?

Or pay less, but suffer through occasional picture interruptions, or total system shutdowns, from a live streaming service?

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If you want to watch live television in some form — rather than just Netflix, Amazon Prime, or some other subscription VOD service — you don’t seem to have any other choice. Pick the lesser of the two evils and be happy with it.  Right?

Well, what if I were to tell you that there is a third choice?

It’s not a perfect one, to be sure. But it’s something every viewer should consider in today’s mind-numbing world of the new television.

And what is it?


With the rise of live streaming services, the pay TV operators are losing customers — lots of customers. People are fed up with the rising cost of pay TV service and they are trying the live streamers even if it means the occasional technical headache.

The pay TV operators know this and it scares them. Consequently, they are open to making deals to keep old subscribers and get new ones.

Yes, believe it or not, you can negotiate with your cable or satellite company. I’ve done it, and I now pay $83 a month to DIRECTV for more than 200 channels. And I don’t have a two-year agreement. (Don’t get a two-year agreement! Here’s why.)

If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, call them and say you plan to cancel unless it drops the price. You might be surprised at how quickly it agrees to do so.

But if it doesn’t drop the price, go ahead and cancel. And then sign up for a live streaming service. But before you do, make sure you take advantage of every promotional opportunity. Some services will offer a free week or month so give each service a try for a week or month. The next thing you know, you might be watching television (albeit technically-inferior television) for free for a few months.  (This is easy to do because the live streaming services have made cancelling an easy process.)

After that, you could return to your old pay TV service, or a different one, and see if they have any deals for new customers. Often, a pay TV operator will count you as a new customer after you’ve left, even if it’s for a short period of time.

The new customer price might be significantly less than what you were paying before.

My point is that no consumer should pay what hotels call ‘the rack rate’ for TV and Internet service. In today’s highly competitive environment, pay TV companies are desperate to hold on to their subscriber bases, and attract new customers. They will make deals, if you simply ask.

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And the live streaming services are desperate to get you to try their service so they will offer it for free for awhile.

Bottom line: While television choices today seem either too pricey or too confusing, there are ways to make it work for you. Use your power as a consumer and get the best deal you can.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1510 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

4 Comments on Pay TV vs. Live Streaming: There Has to Be a Better Way

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say…of all the streaming services i have tried…SlingTv was the most trouble free, good experience actually…..i have spectrum fast connection……..having said this i made a deal with spectrum…i am getting basic TV,,,,tbs,,,tnt…espn…etc…60mb down 5 up internet and digital phone for….98.00 a month…i had to play some serious hardball with them to get this price……I cancelled slingtv because spectrum added tv to my package…i am happy with what i am getting for 98.00 a month….just hope it last… your website…..still have netflix and amazon prime too

  2. I’ve had Directv Now for a while now. At first, it was glitchy, but the last 2-3 months have been more solid than I ever had with Directv satellite, where I’d lose signal for 20-30 minutes once or twice a week in summer thunderstorms. Sure, some Game of Thrones nights had issues, but HBO Go (included with DTVNow) was solid as a rock every Sunday night.

    $35 per month is substantially cheaper than $83 a month, and I don’t have to spend an hour with CSRs every few months to keep that price! Tough to get $83 a month if you have 3-4 TVs in the house.

  3. There is one Cable operator that will not negotiate. That is Spectrum, the new Charter/Time Warner combo. They even “re-packaged” current customers which removed channels with a notice to pay more if you want them back. They claimed the customers were “under paying” because of the discounts they received from the former Time Warner Cable. I’m a tech guy (software developer) and know that new tech takes time to mature. Streaming will get better. The Cable Giants know that. There is also a company (can’t remember their name) that is wiring the country with fiber which has the Cable Monster scared to pieces. Their final Ace In The Hole (internet access) will soon be taken away from them. Also don’t forget WebPass. That’s being enhanced as we speak. Patience children. The cookies are in the oven.

  4. Spectrum/Charter/Time Warner is awful. I thought Time Warner was bad, but since the sale….mergers are never good for the consumer. On January 1st my monthly bill went up $30 without any justification. No added services, no improvements, nothing, just greed, pure and simple. Like you @Manny G, I tried to negotiate over the phone with a rep and got nowhere. When I asked them to cut back the internet speed on my Triple play package from 300Mbs to 100Mbs, remove the VoIP landline & Cinemax, & Starz, but keep HBO & Showtime the quote was: Your cost will go from $ 222 to about $300 for getting far LESS!!!

    Just to get 100Mbs Internet would be $80 + taxes & other fees.

    What an incredible ripoff! What sheer chutzpah!
    These people should be prosecuted under the RICO Act. The Mafia has nothing on them.

    That makes cordcutting just about impossible.

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