When Netflix began offering an online alternative to physical DVDs, it started the “streaming vs. cable” debate that continues to this day. Maybe you’ve joined the streaming team and have no idea how much cable or satellite TV costs anymore. Or maybe you’ve stuck with TV for so long because you’re used to paying a certain amount for a package. Either way, are you getting the best value for your money?
With its contracts and fees, cable TV is far from cheap. The alternative is a streaming package, but paying for multiple subscriptions – or even a live TV streaming service like DirecTV Stream – can also compete with your cable bill. According to a July 2022 study by Parks Associates, about a quarter of U.S. households subscribe to nine or more streaming services, and 50% of us have at least four, CNET wrote on the topic.
These days, you can cut your cable completely and use streaming services like Hulu, Disney Plus or YouTube TV exclusively. You can also keep satellite or cable TV as your main dish by subscribing to a few streaming platforms on the side.
Cable TV vs streaming vs live streaming (approximately)
Service Monthly Price
Basic cable TV and internet – 128 USD
Premium cable TV and internet – $196
Basic streaming (no internet) – $36
Premium streaming (no internet) – $58
Live TV Streaming and Internet – $120
Keep in mind that most internet plans available today should be fast enough for Netflix streaming, even at 4K quality. The “slowest” budget plan we saw was 25 Mbps (AT&T), but Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps for 1080p or 15 Mbps for 4K. That means even the most basic connection should work fine if you only need to stream to one TV at a time. If you have a larger household, then a 50Mbps or even 100Mbps plan should suffice, and we’ve found that most budget plans offer this.
Want live TV? Streaming is still (usually) cheaper
If you want to enjoy cable TV without the fees and contracts, then live TV streaming is the next best thing. These services can offer a program guide, DVR, and most of the familiar channels you’re used to with cable TV. However, they cost more than services like Netflix.
Some sports fans can actually save on cable TV
The last line in the chart above shows that the cost of DirecTV Stream with Internet actually costs more than cable TV, and that’s not a typo. This service costs $90 per month for the Choice package, which includes regional sports networks, also known as RSNs. These are the networks that broadcast the majority of NBA basketball games, NHL hockey games, and (in the spring and summer) MLB baseball games for the local team.
Due to rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with live TV don’t broadcast many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is an exception. It has almost all RSNs, especially the Bally Sports (formerly Fox Sports) channels offered by Sinclair, but you’ll have to buy a plan for $90. Another alternative is Bally’s Plus, a 20 USD per month option that offers access to multiple RSNs, but you’ll still need another live TV service to follow the national games as well as NFL football.
What are the benefits of subscribing to cable or satellite TV?
Having access to local news, live sports, and network broadcasts as they air is a trade-off that some viewers are reluctant to give up. Streaming services offer some, but not all, of these options. Another advantage is that you can save a few dollars if you bundle all the services with a phone plan. Providers like Verizon and AT&T offer additional discounts.
There is a difference in the two types of content delivery, and the best option depends on the user’s personal preference. There are advantages in cable that we won’t be able to find in streaming anytime soon and vice versa.