Do You Really Need to Pay for Cable TV?

By Danny Chadwick
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Most of us pay for cable TV; it's been that way for decades. Cable television delivers both local broadcast channels and premium programming to your home. However, with the advent of internet TV sites, you may be able to ditch the monthly bill you pay for that service. There's a good chance that you can slash your entertainment budget by watching all your favorite shows online.

Basic cable isn't very expansive. However, if you start adding premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and more, the bills start to add up. The truth of the matter is that most people never watch a vast majority of the channels they pay for on even basic cable. Generally, people don't have time for the vast majority of content they pay for on a monthly basis.

People have their favorite shows, and they stick to them. Consider which shows you watch on a regular basis, and then look at services like Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and Netflix to see if those shows are available in their streaming libraries. Chances are you'll find that most of the movies and shows you view are available through one or more of these services.

Your internet connection is more powerful than you think. Most high-speed connections are capable of streaming high-definition movies and TV shows without affecting other internet-related activities such as surfing the web, email or even playing graphically intensive games such as World of Warcraft. A solid internet connection easily supplants a cable television connection.

You may think that if you eliminate your cable TV, you will be restricted to watching your shows on a computer monitor. That's not the case. Many televisions now possess the capability to stream shows directly from services such as Hulu and Netflix. Even if your TV does not have this capability, a small investment in a device such as a Google TV, Roku or Apple TV box can deliver streaming shows directly to your set.

Some of the services that we reviewed for our internet TV comparison carry a monthly fee or have a premium membership option. For example, Hulu has a premium service called Hulu Plus. At the time of this writing, the fee for Hulu Plus is $7.99 a month. The monthly fee for Netflix' streaming service is also $7.99.

Other services such as Amazon Instant Video are a pay-per-show model. Therefore, you can buy only the shows you want rather than pay a monthly fee for a streaming service. You can even buy or rent TV shows and movies through iTunes.

Streaming TV shows aside, if the shows you primarily watch are on one of the major broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX), then paying for cable at all is somewhat redundant. Since the 2009 switch to digital over-the-air broadcast signals, most television markets broadcast these shows free over the airwaves in high definition. You may need to buy a special receiver to get these signals, but it's a onetime purchase that carries no monthly bill or contract.

The fact of the matter is that cable television is overpriced, and that most people who pay the bills don't watch 90 percent of the shows they pay for. Internet TV sites give you a great alternative for entertainment that can eliminate one of your monthly bills. With so many choices for where to find your entertainment, you could easily replace your monthly cable bill and only pay for the shows you really want to watch.

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