Cable bill

It used to be death and taxes were the only things that you could count on. But in the last 20 or so years we can add increases in your cable bill to that.

Growing up, having cable was considered a luxury. Now it seems most everyone has accepted their cable bill as a fact of life. I’ve written before about how I’ve done just fine without cable, and with the new services from Disney and Apple it now seems like a good time to revisit this conversation.

The other reason to have this conversation is recent findings by Consumer Reports that approximately 24 percent of your cable bill is fees, most of which are tacked on after the official bill amount.

A cable company can advertise that your bill will be, for example, $150 a month, but you’ll end up paying closer to $200 per month. It’s also near impossible to determine what those fees will be ahead of time. It would be nice if the fees were part of the advertised monthly bill, but then higher prices won’t attract as many customers.

How much do you pay for cable? I canceled the TV portion of service long ago, keeping only internet. That dropped my bill by almost 60 percent at the time. Add up how much your TV service costs you and the fees associated with it, and then multiply that by 12. How much money would you save? And where can you get your TV if you cancel your cable? The combination of a TV antenna and streaming services can probably cover most of your needs.

I use a TV antenna that sticks to the back of my TV and I get quite a few channels with it. All the major local ones plus a smattering of others that I didn’t know existed, all in HD.

If you own your house you could put up an even larger antenna in your attic or on your roof to get more. If that won’t work for you then there are several streaming services that can serve your local channels. These include Hulu, Playstation Vue, Youtube TV, Sling TV and more. On top of the existing services such as HBO Now and Netflix, two more are joining the fray.

Disney is finally leveraging its giant catalog and will be offering a streaming service called Disney+. It’ll be competitive at $7 per month and will have all of the Disney movies and shows that you’ve grown up with as well as all of the Marvel and Star Wars movies. They’re also producing several shows that will only air on Disney+. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney decides to offer a Hulu (Disney owns Hulu) and ESPN bundle with their streaming service.

On the other end of the content spectrum is Apple TV+. Right now we only know of a few shows that’ll be on Apple TV+, but it’s priced pretty low at $5 per month and you get it for free for a year if you buy an Apple device (this is a one-time deal per Apple account).

I know the number of streaming services has ballooned, and if you subscribe to them all then you’ll end up paying as much as you would for cable TV. But you don’t have to pay for them all every month. I know quite a few people who pay for HBO Now when there’s a show on it that they want to watch and then cancel. The same for Netflix, Hulu and others.

It’s quite easy to go into your account on these services and cancel them so you can still watch everything you want to while only paying for one or two services at a time. And the shows that you can’t get on a streaming service you could just buy from Apple or Google for $20-$30 per season, still far less expensive than if you’d end up paying for cable TV.

There’s nothing preventing you from saving hundreds of dollars per year. All it’ll take is a little bit of time and effort.

Jason Ogaard is a software engineer who formerly lived in Hutchinson. He welcomes your technology questions, and he’ll answer them in this place. Please send your questions to technobabble@hutchinsonleader.com.

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