Tech Tips: Cutting the cable cord

By Rose Barnes, Adult Digital Learning Librarian

We’ve all been spending more time at home this year, and maybe during that time you’ve been watching more television. Maybe you’ve heard about a new show on a streaming service instead of cable. There are so many options for streaming nowadays and more people are opting out of their cable contracts and switching to streaming instead.

Transitioning to streaming can feel overwhelming at first, but once you have the basic fundamentals in place streaming can open up your viewing options while saving you money at the same time. Learn the basics of streaming in this video and/or by reading the content below.

What is streaming? 

Streaming means watching videos, shows, movies, and more in “real time”, instead of downloading a file to your computer and watching it later. With internet videos and webcasts of live events, there is no file to download, just a continuous stream of data.

Pros of cable cutting

  • Usually cheaper
  • Pay for only what you want/watch
  • Usually has no commercials
  • Everything is “on demand”

Cons of cable cutting

  • Generally less content
  • Must purchase at least one streaming device
  • Will miss out on some exclusive content
  • If you watch a lot of TV, it could end up costing more to get the same content

Four things you need in order to stream

  • Wireless internet connection
  • A streaming device or a smart TV
  • A subscription to a streaming service
  • A TV with an HDMI port

Streaming devices

You’ll need a streaming device or smart TV to get started. There are a lot to choose from, and they range in price. When looking for a streaming device, check what apps the device supports and see if the streaming service you want to view is supported. The most popular streaming devices are Roku, Fire Stick, Apple TV, and Chromecast.

HD Antenna$12-150Up to 50 free channelsLimited content
Roku Express$30Low priceOnly HD content and a little slow
Roku Premiere$40Cheapest 4K device that supports appsNeeds 25mbps internet or faster for 4k
Roku Ultra$100Supports HDR/4KNot much 4K or HDR        content available
Apple TV$180-200Fast and contains Apple’s easy-to-use interfaceGeneration three and earlier does not support 4K/HDR
Fire TV Stick$40Low priceOnly has Amazon app store
Fire TV Stick 4K$50Supports most streaming apps. 4K support when availableNeeds 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and only has Amazon app store
Fire TV Cube$120Ethernet support. Far Field voice controlNeeds 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and only has Amazon app store
Video game consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, etc.)$150-400All entertainment in one deviceAvailable apps are limited compared to other options
Smart TV/Blu-ray player$250+All in oneDepending on the brand, some apps not supported
Chromecast$35Cheapest streaming deviceNeeds another device for Chromecast to work
Chromecast Ultra$70Cheapest 4K/HDR streaming deviceNeeds 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and another device for Chromecast 
Computer in a stick plus wireless mouse and keyboard (intel stick, Chromebit)$80-150 for stick $30-60 for mouse and keyboardProvides full computer/Chromebook functionalityMost expensive and complicated option. If not tech savvy, might not be the best choice.
Pricing accurate as of January 13, 2021.

Streaming services

Once you have a streaming device set up, you’ll need to subscribe to a streaming service. These are usually monthly subscriptions with the exception of Amazon Prime, which is a yearly fee.

Each subscription varies in cost, but most allow for free trial periods where you can test out the service. Check some out and see if they offer the types of shows and movies you’re interested in, then weigh the cost of the ones you’d like to subscribe to in order to determine what your monthly subscription fees will be.

The most popular streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max, but nowadays almost all big networks have apps with subscription options.

Netflix$8.99 to 17.99 per monthTV shows, movies, and original contentStandard HD and 4K (depends on subscription)
Hulu $5.99 or $11.99 per month                     ($64.99 per month for live tv)TV shows, movies, and original contentStandard HD
Amazon Prime$99 a year or $10.99 per monthTV shows, movies, and original contentStandard HD
CrackleFree, but has commercialsTV shows and moviesNo HD content


$14.99 per month or free with HBO cable subscriptionMovies and original contentStandard HD
Sling TVPackages range from $15-$40 per monthChoose your television channel (Bravo, FX, ESPN, etc.)Standard HD


Packages range from $6.99 per month. to $69.99 per year Disney only $12.99/month bundleDisney, Pixar, NatGeo, Star Wars Bundle: Hulu and ESPN+ Standard HD and 4K
Hoopla15 checkouts per month with library cardTV shows and moviesStandard resolution
Kanopy50 tickets per month with library cardTV shows and moviesStandard resolution
Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, etc.$1.99 and up per itemTV shows and moviesStandard HD and 4K (depends on title)
Pricing accurate as of January 13, 2021.

Have a tech question?

About Rose

Rose is an Adult Services Librarian specializing in digital learning and all things ebooks. She is a passionate reader, baker, and explorer who is always planning her next adventure.