Newspaper article International New York Times

Too Quick to Cut the Cable Cord

Newspaper article International New York Times

Too Quick to Cut the Cable Cord

Article excerpt

A comparison of cable replacement services popular in the United States finds annoyances, like restrictions on content and missing channels.

This year, Michael Gartenberg, a former technology analyst, took the brave step of canceling his cable subscription. After six months of tinkering with alternatives, he went running back.

Mr. Gartenberg had subscribed to PlayStation Vue, Sony's online video service that offers a slimmer bundle of TV channels than a traditional cable subscription for about half the price. But many of his favorite channels were missing. And after a power failure, he got locked out of his Vue account because his internet address was reset and Sony thought he had switched locations.

Mr. Gartenberg eventually wondered whether Vue was worth the money he was saving. "At that point, there had to be better alternatives than this, and it turned out there was," he said. "It was cable."

Mr. Gartenberg's return to cable is antithetical to the accelerating growth of so-called cord-cutters, the people who have parted ways with cable in favor of streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu. Last year, there were 4.9 million cord-cutters in the United States, up 11 percent from the year before, according to the research firm eMarketer. Yet the overwhelming majority of Americans -- about 100 million homes -- still cling to cable.

What could be getting in the way of cutting the cord? To assess this, I tried Sony's Vue and Dish Network's similar streaming service, Sling TV, which also offers a slimmer bundle of TV channels than traditional cable.

After testing the two for a week, I had an answer: Neither streaming service felt like an adequate substitute for a cable package, largely because of content restrictions, broadcast delays and the difficulty of using a game controller with one of the services.

Comparing the bundles Vue's starter bundle has more than 55 channels, including ESPN, NBC and Disney, for $30 a month. The higher-tier bundles have 70 channels a month for $35 a month and 100 channels for $45 a month.

Sling TV's base bundle of about 25 channels, which includes ESPN, AMC and CNN, starts at $20 a month. …

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