You Can Pay for A La Carte TV, but You Don’t Want To … Yet

By Jess Hutton

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I’ve got 300 channels and not a thing to watch.

That’s been a running joke for years, leading us to fantasize about a day when we could pay for the channels we want and leave the other 293 channels behind. Fortunately for those who are ready to retire from channel surfing, a la carte TV has arrived — but that doesn’t mean you should drop the TV subscription just yet.

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Photo by flash.pro/Flickr

Before you ditch your television provider and jump on the a la carte TV bandwagon, a word of caution. Here are the potential pitfalls of going rogue with your TV subscriptions.

Beware of Deceptively Small Bills

Small introductory offers often camouflage the real cost of a la carte television. Services like Netflix and Hulu are available for a pittance compared to even the most basic channel packages, but you often sacrifice real-time broadcasting and might even have to wait a year (or pay per episode) to see the latest season of your favorite show.

Other services like Apple TV and Roku require you to buy equipment in addition to paying a monthly subscription fee. Subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu add up to around $20 per month — and that doesn’t include access to any premium channels. Adding in HBO® or SHOWTIME® would be at least another $10 on average. And you still won’t be able to watch the big game by your hometown or college team.

Beware of Limited Sports Access

To get access to your favorite sports in real time, you probably need local cable channels or the Sunday sports ticket available through satellite. So, unless you want to couch surf your way through basketball or hockey season, you most likely need to keep your current sports subscription.

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Photo by historian ./Flickr

You could always hit the local sports bar, but that doesn’t come free, either. Even if you don’t plan to, you’ll likely give in to temptation and indulge in some wings or nachos and a tasty beverage to wash them down. Multiply your bar tab by the number of games you want to see this season and you’re looking at a lot more than you currently pay to watch sports from your couch.

Beware of Slow, Expensive Internet

Most a la carte television options require a fast Internet connection. Dropping access to TV channels through a national provider will likely increase the base amount you pay for Internet because you will no longer be able to take advantage of bundles that can help you save anywhere from $10 to $30 per month on Internet alone.

Plus, you’ll probably need faster, more reliable Internet than ever before if you drop traditional TV. You don’t want your binge-watching session to be interrupted by buffering. Internet that delivers speeds between 50 and 75 Mbps can cost between $45 and $60 to start, and that’s usually an introductory rate that requires a contract and increases after 12 months. When you add that cost to all the monthly subscriptions you’re paying for individual channels and streaming services like Netflix, it’s unlikely that you’ll come out ahead.

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Photo by Alexandre Normand/Flickr

Before you say goodbye to traditional TV service, consider the implications. Have you or someone you know cut the cord? Share your experience with us in the comments. If you regret your decision, look for bundle deals near you and be back in business this new year with all the TV you want.

Featured photo by Images Money/Flickr