I consider myself a latecomer to the streaming party having made the all-in conversion in early 2021. A few different factors went into my decision and I’d like to share what I’ve learned, why I did it, and what I’ve gained.
When I moved to Florida in 2013, I signed up for a cable and Internet package from Spectrum, Time Warner back then. It was similar to what I had in New York but cost less which made me happy. For about $120 a month, I got all the cable channels I wanted (no premium services like HBO) and internet that ran at about 50mbps. The internet speed was a definite upgrade. I had an Apple TV to stream Netflix and iTunes content but most of what I watched came from cable, the major networks plus Food, HGTV, Discovery, History, and the like.
As time went on, Spectrum raised my rates, bit by bit. By 2019, I was paying over $180 a month with internet speeds of around 100 Mbps. I also noticed a drop in video quality from most channels with softness, macro-blocking, and dropouts. And that DVR! Who doesn’t hate their DVR? The interface is poor, it takes 10 minutes to reboot, and it doesn’t always record when asked. I’m glad I leased it for $10 a month instead of buying it.
I considered dropping cable for about two years, but one thing always stopped me, no Discovery content. Discovery encompasses HGTV, Food Network, and about a dozen other channels that I wasn’t ready to give up. Apple TV had finally added Amazon to its app library, and I bought one of the new 4K models. But I still couldn’t stream Discovery content…
…until Discovery+ was announced. In January of 2021, the new service launched, and I had my reason. Cable was out, streaming was in. In addition to Discovery+, I added AMC+, for The Walking Dead shows; Disney+, for Star Wars and Marvel content; and Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) for Star Trek and my wife’s addiction to The Young and the Restless.
Once I had signed up for my chosen services and installed the apps, I discovered quite a few benefits. First and foremost, video and audio quality were better. How can this be? Chalk it up to compression. Cable content comes from satellites that feed into those large dishes you see behind your local cable provider’s office. Then it’s sent over copper to your home. Putting satellites into orbit is expensive. And once they’re up there, they can’t be upgraded for greater bandwidth. But Spectrum keeps adding channels. Something has to give to fit it all in, so the feeds are compressed, then compressed some more. Soon, we won’t be able to tell if we’re looking at Julia Roberts or Sean Bean. And while audio is often encoded as Dolby Digital, it’s compressed too.
The Internet, on the other hand, is always expanding its bandwidth and capacity. Need more? Just install new switches and routers. With our insatiable need for data, the internet is always growing in both size and speed. Speaking of which, dropping my cable service automatically upped my Internet speed to 200 Mbps, nice! That’s more than enough to support Ultra HD resolution with Dolby Vision or HDR10, and Dolby Atmos audio.
Going back to my favorite Food Network shows, even the old seasons of Iron Chef, they look amazing. There is no macro-blocking. There are no dropouts. The picture is always sharp, and the sound is always clean. I had cut the cord to save money and add convenience. I never thought I would get a bump in quality. Now, that new LG OLED TV I bought in the fall of 2020 looks even more amazing.
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