Cable vs. Streaming: Which Should You Choose? Which Is Better?

Juliet D'cruz

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Cable TV was once the major source for prestige television that drew in audiences tired of primetime programming from the big networks. These days, it seems like the thing cable gets the most attention for is the number of people canceling their cable service. Estimates suggest that around 27 percent of households will cut the cord in 2021 alone.

For many cord-cutters, streaming services are the alternative of choice. While numbers show that cable providers have a problem, it’s less clear that streaming services actually offer better services. So let’s jump in and break down the cable vs streaming debate.


For a while, the main argument for dropping cable in favor of streaming was the cost. Streaming services were less expensive than their cable. As the streaming service market matured and aimed to set itself up as a true cable competitor, though, that price gap has dwindled.

The cost for major streaming platforms like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV falls into the same general price range as a cable subscription. It’s not more expensive, but you won’t really save much.

The real savings come when you drop cable in favor of a single streaming service, like Netflix streaming. Plus, Netflix has a reputation for good customer service. That means there is a good chance any serious Netflix complaint you have will get resolved.

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Cable holds a definite edge in terms of the number of channels you can access. Cable services routinely offer upwards of 200 channels.

What makes this comparison tricky is that many streaming services don’t structure their service around traditional TV channels. In many cases, you choose from categories or lists of content instead of channels.

Cable providers also still have a firm grip on a lot of sports content. It’s not a stranglehold the way it once was, but no streaming services can offer comprehensive sports packages, yet.


Draconian contracts are an ongoing complaint from cable subscribers. Most streaming services favor a monthly subscription model, rather than contracts. That gives streaming customers more control over how much they pay and when.

Video Quality

Streaming services often take the lead in terms of video quality with many offering high-def 1080p or even ramping up to 4K quality. Cable services typically default back to the 720p video quality. While 720p video is perfectly watchable, some watchers strongly prefer the higher resolution video options.

Cable vs Streaming: Choosing

If you’re struggling with the cable vs streaming debate, you must weigh which benefits matter more to you. If things like year-round access to the sports content of your choice matters, you likely want a cable subscription.

If you want a cheaper alternative, even if it means less total content, individual streaming services will likely serve your needs best. If flexibility matters to you, streaming definitely wins with its subscription payment model. If you care about better video quality, you’ll likely want a streaming service.

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