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Could the end of cable TV as we know it be approaching?
The three main draws that have kept television viewers plugged into cable and satellite services are sports, 24-hour news networks and premium channels.
But that all might change with the release of HBO and Showtime streaming services and DISH Network’s unveiling of its Sling TV service.
Sling TV, to be launched later this month, will offer ESPN, ESPN 2, CNN, TNT, TBS, the Food Network, Cartoon Network and other popular channels for $20 a month, reported The Washington Post.
“It will be the first time viewers can stream ESPN channels without paying for a cable subscription — a development that hints at a future without cable TV,” wrote Eric Deggans for NPR.
“Sony Entertainment Network will also offer online viewing of channels like Viacom’s MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central,” according to The Post.
These announcements “expand the universe of à la carte digital-media consumption beyond Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime,” wrote Chris Kirk for Slate.
Online services, such as Netflix, have changed TV-watching culture from scheduled weekly viewing to watching multiple episodes of a show all at once, or binge watching.
"Everything that's watched on Netflix is watched super deliberately," Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, told NPR. "It's not background noise. It's not something you turn on and go off and eat dinner. And (it's) watching the same show until you're done. This is much closer to books, where people say 'I'm going to start 'Breaking Bad' tonight.'"
However, some researchers fear that unbundling cable channels in a streaming platform will inevitably increase costs.
“The likely result would be that loads of channels would go out of business, and that the average customer would pay roughly the same amount monthly he was paying for the big bundle, only with far fewer channels,” wrote Brad Tuttle for Time.
Neil Irwin of The New York Times made a similar observation, referring to previous research on the consequences of cable unbundling. “Several studies have shown that, contrary to many people's intuition, the unbundling of cable service could actually lead to slightly higher prices for fewer channels,” he wrote.
For now, to determine whether cutting the cable cord and switching to streaming services will actually save you money, Slate has created this nifty cost calculator so you can figure it out.