It's never been obvious that patching together a personalized hodgepodge of TV channels is actually a better, cheaper choice than buying in bulk from a cable company. But technology and media companies have heard the call of the cord-cutters, and they're getting more and more eager to offer consumers new options for watching what was formerly known as TV. This week, Apple let on that it'll be offering "an Internet-TV service with some 25 channels," for the seemingly low price of $25 to $35 per month, and Sony released more details for PlayStation Vue, its own pricier package of streaming, live TV.
Now that companies are striving to actually offer streaming-TV services, the math is becoming a little bit more clear. And it's not looking particularly good for anyone who cares about watching good TV. Say, for instance, you're a fan of Game of Thrones, Transparent, House of Cards, and Broad City. Plus, you want to keep up on sports. Here's what you could be paying:
ESPN, via Apple: $300–420
Game of Thrones, via HBO Now: $179.88 per year
Transparent, via Amazon Prime: $99 per year (plus free shipping)
Broad City, via PlayStation Vue: $600 per year
House of Cards, via Netflix: $107.88 per year
That's more than $1,200 a year. Add on to that what you're paying for internet, and cable comes out cheaper.
Not everyone is going to be religiously watching every buzzy TV show — for some people, the math of cord-cutting will work out. But while all these companies are theoretically competing for viewers' attention, the "choice" they're offering is, ultimately, the privilege of paying more per channel. Both media and tech companies are now betting they can make some form of visual entertainment that seems impossible (or at least uncool) to live without, and that, eventually, they can convince current cable buyers to spend more per channel, too.
Sometimes, you get what you pay for — some of the best shows out there right now aren't on cable and may even be worth the price. Unless you're cheating and using Popcorn Time, though, you're going to end up spending more to watch TV.