Tempted to cut the cable cord in Charlotte? 3 questions to ask first

Tempted to cut the cable cord in Charlotte? 3 questions to ask first

Each month, your cable or satellite TV bill presents you with an elementary math problem when you think about the money you spend and the number of channels you regularly watch. The value, for many TV watchers, doesn't add up.

That’s why some people are choosing to cut the cable cord (or ditch the dish) and replace it with an over-the-air antenna and Internet streaming device that offers TV shows, movies and sports through subscription services and purchases.

Even combined, the antenna and streaming option is often less expensive than cable, where average monthly bills top $100. It can also offer more flexibility in how you watch your favorite TV shows.

But if you live in Charlotte, you should ask yourself three questions before you commit to making that non-cable daydream a reality.

1. Can you see the sky?

Rene Robaina of Home Technology Solutions in Matthews, North Carolina, a highly rated home theater service on Angie's List, says he fields two to three calls per week from people looking to save on their cable bill.

Some areas of Charlotte have better reception than others, however.

As long as your home isn't surrounded by tall trees, and you can install a good antenna on your roof or in your attic, you're likely to receive a good signal from Charlotte TV stations, Robaina says.

Robaina recommends an omnidirectional antenna with an amplifier that will strengthen the signal coming into your home. Between a quality antenna and a good Internet connection, many customers can satisfy their entertainment needs, he said.

2. How much will you really save?

“Free TV” isn’t really free, of course. There’s the startup cost of an antenna and installation, which can range from $40 to more than $200 for a unit strong enough to pull in your local TV stations.

A high-quality, omnidirectional antenna will cost $100 to $200, Robaina says. "The installation cost really depends on where it goes, how high, and how much wiring we have to work with," he says.

There’s also the start-up cost of a streaming device, which starts at about $35 for a Google Chromecast and increases for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

You might also need to upgrade your internet service to download speeds that can handle the streaming workload. Robaina recommends a download speed of 6 to 8 Mbps (megabits per second) to download high-definition streaming content.

Finally, there’s the cost of programming, such as monthly subscriptions to Netflix or Hulu, or single purchase downloads.

Keep in mind, the antenna and streaming devices are one-time purchases. With programming, make an honest calculation of the shows you can’t do without. If purchasing your TV and movies in pieces over a streaming device adds up to what your cable bill already is, it might not be worth the switch.

3. Do you love sports?

If you love your network and cable TV shows, a combination of an antenna and streaming device will get you most everything you already watch, except some original cable network programming. If it’s movies you love, a streaming device offers you plenty of ways to enjoy a better selection than dish or cable may provide.

Sports lover? The news is also good, but with a caveat.

Major sports leagues, such as the NBA, NHL and MLB, offer full-season streaming packages that include most televised games at better-than-cable prices. Plus, most NFL games are available on network television for free, as are many college football and basketball games.

But for now, the most significant networks for Charlotte sports fans — ESPN, FoxSports1 and SportsSouth — are unavailable without a cable or satellite subscription. So you may miss the Gamecocks if they're playing on SportsSouth, or the Tar Heels if they're on the ACC Network.

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