Streaming Services, Cable, and Antennas: The Different Ways to Watch TV in 2021

If you go back thirty years or so, there were fewer TV-watching options. Essentially, you could set up an antenna and watch the channels that it produced on your television, or else you could get a cable box and watch cable TV. Most people considered cable TV a luxury at that point, and only wealthy or middle-class families could afford it.

It was not unusual for only one family in an area to have cable, so all the neighborhood kids, and even the adults, would congregate there to try and watch their favorite shows. The only alternative was watching the available antenna channels, often with fuzzy pictures from poor reception.

Time marches on, as does technology. Now, there are more ways to watch TV than ever before, including streaming services. Let’s talk about that a moment, so you can figure out what makes the most sense if you have TV shows you and the rest of your family want to watch.

Generational Differences

Some people have observed that certain generations like particular technologies because it’s what they know. An individual might get to be a specific age, and they’re not willing to embrace new technology that comes out anymore. TV watching is no exception to this trend.

Someone who is not very technologically savvy might reject the idea of streaming TV services entirely. The fact is, though, using streaming services is not all that challenging. It’s not like trying to use an IT priority matrix or writing computer code.

Those who belong to older generations are usually the ones who either continue to use cable TV, which is gradually dwindling as the 21st century progresses, or they are watching what their antennas allow them to get. These days, antennas usually bring in the same stations they always did: Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, etc. You can also get the odd local channels that usually feature quirky shows broadcast out of local basements and garages.

Cable vs. Streaming Services

You can purchase an antenna these days for as cheaply as $10-15 on Amazon, or you can grab one at a Walmart or Target just as easily. There are also fancier antennas that claim to bring in more stations, but even the high-end ones usually only cost about $50-60. Most families and individuals can afford that.

However, if you buy an antenna, all you can get are the main broadcast networks and the bizarre local shows. Most people want a better selection than that, which means you have to choose between cable and streaming services.

Cable isn’t the most convenient since you sometimes have to sign up for a monthly, quarterly, or yearly package. It’s true that some cable companies are now offering their services with no long-term contracts since they realize that streaming services are on the verge of putting them out of business.

Generally, it’s older individuals, most often from the Baby Boomer generation, that are sticking with cable at this point. Younger individuals and families, from Gen X, the Millennial Generation, and Gen Z, want streaming services.

What Can Streaming Services Offer You?

There are dozens of different streaming services these days. There are popular ones like Hulu or Sling that will allow you to watch live TV, and they have all the popular channels that are also on cable, like Comedy Central, TBS, TNT, Vice, and so forth.

For the most part, Hulu or Sling will cost less than even basic cable, which is one major reason why most younger individuals are going in that direction. However, there are also many streaming services now that offer shows and movies instead of live TV. Some options include Disney+, HBO MAX, Peacock, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

A middle-class person or family in 2021 might pay for several of these services, where thirty years ago, they would have paid a comparable amount for basic cable. The difference is how much content you receive when you pay for three or four streaming services.

The sheer content amount is staggering. At one point, families thought it was miraculous that they could get sixty channels or so. Now, the shows, movies, and channels you can get through streaming services are virtually infinite. There is more to watch than you could in a dozen lifetimes.

Depending on your financial and familial situation, you’ll have to decide which service makes sense for you. What’s undeniable, though, is that there are more options than ever before.

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