By the end of 2015 the US will effectively have streaming a la carte cable, with one huge exception - sports and other live events. Let me explain. HBO announced it will launch a streaming service available without cable in 2015, and Showtime and Starz said they would do the same. Assuming those announcements pan out, US TV viewers will have access to every major TV network without a cable TV subscription. All of the broadcast and basic cable networks already sell individual episodes of their shows online the day after they air through iTunes, Amazon, and other online stores. The premium cable networks (HBO, Showtime, etc) previously resisted this, but now appear ready to change course with subscription streaming services. Most shows from broadcast networks are also available free online with ads, with an antenna, or on Hulu Plus. CBS has also launched a streaming service with access to all of their current shows.
This means that programming from every major TV network will be available within one day of airing without a cable TV subscription. The huge lone exception is live programming, such as sports, news, awards shows, and other live events. Some of this programming is available through the aforementioned methods, but most of it is locked behind the cable TV paywall.
We will be able to get our programming a la carte if we want it, and the reasons to keep cable are slowly evaporating. However, there are still several strong reasons not to cut the cable cord: sports and other live events, same-day access to shows, and it’s still a great value for people that watch a lot of TV. Sports will be the last type of programming to break free from the cable TV bundle because they are the most valuable and benefit the most from the economics of the bundle model.
It remains to be seen how much these standalone streaming services will cost. It may be very easy to spend $50 or more per month on Hulu Plus, HBO, and buying a few shows on iTunes, but it will be possible next year.