Streaming sticks, which include the Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, aren’t much bigger than a pack of gum, and they plug right into your TV’s HDMI port. You can then use your smartphone, laptop or—in Roku’s case—a remote control to launch hundreds of steaming apps. These devices are available for well under $50 apiece, and, on their own, don’t require a monthly fee.
You’ll get 60+ live TV channels you’re used to seeing like local FOX and CBS alongside ESPN, A&E, History and National Geographic. The subscription also gets you unlimited access to Hulu’s massive on-demand library and Hulu Originals that many folks pay $7.99 per month for. Before signing up for a week-long free trial, look over Hulu’s Live TV channel lineup to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Is it better to go with a long term commitment or a “no contract” option? There are pros and cons to both alternatives. Typically, a long-term contract comes at a discounted monthly rate, so that you can save over time. Contracts may also come with perks like free installation, free equipment, or extra premium channels. If you know exactly what service you want and that you'll need cable TV for the next few years, the contract is worth it. However, for those that are unsure of how long they'll want TV service, a no contract option is the way to go. You might end up paying a bit more a month on average, but you'll be able to cancel whenever you want. Many providers will make you pay early termination fees if you decide to cancel your TV service before your contract is up. The easiest way to compare your contract options is to type in your zip code!
For viewers who just have to keep up with current events and watch breaking news when it happens, a combination of Sling TV and a TV antenna should have you covered. Sling has CNN and Bloomberg TV, and for $5 extra a month you can get international news channels such as Euronews, France24, and News18 India. Add an indoor TV antenna, and you’ve got network and local news as well.
PlayStation Vue streams with 720p resolution. I use an Amazon Fire TV, but with an Ethernet connection to get a nice picture. Right now, if you look at PS Vue, Sling TV and DirecTV Now and fuboTV, they all stream at about the same quality. I can tell you that when I have family or friends over, they think the TV is showing cable. (I don’t have a 4K TV.) Check out a video of my TV streaming PS Vue on Amazon Fire TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RabL1GGhA6Y
Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
By 2012, however, Time Warner’s investors were demanding to know why the company wasn’t selling its reruns to Netflix, according to one former Time Warner executive. “We sat out for a few years, and all of Wall Street said, ‘What the hell are you guys doing? You’re leaving value on the table for your shareholders!’ ” the former executive said. “So we relented. That was the beginning of the end.”
That means all you need is an antenna to start grabbing these network TV signals to display on your television. Now I know what you’re thinking. If you were born before 1985, you probably have vivid memories of static all over the screen as mom or dad adjust the antenna. Digital doesn’t work that way. If your antenna can pick up the channel, then you get the picture as clear as it can be. Otherwise, you don’t get the picture.
With Spectrum TV, for example, you get access to live TV streams for any of the networks in your tier of service. There's also lots of on-demand content for individual shows and some movies. It integrates channel guides and search for select shows/movies. If a channel (or show on a channel) that isn't available to you shows up on a menu, it's generally grayed out. And you can mark shows as favorites so they're easier to follow. But what's annoying is it takes a lot longer for a show to appear in the on-demand section—three or four days, instead of just one with a show on Hulu or even a network's own app, for example.
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
Even when it comes to internet TV, it seems like some things never change. Similar to the cost creep we've seen on cable packages, cheap introductory rates from internet TV provides have recently crept higher. Sling, PlayStation, DirecTV and YouTube have all instituted recent price hikes, as they're not immune from the same bundling and price pressure from networks that pushes prices up on traditional TV.