Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.
Amazon Prime Video has a pretty huge collection of newer movies, and more importantly, exclusive shows that are really well done. It’s now $119 per year, and comes with an assortment of other perks like free shipping, a one million song library and access to free Kindle books. But for me, the value comes with Amazon’s homegrown movies and series. Many, if not all, are shot in 4K HDR (Ultra HD) so it’s nice to have that option without having to pay more for it (like Netflix).
Overall, Amazon is still playing catch-up when it comes to Netflix and other streaming services just because they don’t have as much content. However, at technically $8.25 / month it is a bit cheaper than your typical $8.99 or $9.99 package, and you get free, 2-day shipping as a perk. If you shop online a lot, that could end up swinging your choice.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime are all add-on options like they are with regular Hulu. Sports and news stations galore. You can "record" 50 hours of programming to the cloud-based DVR or upgrade it to 200 hours for extra; it also costs more to have access to Hulu with Live TV on multiple screens. Hulu with Live TV is on a more limited number of devices but includes all the usual suspects: a browser, iOS, Android, Roku products, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and Samsung Smart TVs. Try if free for one week.
Most of these plans have different levels and options, depending on which plan you sign up for. My personal favorites for movies and documentaries include Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. If you want to watch more on-demand network television, then you may be better off going with Hulu. Hulu Plus and Hulu Live allow you to stream live network shows, including sports and other live events. You can compare Hulu and Hulu Plus in this review.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
Armed with technology that makes a smaller antenna possible and a digital protocol that makes the signals easier to capture over longer distances, antenna companies are now delivering powerful long-range units with home decor as a design directive, resulting in small, unobtrusive and even fashionable indoor models. Mark Buff, CEO of antenna maker Mohu says that with cable TV having been the norm for so long, "many people had forgotten that OTA (over the air) signals still exist. But we're now seeing increased interest by cord cutters. And even customers who aren't cancelling subscriptions are using antennas for second and third TVs as well as for their vacation homes, saving the cost of additional cable boxes."
The newest leg of CBS’s digital effort is a free sports streaming service called CBS Sports HQ. There is no games or any other sporting events. CBS Sports aims to be a destination for game highlights and talk about your favorite teams. It will be interesting to see where CBS takes this platform in the months ahead. CBS Sports HQ is available on the web or within the CBSN app.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
There are drawbacks, most having to do with content licensing restrictions. Netflix still has a good number of films in its vast library that are unavailable for streaming. With Hulu Plus, TV shows are generally embargoed until at least the day after their original network air dates. And there can also be restrictions on which seasons of a show are available. Perhaps most frustrating, licensing terms for some shows stipulate that while they can be watched on a computer or mobile device for free on Hulu's website, they are prohibited from being viewed on the TV even with a paid Hulu Plus subscription. But remember, an antenna gets you free OTA network channels, so if you're able to work your schedule around the networks' (like in the old days) you can minimize this inconvenience.
Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.
After 2009, over the air TV signals became digital and old analog tuner TVs stopped working. Did you know that you could still get over the air signals? In fact, you can watch local channels without cable, and they are available free and in a clear beautiful high definition picture. Those signals are bouncing off your house as you read this. If you own a TV sold in the U.S. made after March 1st, 2007, it has a digital tuner as mandated by law.
Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
As if to emphasize the idea that streaming is just re-creating the existing television landscape in a different venue, CBS recently announced the launch of CBSN Local, a local news addition to its CBSN streaming service. CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn called the service, expected to launch at the end of 2018 in New York, “the exciting next chapter in how our stations will serve audiences seeking local news on all of the most popular content consumption platforms.” Now, even through streaming services, viewers will be able to view localized meme-ready material from wherever they may be at the touch of a screen. (To be fair, this has been expected for some time.)
While most cable companies offer standalone TV services, many also offer TV and internet bundles with built-in savings. Along with saving you money on your monthly bill and possibly installation costs, bundling cable TV and internet could qualify you for equipment upgrades, extra package options and more. Plus, cable TV and internet bundles make shopping for home services simple.
What you get: The Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu now also offers a combined plan, priced at $13 per month, that bundles a Spotify subscription with Hulu’s entry-level on-demand service.
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