You don't need a lot of streaming services to satisfy your TV needs. Most cord cutters use two, sometimes three services and there are specific benefits to each one. We recommend the following services because they provide the most value to cord cutters and they are readily available nationwide. Here are the main services you will likely want and why:
At present, the leading cable TV service providers in the country deliver more than hundreds of HD channels to about 60 million homes in the country. In addition, most of the cable TV providers also offer high-speed internet and home phone services alongside. Customers also enjoy the luxury of double bundling or triple bundling these services, which in turn helps them to save a huge sum of money in the end.
Before you close your account for good, it may be worthwhile to reach out to your cable provider, who doesn’t want to lose your business. If you’re comfortable negotiating, you can often get a hefty discount for a year or longer. You can usually get a better price if you sign up for a service bundle with internet and phone. Use these tricks to get deals on just about anything.
Cable internet services incorporate the use of coaxial cables for the transfer of data. In simple words, a coax cable can be defined as a traditional analog wire that is used for transmitting cable television. Cable TV service providers connect the copper wires in your home or office to a neighborhood node and then to the provider itself. The cable modem in your home sends and receives electrical signals over these wires by using megahertz (MHz) of signal space at a specific time.
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Satellite providers like DISH and DIRECTV host service in all 50 states. The only clear differentiator between satellite and cable TV, is that satellite requires a dish on your roof. Unlike the slow speeds that come with satellite internet service, there are no restrictions on your television service. In fact, both DISH and DIRECTV offer a vast range of channels and exclusive sports packages like NFL Fantasy Zone and MLB Network Strike Zone.
When it comes to standalone streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV, your viewing experience is completely dependent on your internet connection. So if the internet goes down or there are a ton of people in your neighborhood online at the same time, your speeds might be slow. You'll likely experience buffering, lagging, or even a completely frozen screen. With cable TV, you'll never have to worry about missing a moment, because the connection doesn't rely on your internet. Don't be that guy that misses the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl: NO ONE wants to be that guy.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
The channel selection is pretty extensive—but far from everything. You won't find CBS on this service, naturally. But premium channels are available as add-ons; in fact, some of what you'd see on basic cable—like SyFy, USA, Fox and NBC—are only available to you on Sling TV by paying a bit more for the Sling Blue package for $25 per month. Then there are more "Lifestyle Extra" add on packages to get other channels you may want; those usually add an extra $5 per month to the price. Like with any of the live TV stream services, check the channel offerings thoroughly before you subscribe to make sure they have what you want.
Last year, AT&T launched their own stand-alone streaming service DirecTV Now. This streaming service doesn’t require a cable subscription. The basic plan includes over 60 channels for $35/month. The Just Right plan has over 80 channels for $50/month. The Go Big plan has over 100 channels for $60/month, and the Gotta Have It plan has over 120 channels for $70/month. A bit expensive, but why not give it a go if you can afford it? Directv is available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Safari with up to two simultaneous streams.
Switching to streaming isn’t just for binging The Office on Netflix or watching yesterday’s episode of Bob’s Burgers on Hulu. You can sign up for services that allow you to stream select live TV channels, too. Some popular options are DIRECTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. Each allows you to choose between tiers of channels, but their base packages often offer many popular channels and for much cheaper than traditional cable. Curious about your options? We compare the best options in our TV streaming review.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.
Having said all that, if I were to buy a TV today, I might consider either the new Amazon Fire TV edition made by Element that just hit the market. You will essentially get a 4K TV with the latest streaming software from Amazon Fire TV baked in your TV set. Fire TV is becoming a lot more neutral in terms of supported platforms and apps, but it’s best suited for people who use Amazon Prime. Also, the new line of TCL Roku TVs with 4K HDR look interesting to me for similar reasons. I haven’t tested out either of those TVs so I can’t recommend one over the other. But it’s food for thought. Hope that helps.
Hulu is more than just a place to find some streaming originals and a lot of day-after-air shows. Last year it launched a live TV service—and it quickly became the PCMag Editors' Choice in this arena. Yeah, you pay more, but for that $39.99 you get access to the entire Hulu library we discussed above, plus lots of cable channels, including many local affiliates that stream live (depending on your location).
With HBO Now, however, the need for a pilfered password is removed. It's the only option if you don't have someone from whom to pilfer. Anyone with internet and supported hardware can subscribe and watch original HBO programming like GoT, Divorce, Big Little Lies, Insecure, Westworld, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, plus the entire back catalog of shows: The Sopranos and The Wire forever! Try it free for an entire month.
Another plus for Xfinity is it delivers some not-too-shabby equipment. The Xfinity X1 DVR isn’t our first choice for DVR, but it comes close. The X1 can hold about 100 hours of recordings (in HD), and it can record up to six shows at once, which is more than enough for most of us. It also includes some cool features, like a voice-controlled remote and Netflix integration. (Be sure to check out our review of the Xfinity X1.)
But beware -- there are a few missing gaps when it comes to support. Many devices have the Hulu or YouTube app, for example, but not all of them support live TV viewing. The PS4 is missing both, as well as Sling TV. DirecTV Now doesn't work with game consoles at all, and of course PlayStation Vue won't stretch to include the Xbox One. Amazon Prime apps work across most devices, but the company's feud with Google keeps Android TV and Chromecast on the sideline.