However, the notion that cord-cutting represents an ever-worsening existential crisis for media companies is simplistic at best. To be sure, consumers are plenty mad at their pay-TV providers, which have jacked up prices at three times the rate of inflation since 2013 and provided dismal customer service for years. Most people, though, haven't taken the leap to cancel their pay TV service, and those who do oftentimes haven't actually "cut the cord."
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
This technology eliminates some of the problems associated with cable TV. For example, because satellite TV doesn’t depend on physical cable connections, satellite service is available to a much wider range of customers. This means that satellite TV is available in most parts of the US, basically to anyone with a satellite dish, so some of the people in remote areas who can’t get cable TV can get satellite TV without issue.
Charter Cable TV: Charter operates in 28 states, and now also runs Time Warner Cable TV and Bright House Networks. In fact, Charter Cable TV and Time Warner Cable TV services are both being marketed now under the Spectrum brand. Charter is spread across the U.S., with notable gaps throughout the middle part of the Midwest, some western and southwestern states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho, as well as Florida and some states along the eastern seaboard. We offer guides for the entire Charter channel lineup, as well as the Time Warner Cable channel lineup.
There is a $10-per-month add-on channel for sports and $4.99-per-month one for Spanish channels. Perhaps the best feature on PS Vue: a cloud-based DVR for storing up to 500 programs to watch whenever you like. Also, you can use the "TV Everywhere" apps that many cable channels have that require a cable subscription—but by authenticating them with PlayStation Vue. And you can pause or rewind or fast forward on every channel. All of them.
As he urged me to stay on the line, he valiantly worked the numbers. I waited. He put me on hold to perform the mysterious ritual of finding me a new deal. He needed to go to management on this one. He came back on the line for a quick moment to reassure me that we could work through my issue. He brimmed with enthusiasm. We’d do it. We’d succeed. Together.
The second change is our budget. Our cable and internet package was roughly $90 per month, and this was about 7 or 8 years ago. Prices have since risen quite a bit in most markets. That was too expensive for what we got out of it (the base TV package, with no premium channels, was over $50 a month after the introductory price expired). We only rarely watched TV, and then it was usually limited to a few channels. We cut the cable TV service and elected to pay for a faster internet service. We pay a lot for Internet, but we are paying for a service we use.
Chromecast and Apple TV are streaming media players that also provide access to streaming services but are not as robust or easy to use as the two devices recommended above. Chromecast requires that the user "cast" the streaming service from their mobile device to the TV, which means that you need to open an app and use a phone or tablet to use the device, rather than a simple remote control. Many first-time cord cutters will likely find this to be an inconvenience.
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
Each live TV subscription has a limited number of streams per household. PlayStation Vue, for example, offers up to 5 streams on different devices; YouTube TV offers up to three streams at once. So the question might be for you: How often do you have all five TVs going at once. An outdoor antenna with a splitter can deliver free over-the-air channels to all your TVs with no limitations.
In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
In the market for a cheap TV package? Availability and pricing can vary by location, but the best providers offer a fair price on the types of channels you actually watch. Plus, they often offer deals and discounts that make monthly payments more manageable. To see how the most popular providers measure up, we looked at their availability, price and overall value.
As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
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Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
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.