Cable TV service heavily relies on a network of trunk and fiber optic cables. These cables serve the crucial function of transmitting TV shows, movies, and other programs from the networks to your TV in the form of encrypted signals. In simple words, a cable TV service transmits network contents to your home with the help of a physical connection made up of a network of cables.
Sometimes called "TV Everywhere" apps, these are the apps for individual networks or cable channels that provide video-on-demand of their current shows (usually a day or two after they air). All of them have wildly different interfaces. Almost all of them require you to sign in using existing credentials for a cable or satellite TV subscription. And even then, almost all force you to watch commercials while viewing shows, with no way to skip them.
Sports first is the goal at fuboTV, even if it's not sports exclusive. You get 82 channels of live TV with a intense focus on sports-related channels—even though the service doesn't include any ESPN networks (those are on Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV). But you do get stations like MSG, FS1, NBCSN, NBATV, BTN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, and a lot more—including many entertainment networks like Fox, History Channel, HGTV, FX, E! and others. Add-ons include Showtime for $10.99 a month, plus even more sports channels from different countries for $8.99 a month. It comes with cloud-DVR capability and works on a PC, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku devices; it's in beta on Amazon Fire TV. The first month is only $19.99 before it goes up to full price.
Not everyone thought this was a good service when it debuted, but it's so far stuck with that "introductory" price that would put it in line with icky cable subscriptions. If you've got an AT&T phone plan, you can add DirecTV Now for just $10 a month; HBO is included if you've got an AT&T Unlimited Choice or Plus plan. You can watch DirecTV Now on your PC via browser, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, ChromeCast, Roku devices, iOS, and Android—it's not on any game consoles. Lacking however: DVR options. There's plenty of video on demand, but not for every show.
A la carte TV is basically already here. It may not be in the exact form you want it. But if you can’t find something to watch these days between your TV antenna and streaming box, then I suggest you sell your TV and stick with books. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Even though I pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and Philo every month, I still love free apps like YouTube.
As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.
One of the great dreams of cord-cutting is that it will allow consumers to pick only the channels they actually want, rather than paying for programming they never watch. But the services above essentially operate more like traditional cable, providing packages of channels, not all of which are widely desirable. It’s unlikely that any one of these subscriptions will offer everything that a given consumer is looking for, and it will require viewers to scroll past a lot that they don’t.
This streaming service has the seasons of most, if not all, broadcast TV series such as (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW) with the latest recently aired episodes. Hulu also hosts a large selection of cable network series (including Comedy Central, MTV, and A&E). They have a movie library, but its content is not that good. Although their number of originals doesn’t match those of Netflix, Hulu has been trying to push some of its originals like The Hotwives of Orlando and Deadbeat. Their service costs about 7.99$ a month, 11.99$ if you want a commercial-free streaming experience. For those who are addicted to traditional television, Hulu Live TV is their best chance at watching the full lineups of national networks and locals. If you’re are TV-oriented, Hulu Plus is the best option for you. While you can get plenty of Hulu for free, paying 8$ on a monthly basis will get you the next-day service you need.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
This is just a variation on what cable companies have done for television channels for decades. Streaming content originally appeared to offer a direct alternative to that model, but service providers and content creators alike can see a lot of benefits to resurrecting the concept. Service providers offering cross-platform streaming bundles get to boast about offering such an extended range of viewing options while making access easier than ever for users. Content creators can once again leverage desire for high-demand channels to push additional offerings of lesser popularity. It’s the win-win strategy of the Comcast-Amazon partnership (taken to a further extreme, in theory), but it’s also exactly the content delivery model that has been on offer for decades, merely ported over onto a new platform.
First, the best TV moved from networks to cable. Now a similar transition is moving top talent from cable to the streaming world. Netflix ($8.99 per month for HD streaming) has House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—all of which have received almost universal acclaim—and Amazon ($99 per year for video and a variety of other services) isn’t too far behind with comedy Alpha House, crime drama Bosch, and the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
DirecTV Now. DirectTV Now offers a package that is very competitive with PlayStation Vue, and as you might expect, delivers a very cable-like experience without the actual cable. However, it does have one of the worst interfaces, especially on Apple TV, and lacks the ability to pause live television. One big bonus of DirecTV Now is access to very cheap subscriptions for premium channels like HBO and Starz, so if you load up on all of these, DirecTV Now might come out as the cheapest service. They also don't charge for their DVR service.
Next, sign up for a service (or a couple). Hulu, for instance, will give you access to a wide variety of current television, and with both Netflix and Amazon Prime, you'll have plenty of movies and television that has already hit DVD. These three subscriptions will be slightly less than $30 a month. Or you might decide to go with a single television app (like CBS All-Access or the Smithsonian channel) and spend just $5/month. Maybe you want to try a premium service with one stand-alone app; whatever you want to do, go for it! You can sign up for these services once your dongle is installed; the screen will walk you through the steps but the process is pretty similar to downloading an app on your phone and using it.
Since current seasons of CBS aren’t available on Hulu, CBS All Access is one option to get CBS Shows the day after the initial broadcast as CBS isn’t a part of Hulu. The basic service costs $5.99 per month and does air commercials. However, they offer a commercial-free plan for $9.99 per month. The service also offers live local CBS in over 150 markets. For more details, check out my review of CBS All Access.
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.
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).
Just remember, a cable TV provider can double up as an internet service provider, granting you top-tier internet access. Some internet service providers will include a myriad of features in their internet packages. One such example is Comcast XFINITY Internet. Comcast XFINITY allows users to take advantage of its Comcast XFINITY hotspot. Just what is the purpose for a Comcast XFINITY hotspot? Why you can use said hotspot, or public internet access, in any area where this hotspot is available, as long as you have your Comcast XFINITY credentials, so you won't have to consume your mobile device's data or turn your mobile device into a wireless internet hotspot.
Some people make the assumption that cable or satellite TV limits you to watching live programming from your television set at home. However, most of the nation's largest TV providers offer SO much more than that. Seriously, the perks are endless. Let's say you're Drew. Drew watches all sorts of different networks: sports, reality TV, sitcoms, HBO, you name it. He also hates dealing with commercials. Every Friday Drew has a movie night with friends and family, so he wants lots of on demand options. He travels often and likes to watch TV on his tablet in the hotel room while he's away. Sometimes he misses his favorite premieres while he's on the road. So what can a TV package do for Drew?
If you're opting for streaming you have a lot more control about your choices. While a service like PlayStation Vue brings packages that are cable-like with more channels as they grow in price, Sling TV starts lower at $25, and offers more flexibility in what you can choose to add. If you only need a few channels, picking the right provider will be everything, and without contracts, you can swap services in and out as necessary. Pick up CBS All Access with its free introductory month to catch up on Star Trek, then jump over to HBO Now to binge Game of Thrones while you wait for the next season.