Recently, Comcast announced that it struck a deal to add Amazon Prime Video to the online content available through its Xfinity X1 service. Amazon’s original content will join other services available through Xfinity, including Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora. In a statement, Comcast’s president of consumer services, Dana Strong, argued for the addition: “Amazon Prime Video’s growing list of originals, movies, shows, documentaries, and kids’ programming will be an excellent complement to the overall X1 viewing experience.”
This type of service is also used to circumvent sports network blackouts or simply to mask your identity online from would-be identity thieves. Of course, check with your content provider’s terms of service to make sure you are not breaking any end-user agreements. To learn the differences between a Smart DNS and VPN check out my post on VPN vs Smart DNS.
When it comes to MLB, NBA, NHL, Golf, NASCAR and College Sports, they are not as easy to come by. Each will air some national programming on broadcast TV throughout the year and you'll get those from your TV antenna. However, if you regularly follow these sports on Cable network channels and don't want to give that up, your options as a cord cutter are somewhat limited and sometimes costly. We will explore some options in the Streaming Services section below.
Apple TV. This could be considered the luxury car version of streaming devices except for a couple of snags. Apple went all in with Apple TV when it placed some of its fastest processors in the unit and opened up an App Store for Apple TV. Apple has done a good job of opening up the system and adding great features like the TV app, which compiles much of your streaming library together in one spot.
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.
The market is full of streaming devices and sticks that offer viable cable TV alternatives. Some of the more popular devices are Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. Investigate each option to compare prices and offers and see what works best for the shows and needs you have. These are the splurges that may actually end up costing more than you thought.
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.
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.
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.
While I’ve listed a few major streaming apps supported by each device, there are other apps available for these devices like Crackle TV, M-Go, Crunchy Roll, etc. I could write for weeks on every available app on these devices. While I personally feel Roku is the best streaming device available today, here is a look at the top options on the market.
Our view: If you've got a good $50- to $60-a-month internet plan and can add an antenna for local channels and maybe a Netflix or a Hulu, you will pay less. But many of us have TV/internet bundles that raise the price of internet if we drop TV. That's what happened with me and Frontier, when the company said my $35 monthly internet charge would double to $70 if I ditched cable.
The “retention desk” at Optimum kept going successively lower. First $62, then after a long hold while they were “processing my cancellation”, came back with $45 for a year at 60 MBPS – down from the 100 MBPS package they had in their standard package. I said they had to get to $40 for a year or $45 for 2 years or I was gone, but they could cut me to 50 MBPS or “even lower” – that the DSL speed was fine for my needs. We ended at an impasse and I said cancel me. It was like the guy got huffy and hung up on me.
In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.
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Adam… there are countless options and opinions out there on what’s “best” but it all boils down to what the readers want and need. The wife and I cut cable completely about 6-7 years ago. We have internet only for $50/mo. We now have a $4 a month (taxes only) VOIP phone (Ooma) for home phone, cut our cell phones down to bare minimum $5/mo. plans and rolled the savings to an amazing 55″ OLED SmarTV television on an open box deal. Between the apps on that, the computer attached by HDMI, the over the air antenna and free apps and web sites, we don’t need any of the devices or subscriptions to have it all… and then some. There’s no need for Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Sling, Philo, Fire Stick or anything. Our motto is keep it simple. We get library access online 24/7 and instead of asking “what’s on TV tonight?” the question is “what do you WANT on TV tonight?” … $54/month total… we’re good!
Google Chromecast. The Chromecast device differs in that you plug the dongle into the HDMI port of your TV and "cast" the screen on your phone or tablet to your TV. This means that your phone acts as the remote for the Chromecast, which makes it a little more difficult to use that other dongles. Still, the overall idea of using internet television content and placing it on your television to watch on a large screen is at play.
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
Most of you reading this probably already have Netflix. That’s because this streaming service has turned itself into a must-have entertainment platform. That won’t be changing anytime soon. Netflix has committed millions and millions of dollars to create original movies and series. I’m a huge fan of “Black Mirror”. Just about all the Marvel Universe series “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage” are very entertaining even if you didn’t read about these characters when you collected comic books decades ago.
In fact, with internet television offering the same features as traditional cable at cheaper monthly subscription, you can cut the physical cord and get away from two-year contracts with expensive equipment rental fees. You do need internet access, of course, to take advantage of a variety of streaming services. Some people choose to pay for that access while others prefer to take advantage of free internet.