The premium cable channel Starz—home of some great shows like Counterpart, Power, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Outlander, and The Girlfriend Experience—is both streaming for those with a cable/satellite subscription to it, available as a discrete streaming service (Starz Streaming), or as an add-on to Amazon Video. There are many apps allowing Starz viewing on almost any hardware (except PS4, but you can get around that by using the Amazon Channel add-on option). The cost is the same no matter how you get Starz.
The conversion to digital broadcasting has put all signals - broadcast and cable - into digital form, rendering analog cable television service mostly obsolete, functional in an ever-dwindling supply of select markets. Analog television sets are still[when?] accommodated, but their tuners are mostly obsolete, oftentimes dependent entirely on the set-top box.
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
I find the best option to be their “Live a Little” package. It is priced at $35 per month and contains Fox News, CNN, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, Hallmark Channel, ESPN, Disney, HGTV, USA, ID, TNT, Food, TBS, History, Discovery, Disney Jr, TV Land, Nick Jr, AMC, FX, FXX, Bravo, Lifetime, A&E, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bloomberg, BET, Cartoon Network, CMT, CNBC, Comedy Central, Disney XD, E!, ESPN2, Fox Business, FS1, Galavision, HLN, MTV, MTV2, Paramount Network, Syfy, TCM, TLC, Univision, VH1, and more
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Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.
Those who want to see non-British foreign television have ample options, too. In addition to the aforementioned Acorn (which also features programs from Canada and Australia, among other countries), both MHz Choice and Walter Presents have well-curated collections of European series, with a particular emphasis on the many great Scandinavian crime dramas. And the increasingly popular TV coming out of South Korea is available on DramaFever, Viki, and Kocowa.
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).
We mentioned before: YouTube TV is not YouTube Red. Red is more like an advanced, commercial-free version of regular ol' YouTube. The YouTube TV option costs more and has a lot of catching up to do to rival the other live TV streaming services. It's in limited cities, has limited channels, and is available on limited devices (Chromecast, Android, iOS, LG and Samsung TVs, Xbox One, and browsers on PCs). It doesn't even bundle in YouTube Red as part of the service—you'd have to spend another $10 a month on Red to keep ads out of your regular YouTube streaming. Premium channel add-ons include $11-a-month Showtime, $5-a-month Shudder, and $7-per-month Sundance. The big plus: unlimited storage in the cloud-based DVR option.
Comcast reported a loss of 275,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, bringing the total for the calendar year to 625,000. The company said most of these losses were not from people leaving for another service. Moffett pointed out that cable companies needed to offer lower-cost packages, but a survey by Strategy Analytics revealed financial considerations were not the primary reason. People were not satisfied with what they could get, and online sources had a wider array of content. The survey showed that 13% of cable subscribers intended to cancel service in the next year. Slightly more than half were under the age of 40, and nearly all had a high school education. Two-thirds had or planned further schooling, and just over half earned at least $50,000 a year.
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.
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.
With services like Showtime, HBO, Hulu, and many others now streaming their programming online, cord cutting has firmly entered the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get all your favorite shows over the internet. In order to make the transition away from cable as simple as possible, we’ve put together six streaming “packages” that should meet the needs of the most common types of TV viewers.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
But cable providers didn't factor in that the internet they provide would become their worst enemy via access to streaming video. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are the most well-known names in what's become known as "cord cutting"—doing away with pay TV and using over-the-air (like the old days) or internet-based services to get all your "television" programming. That means no more paying a huge monthly fee for thousands of hours of TV you don't watch (in theory). Instead, you pay individual services for a la carte programming. It's a lot like paying for just what you watch. Almost.
You might think that local news and cable news would be easy to find via your set-top box, but even if you get a live TV subscription, it may be missing your local channels, and it may not have your preferred cable pundits. (Fox News, for example, isn’t available on every service.) Hulu With Live TV will get you a lot of what you need with minimal hassle, but do check out your local line-up on the Hulu website first.
PlayStation Vue ($39.99/mo. - $74.99/mo.): Don’t let the name throw you. You don’t need to own a PlayStation to subscribe to Vue, which is accessible through most of the major set-top boxes. You do, however, need to pay a premium. As with Hulu and Sling, Vue’s ability to deliver live local broadcast is dependent on where you live, but Sony does offer a lot of local TV in a lot of different markets, and even where it doesn’t, it allows subscribers to see many of the major networks’ shows on-demand. Vue also provides some simple add-on options, a huge amount of DVR cloud storage, and a lot of portability between devices.
Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
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.
It really comes back to Sarah, and – here’s the kicker – she was the one who, in the end, pushed for the switch because of the crazy cost of cable. I didn’t mind keeping it around if she (and/or the kids) got a lot of value from it. When she brought up the subject in the spring, on her own, I suggested that we spend some time evaluating what everyone watched rather than cutting the cord immediately.
Update: Been using PSVue for a couple months now. Overall just okay. TV guide / listing is below par and very hard to navigate but my biggest irritation is trying to use my phone or tablet while traveling. The constant re-entering of passwords and 2nd phone text verification is overwhelming. They also use one of the picture verification codes that is such a pain that I am now considering switching to something else. Also, you need to make sure you sign on with your portable device prior to leaving home, if you don’t you will NOT be able to watch anything on it as it must first “sync” to your home account before you can use is away from home. It is a nightmare constantly signing into the service when you are not at home.
The option that has become the standard at our house for watching TV, movies via Netflix and a variety of other sources is a software called PlayOn. PlayOn is basically a media streaming software that will pull the video streams from sites like Hulu.com, Youtube.com, network websites, MLB.TV, Netflix, Amazon Video and others and allow you to stream them over the home network, to a network media player attached to your TV.
Per your suggestion I have purchased the Roku Streaming Stick, gone thru the installation process, adding some of the free channels, etc. pretty much easy stuff and all working great until I decided to remove the stick from one TV to insert it in another TV. The Stick was VERY HOT! is that normal? I like the stick because of portability, I can take it from the living room TV to the bedroom TV without much hassle, but seems like getting hot is not safe. After a while watching the Pluto channel and going into a couple of commercials when the program re-started, there was NO sound! have to go back to main screen to start Pluto over again. This continue to happen all the time, evening/night as well as during the day. Then another issue started, a screen will come up saying “the USB port didn’t have enough power to run the Roku and needed to be connected to another power source” – I then connected it to the wall, haven’t had this issue anymore. I started running tests, turning on the TV and checking the Stick and it would normally take only about 1/2 hour to start getting hot, after one hour I would need a towel to be able to remove it. Anyone had this problem? Help!!
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
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.).
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
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When you’re looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s important to narrow down your search by zip code because coverage may vary depending on your location—even within a service area for a single provider. However, don’t assume that a narrow search means limited options. In addition to cable providers, there are likely DSL, fiber, and satellite providers available at your address. We’ll help you compare all your options so you get the best service at the right price. Enter your zip code below to compare plans and choose the best fit.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
PlayStation Vue plans aren’t that much cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, so it’s probably not the best option if you‘re cutting the cord to save money. It does offer a 5-day free trial, so you can test it out (two days shorter than any other streaming service), but make sure to cancel by day five, or you‘ll be charged for the whole month.
Cord Cutting Strategy #5: When you call to cancel the service, they will try to retain you with some very low offers. Ignore those offers and stick to your plan. Stating clearly that you do not watch the service any more is a great way to cut through their offers. Expect to spend some time on the phone, and expect some significant “we want you back” offers afterwards; just ignore them all.
If any of these options think they are worthy to cause one to cut the cord they are all sadly mistaken. Once you add the total cost these options charge, just to get the more highly desirable stations most people expect, you run into limitations: how many devices you can stream simultaneously, how much bandwidth you would need to even maintain stability, and how much more speed you’ll have to pay for with your internet provider to get it. It’s almost as if they are pushing potential cord cutters right back to their cable providers. Not to mention, Comcast/Xfinity, as much as I despise them, gives more reasonable offers for less cost, with anywhere DVR – both local and cloud based.
If you’ve ever doubted the excellence of YouTube, perform this simple exercise. Pick a favorite band or musical act, type in its name followed by “live” or “in concert”. It doesn’t matter what era we’re talking about, you’re going to find something amazing to watch – and it won’t be a program that you’ll ever find offered by Comcast, Spectrum or any other cable TV or satellite company.
Amazon Fire TV. Similar to Roku, Amazon Fire TV comes in both box format and stick format and runs on the Amazon Fire OS that is built on top of Android. This gives it access to Amazon's app store, and while it doesn't have quite the ecosystem of Apple TV, you can use it to both play games, watch TV and boot up other useful apps like Pandora Radio, Spotify, TED, etc.