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.
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.
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.
Most cable companies will send a representative to your home to install the TV, phone, and internet equipment. Usually the service provider will set up an installation date shortly after you order the package. The setup should take no longer than an hour. After the setup, the representative will give you a brief overview of how to use the equipment, which is usually straightforward. If you have any technical problems after the representative leaves, call the support line for additional instructions.
Armed with technology that makes a smaller antenna possible and a digital protocol that makes the signals easier to capture over longer distances, antenna companies are now delivering powerful long-range units with home decor as a design directive, resulting in small, unobtrusive and even fashionable indoor models. Mark Buff, CEO of antenna maker Mohu says that with cable TV having been the norm for so long, "many people had forgotten that OTA (over the air) signals still exist. But we're now seeing increased interest by cord cutters. And even customers who aren't cancelling subscriptions are using antennas for second and third TVs as well as for their vacation homes, saving the cost of additional cable boxes."
Television signals are actually a one-way connection, which means that the only connection you will need to make is from the glowing box in your room to the service provider. On the other hand, cable internet connection requires data transmission in both the directions. The incoming signals are translated by the cable modem while the cable modem termination system (CMTS) of the provider handles the data that users are sending back. Most of the coaxial cables are interwoven with fiber optic cable to increase the bandwidth to meet the increasing data requirements of the user.
Cable companies tend to make bundling TV, phone, and internet easy, which means lots of savings for you. Not only are bundles cheaper than buying the services individually, they’re also convenient because you don’t have to deal with more than one supplier—that cuts out hassle and paperwork. Use our site to compare prices and check for providers offering phone, internet, and cable bundles.
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).
As mentioned earlier, you can bundle broadband internet services with TV. A cable TV provider also typically serves as a cable internet provider. You can often choose from a wide selection of cable internet packages, depending on the cable TV and cable internet provider. Depending on your area, you may be able to adopt a high speed internet connection. However, if you're lucky and happen to live in a more urban or suburban area, you may have access to a fiber optic high speed internet connection.
Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.
Hulu with Live TV. You can now get your Hulu with live television. This is a full package that contains local stations in many areas along with the usual suspects when it comes to entertainment, sports and news. The channel selection doesn't quite reach what you can get on PlayStation Vue or DirecTV Now, but because it basically comes with free Hulu, it can be slightly cheaper. Hulu with Live TV is great if you already subscribe to Hulu and want to save money, but that savings might get eaten up by extra fees such as buying more Cloud DVR storage or expanding the number of screens you can watch the service on from the limitation of 2 for the standard service.
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.).
Even if you get your local CBS station with an antenna, it’s still a good service to plumb the huge on-demand library. That’s especially true if you’re a diehard Star Trek fan. You may already know that Star Trek: Discovery is exclusively produced for CBS All Access. But the streaming service also has 79 epsiodes of the original series, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Enterprise, The Next Generation, Voyager and Star Trek: The Animated Series.
Always take a moment on a new TV to switch off any special features that are meant to reduce motion-blurring. (These go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but the setting typically has the word “motion” in it, as in Sony’s “Motionflow” or LG’s “TruMotion.”) These settings tend to make movies and even most modern television shows look more flat and artificial, in what’s often called “the soap opera effect.”