CBS All-Access is a good example of a single channel app that offers live television. However, CBS All Access doesn't contain CBS's complete library so don't go in expecting you'll be able to stream the entire Big Bang Theory series. Other networks, like HGTV, Smithsonian Channel, History Channel, etc. also offer varying degrees of access to content through their apps.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
Yes, Amazon Prime requires an internet connection to stream video. I recommend getting cable internet vs. dial up or DSL. DSL may be fast enough, but dial up will not be. A basic cable internet package should be enough for streaming video. Try the minimum plan, but if it isn’t fast enough, then bump up the service one level, try that, and repeat if necessary. But you should be fine with the basic package. Also be sure to check how much data streaming you have to be sure you don’t go over the plan limits, as that may be expensive, depending on your internet provider (many plans offer unlimited downloads, but it’s still a good idea to check).
As I kept vague tabs on everyone’s television habits over the spring and summer, a few patterns emerged. The biggest one was that YouTube and Netflix were watched on the television far more than the actual cable service. The second was that most of what was actually watched on the cable service were series that could easily be found on other streaming services for far less money. By subscribing to Netflix and Sling TV, with occasional subscriptions to other services for a month to binge watch a particular series or two, we cover virtually everything that we had watched on television throughout the spring and summer.
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.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
I tested a number of indoor antennas, my community doesn’t allow outdoor antennas. I get all the OTA channels, perfectly clear, ABC, CBS & NBC plus others. You will need a “streaming device” like Roku (which has a lot of free channels & content) or Fire Stick. and eventually if you want, you can subscribe to the numerous services available, Hulu, Sling, Netflix, etc. They are all different prices and have some offers to try for free .
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
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Netflix offers up to thousands of movies and hundreds of TV shows like Breaking Bad, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Bob’s Burgers. Unlike Hulu, their originals are what they take pride in. These include Emmy-nominated series House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as Derek, Hemlock Grove, and the acquired Arrested Development. The best thing going for Netflix is the fact that it has no adds. It’s $7.99/month for one screen, $8.99 for two screens, $11.99 for four screens. So is it worth our subscription? Definitely. Binge watching to its critically acclaimed collection of originals makes the streaming experience worthwhile.
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller markets.
On either device, using just Netflix and Hulu Plus (each require $8 per month subscriptions) gives you a good variety of popular programming. Between the two you can binge on previous seasons of everything from Breaking Bad to Downton Abbey, watch current episodes of The Daily Show and Parks and Recreation and make a dent in your bucket list of must-see film classics.
Some consumers argue that they don't need cable TV subscriptions because they can just subscribe to a streaming service from a certain network and watch their shows from streaming ready devices. However, the 200 million Americans that still have cable would disagree. Did you know that your cable TV subscription probably includes these streaming services? Why limit yourself to one network or pay for and manage multiple accounts when you could stream all of your favorite shows in one place? Providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum offer these services and apps at NO additional cost. Watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
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.