In general, streaming hardware all works the same way. The device connects to both the Internet (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and your TV (via HDMI), streaming content from channels that are either free or require a monthly subscription. You browse through channels directly on your TV screen via a remote. A large part of the appeal here is that you choose which channels you want to subscribe to. Netflix and Hulu Plus, the most popular channels (available on the Apple, Roku and Google devices) provide access to a robust selection of movies as well as current and past TV shows.
Along with each package, we’ve also included the amount of money the typical television viewer would save by cutting cable and switching to streaming. Greg Ireland, research director for multiscreen video at market-analysis firm IDC, estimates that the average cable subscriber pays $85 a month for video while receiving an effective $10 per month discount on internet service. That means for people with a “double play” bundle—cable TV and Internet in the same bill—canceling cable would save an average of $75 a month, or $900 per year.
Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.
So how does satellite TV work? Satellite TV transmits signals from a satellite up in space to a dish on the roof of your home. This communication between the two satellites is what gives you the ability to watch television. Satellite TV is a great option for those that live in rural areas, because it's much more widely available than other types of TV. Cable and fiber TV require wires and cables, and this infrastructure is often not present in remote areas. Virtually anyone can get satellite TV, unless the signal is hindered by a foreign object, or the resident can't install a dish. Satellite also offers better picture quality and has the most HD channels available out of all types of TV. Not only is the quality great, but satellite TV packages are typically cheaper than fiber or cable TV. One drawback to satellite is that it usually requires a long term contract. Make sure you're ready to commit, because most providers will charge an early termination fee if you decide to cancel before your contract is up. Also, the quality of your satellite TV programming can be hindered by extreme weather conditions.
The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.
But beware -- there are a few missing gaps when it comes to support. Many devices have the Hulu or YouTube app, for example, but not all of them support live TV viewing. The PS4 is missing both, as well as Sling TV. DirecTV Now doesn't work with game consoles at all, and of course PlayStation Vue won't stretch to include the Xbox One. Amazon Prime apps work across most devices, but the company's feud with Google keeps Android TV and Chromecast on the sideline.