Then take a look at that list you’ve been putting together. How is it looking? Chances are it may appear a little messy with many side notes and some networks scribbled out. If so, good. Maybe for the first time in your life, you’re taking a hard look at what you are spending on a channel by channel basis. That’s essentially the worst nightmare of cable TV operators.
Some people make the assumption that cable or satellite TV limits you to watching live programming from your television set at home. However, most of the nation's largest TV providers offer SO much more than that. Seriously, the perks are endless. Let's say you're Drew. Drew watches all sorts of different networks: sports, reality TV, sitcoms, HBO, you name it. He also hates dealing with commercials. Every Friday Drew has a movie night with friends and family, so he wants lots of on demand options. He travels often and likes to watch TV on his tablet in the hotel room while he's away. Sometimes he misses his favorite premieres while he's on the road. So what can a TV package do for Drew?
When it's time to shop around for your cable TV provider, you may not have a choice at all. The industry is made up of regional monopolies, which means the cable companies that service your specific address are often limited. But fear not: We’ve taken a close look at the nation's largest cable companies and each of their features, so you can evaluate the most common options — and find the best cable TV company for you.
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.
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.
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.
One big advantage Roku offers though is a choice of four models ranging in features and price, from the $50 Roku LT to the faster and higher resolution $100 Roku 3. With over 1,000 channels, Roku has long had an edge over its Apple rival in terms of content, but unsurprisingly, many channels are of limited appeal. While it lacks support for iTunes, Roku counters with the Amazon Instant video store (unavailable on Apple TV). Roku also offers both a PBS and PBS Kids channel.
It’s like Lyft accidentally reinventing the bus with its Lyft shuttle idea. With such focus on innovation and disruption over everything else, we’ve seen companies lose sight of the bigger picture, and they end up restoring the status quo of before. Is it possible that, after all of this change and innovation, the future of television is just… television?
So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
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.
Comcast has earned a reputation for bad customer service, but it has steadily improved its ratings year after year. Its ACSI score rose by eight points in just one year, from 54 out of 100 in 2015 to 62 out of 100 in 2016. This is an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation and will likely continue to progress. Though from 2017 to 2018, its rating did drop by one point.
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.
Similar to the HBO service but $4/month cheaper, Showtime lets you stream all of their content using Roku, Android, Apple TV or an Amazon TV device. You can also get a $3/month discount on their service if you subscribe through Hulu and you can also pay full price to get access through Playstation Vue TV. However, if you’re a Playstation Plus member you can add it for $8.99.
Is it better to go with a long term commitment or a “no contract” option? There are pros and cons to both alternatives. Typically, a long-term contract comes at a discounted monthly rate, so that you can save over time. Contracts may also come with perks like free installation, free equipment, or extra premium channels. If you know exactly what service you want and that you'll need cable TV for the next few years, the contract is worth it. However, for those that are unsure of how long they'll want TV service, a no contract option is the way to go. You might end up paying a bit more a month on average, but you'll be able to cancel whenever you want. Many providers will make you pay early termination fees if you decide to cancel your TV service before your contract is up. The easiest way to compare your contract options is to type in your zip code!
Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime are all add-on options like they are with regular Hulu. Sports and news stations galore. You can "record" 50 hours of programming to the cloud-based DVR or upgrade it to 200 hours for extra; it also costs more to have access to Hulu with Live TV on multiple screens. Hulu with Live TV is on a more limited number of devices but includes all the usual suspects: a browser, iOS, Android, Roku products, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and Samsung Smart TVs. Try if free for one week.
For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.
Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.
Not all media streamers offer the same channels: Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as standalone media streamers, don't all offer the same selection of channels and services. Roku devices are the most comprehensive with up to 4,500 possibilities, but there are other media streamers available (such as Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and others) that may not have the channels and services you desire.