You will instantly get over 100 channels, and there are tons more that you can add along the way. PlayLater is software for your computer or mobile device that records streaming media, saving it to your device for future viewing. If you already have a streaming device or gaming console, you've already got most of the features offered by this software, but for $39.99 for lifetime access, you won't waste a lot of money trying it out.
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month.
What you get: With its updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package is now $25 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $25 per month, supports three users and a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9.
As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
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.
If YouTube is a staple of your cord-cutting experience—and with millions of hours of video uploaded every second, it probably should be—then maybe this paid experience will be to your liking. After a one-month trial, 10 bucks a month gets you completely ad-free YouTubing—plus access to original shows behind the paywall. These aren't TV shows in the classic sense, but originals created by YouTube stars. YouTube also partnered with big names like Eminem and Katy Perry, as well as the Sundance Film Festival. You also get access to YouTube Music and Google Play Music. Don't confuse it with YouTube TV, which we discuss below.
Comcast XFINITY TV: Comcast operates in 41 states. You may see this company in your list of options if you live in the eastern states, the Midwest, the south, the southwest, or along the western coast. The only areas Comcast digital TV packages are not offered are in the northern Great Plains, Oklahoma, and Nevada. Check out Comcast XFINITY TV's channel lineup here. You can also purchase affordable broadband internet service packages, like Performance Internet, with Comcast XFINITY. Performance Internet grants you with speeds of up to 25Mpbs, though you may receive less if you tend to use it as a wireless internet service.
Like PlayStation Vue, AT&T's DirecTV Now has several tiers, starting with $35 a month, going to $50 for 80+ channels, $60 for 100+, and $70 for 120+. That does include Viacom stations and all the networks except CBS; the priciest plan offers up multiple Starz-related channels; HBO and Cinemax are here but for $5 per month extra each; Showtime is $8 per month extra.
You probably want amplification, unless you're living next door to the local broadcast tower. They don't make the signal stronger coming in the house; they make an already low signal strong enough for the TV tuner to use. Even some of the flat antennas have amplification options; but amplification ups the cost. Setup is easy, but you'll have to play with the antenna position to maximize reception—just like fiddling with rabbit ear antennas in the 1970s. Some outdoor antennas can work from inside if they're up high—say in your attic—if there isn't a lot of obstruction.
These add-ons are called Amazon Channels. Some channels are ones you’ve heard of. Many others you haven’t. Amazon Channels range in price and can sometimes the premium ones like Showtime are slightly cheaper than subscribing directly to the platform. It’s worth looking over Amazon Channels to see if there’s a combination of streaming options that works for you to replace cable TV.
Lots of satellite TV plans include a DVR or HD DVR which allows you to easily record shows, set parental controls, watch shows from any room, and access On Demand programs and movies. Cable companies may also offer you a free DVR when you buy a TV service plan. With both satellite and cable TV service providers, you will usually have to pay a monthly fee for the DVR even though the DVR itself is included at no extra cost. Service for a DVR costs around $10+/month with either cable or satellite service.
Amazon has already taken steps toward this idea. Its customers can subscribe to different content providers through Amazon Video Channels, including traditional television providers like HBO and Showtime as well as streaming content providers like Britbox and IndiePix Unlimited, then view them all through Amazon Prime Video. Individual accounts and payments are still required, but the notion of one killer app or portal that allows access to everything is such an enticing idea that it’s difficult to imagine that companies aren’t already discussing the possibility. And Xfinity’s deals with Netflix and Amazon suggest that even guarded companies with a strong proprietary interest in their original content are willing to come on board.
IMPORTANT: If you regularly watch sports on a Regional Sports Network, such as Fox Sports, Altitude, SportsNet, Pac-12, Big 10 or Mid Atlantic Sports Network, and you don't want to give up that programming (largely MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and College Sports), you should think twice about cutting the cord. Trying to duplicate that content in its entirety from streaming services will end up costing you as much as your current pay-TV service.
PlayStation Vue. Why is PlayStation Vue not a household name? It's probably because Sony stuck the "PlayStation" label on it. Despite the name, you don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it. And when it comes to cable-over-internet, PlayStation Vue is clearly one of the best and most affordable solutions. Similar to any cable service, Vue has multiple plans. It also has one of the best Cloud DVRs that will automatically save all shows of a type, so you can record every football game or all showings of that TV series.
The dirty secret about internet-based TV services is that they are far more profitable for the pay-TV industry than their traditional lines of business. U nlike video, high-speed internet is growing. Leichtman estimates that the largest cable and telephone providers had 455,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in the most recent quarter compared, topping the 235,000 gain from a year earlier.
Verizon FiOS TV: Verizon's FiOS fiber television service is available in a number of states along the eastern seaboard and in Oregon and California. The company shook up the pay TV industry in 2015 by launching its custom build-your-own package, which allows customers to choose themed channel packs, similar to Dish's Flex Pack. You can see what channels they offer through our channel guide to Verizon FiOS. You can also bundle FiOS TV with FiOS high-speed internet.
Another category of cord-cutters was labeled by Nielsen in March 2013 as "Zero TV". In 2007, two million households had neither subscribed to a pay television service or received television programming via antenna. By 2013, this number had increased to five million. Most people in this category were younger and did not have children in the household. People could still view shows via online streaming through services such as Netflix. At the 2013 National Association of Broadcasters Show, the solution for broadcasters was stated to be mobile television. A 2013 Leichtman survey showed that the 13 largest MVPD companies, covering 94 percent of the country, experienced their first year-to-year subscriber losses. 80,000 subscribers dropped their service in the year ending March 31, 2013. 1.5 million cable customers dropped their service, with Time Warner Cable losing 553,000 and Comcast losing 359,000 subscribers. AT&T and Verizon added 1.32 million subscribers; DirecTV and Dish added 160,000 subscribers, compared to 439,000 the previous year. Before 2013, only quarter-to-quarter losses had been recorded industrywide. Internet video and switching to receiving television programming by antenna were reasons. Bruce Leichtman described the subscription television industry as "saturated". A TDG study showed nearly 101 million U.S. households subscribed to television at the industry's peak in 2011, but the number would fall below 95 million in 2017. In 2013, the number of total subscribers to pay TV services fell by a quarter of a million. This was the first decline from one year to the next.
At present, the leading cable TV service providers in the country deliver more than hundreds of HD channels to about 60 million homes in the country. In addition, most of the cable TV providers also offer high-speed internet and home phone services alongside. Customers also enjoy the luxury of double bundling or triple bundling these services, which in turn helps them to save a huge sum of money in the end.
Some companies like XFINITY from Comcast give you the option to choose a self installation kit. Depending on your technical skills, this may save you time and money. So, if you think you can handle setting up the system on your own, you can avoid paying as much for an installation service from the company, and you can install the system on your own time whenever it is convenient for you.
For original programming, it started weak, but upped it a notch with Casual, which got the critics interested and earned Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination. Now it's got a real cool factor thanks to the multi-award-winner A Handmaid's Tale. It's also made itself the exclusive place to watch the entire back catalog of classic shows like Star Trek, South Park, Seinfeld, the original CSI, and a bunch of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows. It has a smattering of movies, but really, Hulu is all about the TV shows.
One included feature -- Tablo Connect -- lets you watch live TV and your recordings from your smartphone wherever you go, as if you were sitting on your couch. After a free 30-day unlimited trial of Tablo, there is an optional, small subscription fee -- ranging from $5/month to $150/lifetime -- that gives you all the features. Or you can opt to still use the device for free, with just its basic features.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for significantly less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Amazon Prime Video, you’ll still be more than $250 in the black. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option with Sling TV for $60 more per year ($5 more per month); about the same price as buying two individual TV seasons.
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.
The crown jewel driving this premium streaming service is Star Trek: Discovery (which isn't even that good a Star Trek show), plus other originals like The Good Fight, which can only be seen via All Access, at least in the US (ST:D is on Netflix in other countries). You can also add Showtime programming to watch in the All Access interface for $14.99 per month.
The comments about Spectrum DVRs are not accurate based on our experience. We have Spectrum (previously Time Warner) and our DVR allows us to record 4 channels simultaneously (not 2) while watching a fifth channel. Also, our DVR can store substantially more than 21 hours of HD content as the review claims. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure we are able to store at least 100 hours of content. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the Gold package. There are lots of channels including premium channels (HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, etc.) and there are decent mobile viewing capabilities. The Spectrum app allows you to watch all content and manage DVR settings when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Substantially fewer channels are available on the Spectrum app when accessed via the internet; however, this is shortfall can largely be made up by downloading the apps for individual channels such as HBO Go, Show Anytime, Max Go, etc. On the negative side, Spectrum is expensive and the internet speeds never measure up to what they advertise. Instead of getting 100Mbps we get about 50 down/35 up. In fairness, most people I talk to all seem to have the same complaint about their service provider. And, of course, the customer service generally stinks.
Although we all know that the whole point behind cutting the cord is saving money and getting better TV time if the service is deemed worth paying for then why not go for it? Many people have not made the switch because they still value Live TV, which traditional TV reliably provides. But a few streaming services out there are trying their best to replicate the cable and satellite experience at a lower price and with more convenience. Streaming services are having quite the run, and they are here to prove to you that you can survive without cable. Be brave enough to cut the cord, look for cable TV alternatives, and then stream happily ever after.
HBO®, CINEMAX® and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc. HBO GO® and MAX GO® are only accessible in the U.S. and certain U.S. territories where a high-speed broadband connection is available. Minimum 3G connection is required for viewing on mobile devices. Some restrictions may apply. All devices, titles and related trademarks are property of their respective owners. For specific technical requirements for devices, go to hbogo.com/devices or maxgo.com/#devices.
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.
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.
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.
It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted. We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.
Google Chromecast. The Chromecast device differs in that you plug the dongle into the HDMI port of your TV and "cast" the screen on your phone or tablet to your TV. This means that your phone acts as the remote for the Chromecast, which makes it a little more difficult to use that other dongles. Still, the overall idea of using internet television content and placing it on your television to watch on a large screen is at play.