By 2015, Wall Street had changed its tune. With about 40 million U.S. subscribers, Netflix was becoming a clearer threat. Analysts started pushing media companies to reclaim those old episodes from Netflix to make cable TV more attractive, which could slow the rise of cord-cutting. That year, Todd Juenger, an influential analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, estimated that big media companies, including Viacom, Fox, and CBS, would have been worth a total $45 billion more if they hadn’t done business with Netflix in the first place.
You can still watch some episodes for free if you don’t pay for the $8 Hulu subscription. If I remember correctly with Hulu’s free account you can watch the 5 most recent episodes for any given show. We used it that way for a while, starting the episodes playing in the Chrome web browser and then sending it to the Chromecast to play on the 50″ TV. Worth it in my opinion.
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are the best-known subscription-based services, and for good reason. They have excellent selections of TV shows and movies, both modern and classic, and the services are quite inexpensive. Each one costs between $8 and $12 per month, depending on what kind of options you need. Even if you subscribe to all three, this will represent a substantial price break over cable.
Picture this. It's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you want to rewatch your favorite show for the tenth time. You log into your Netflix account and realize to your horror that your show has been taken off of the service. How are you supposed to binge watch now? Stand alone streaming services are notorious for adding and removing titles from their library abruptly and without explanation. Your favorite show or movie might be there one day and gone the next. With cable TV, you can set up a series recording for your show so you can watch every episode. While Netflix might stop airing your show mid-series, the show's TV network won't. Many providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum also offer On-Demand features with thousands of titles that you can watch from any of your devices at anytime. This means you can still binge watch your favorite shows at no additional cost. You'll also be able to watch your shows as soon as they air with a cable or satellite TV connection. With streaming services like Netflix, you might not be able to watch the season for several months after it airs on live TV. By the time the latest season shows up on Netflix, your friends will have spoiled all the important plotlines and shocking moments.
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!
You simply can't get the live sports experience with internet based streaming services that you can get from cable TV. Don't believe us? We'll give you an example. Let's say you're watching the Super Bowl on your favorite streaming service. There's 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and your team is about to score the winning touchdown. Suddenly, the screen freezes. Now you're stuck screaming at your laptop or TV, not knowing if your team won the biggest game of the entire season. (And yes, this has actually happened before).
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.
Our view: If you've got a good $50- to $60-a-month internet plan and can add an antenna for local channels and maybe a Netflix or a Hulu, you will pay less. But many of us have TV/internet bundles that raise the price of internet if we drop TV. That's what happened with me and Frontier, when the company said my $35 monthly internet charge would double to $70 if I ditched cable.
This is a big deal for Amazon, which had previously refrained from partnering with any US pay-TV service to offer Amazon Prime Video. (The full scope of the deal is unclear at this point; neither partner revealed financial terms.) It’s arguably a bigger deal for Comcast, however. The partnership lets it remain relevant by allowing it to at least temporarily bypass the existential terror felt by cable providers in response to cord-cutting, the trend for viewers to shift from traditional cable television to streaming services.
One of my personal favorites is Amazon Prime, which gives you access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, and documentaries, and there are thousands of other movies and shows available on a pay per view basis. There is a monthly fee to use Amazon Prime, but it is much more than just a TV subscription as you can also get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, borrow Kindle books for free, and more – all for less than $8 a month (Amazon Prime is one of the best deals in the tech world, in my opinion!).
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).
The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.
I don’t know about that with the resolution and picture. I only have experience with Vue and Sling. I have been using Vue for about a year and a half. I don’t know what it streams at but it has always been a very good picture for me using my firestick. Even when my net goes down to 6m, but lower will bring on some stutters. Sling on the firestick or browser was definitely lower quality. Fuzzy for smaller items and hair looks like dark blobs. Much harder to make out say race car #’s. Still decent, but I need better for a lot of what I do. With Vue the problem I have is tons of goofy glitches and molasses operation with the firestick. I understand other devices like the fire box work better. Using either firefox or chrome has lots of player crashes and some stuttering that I am trying to fix on my pc. May be my setup but I am suspicious with the fact that all other streaming is fine. I know the firestick worked much quicker and better with Sling and any other content provider. So I believe that Vue’s setup is not working well with the firestick or with browsers. They are using adobe flash, the one that has always had these kind of problems and is dying a slow death as everyone moves away. They need to ditch that. I wish I could get YouTube TV to try that, but I am afraid that all of these services are going to end up finding a way to insert commercials that there is no way to get around. So we pay and still are forced into lots of loud obnoxious rude commercials. I really wish that cable would bring their prices in line and let me keep my real dvr. Near perfection with a wired connection and no need for extra speedier expensive net service and all of the glitches with that. At this point video and even phones are much better wired. Need lots of work to ever get that all working reliably.
Showtime Online has a unique service of being able to be added on to other services that you may already subscribe to. For $9 a month, it can be added to Amazon Prime and Hulu and for $11, Playstation Vue. Showtime offers you award-winning series like Dexter, Weeds and House of Lies as well as a large selection of movies including action, comedies and dramas added each month. The stand-alone service is $11 and it offers both live viewing and streaming.
But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.
Happily, the NFL has remained committed to airing local market and national games on free broadcast TV networks, so your TV antenna is going to provide ample football coverage! You'll get Sunday games, Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. The only thing missing is Monday Night Football, which is only available on ESPN. There's now a great solution for cord cutters to get ESPN at a low cost and we'll explain more in the Streaming Services section below.
Executives couldn't agree on how long to make old episodes available for subscribers. Some gave viewers only a day to catch up on a show they missed because the broadcasters had sold the reruns to another service. Others made past series available to subscribers for a month. Consumers became confused about where to go and how long they had to binge-watch a show. Some TV networks were slow to make their channels available online.
A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere. It’s easier than you may think, and you don’t have to give up much in the process. Here’s a series of guides to help you cut the cord and start saving money now.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
In hindsight, some TV executives believe the industry would be much healthier now if everyone—programmers and distributors—had agreed to make all episodes of shows available to cable subscribers on any device. That was the dream behind TV Everywhere, an idea hatched in 2009 by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. But in those crucial early days, TV Everywhere struggled to get off the ground.
Hey Matt, great question. Sling Box is not going to be related to Sling TV, and as far as I know there’s no benefit to having that box if you’re wanting to sign up for Sling TV. In terms of minimum internet speed, I would at least recommend 50mbps. That’s what I have at my house right now and it works the vast majority of the time; however, I think 100mbps would also be a much safer bet if you were looking for more constancy.
In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
Many cord cutters opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
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.
*To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.
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.
There are drawbacks, most having to do with content licensing restrictions. Netflix still has a good number of films in its vast library that are unavailable for streaming. With Hulu Plus, TV shows are generally embargoed until at least the day after their original network air dates. And there can also be restrictions on which seasons of a show are available. Perhaps most frustrating, licensing terms for some shows stipulate that while they can be watched on a computer or mobile device for free on Hulu's website, they are prohibited from being viewed on the TV even with a paid Hulu Plus subscription. But remember, an antenna gets you free OTA network channels, so if you're able to work your schedule around the networks' (like in the old days) you can minimize this inconvenience.
When we went through the ordering process for Spectrum and got all the way to the check-out, we realized we never got to choose which DVR we wanted. Spectrum offers both Motorola and Cisco DVRs (neither of which stand out from competitor DVRs like the Genie or Hopper 3), and as far as we can tell, you get whichever one Spectrum decides to send you.
Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
Before canceling your cable or satellite service, make sure your planned cord-cutting options will work for you. For the antenna option to work well, you need to be in a location where it is easy to receive over-the-air TV broadcast signals. A good idea is to connect an antenna to your TV and see what local channels you can receive. Also, check your smart TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or media streamer to see if they offer the streaming channels and services you desire.