I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
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.
The streaming service ESPN+ shouldn’t be mistaken as a straight out replacement of ESPN that’s available on cable TV, and some of the live TV streaming services listed above. But there’s a lot of live sports you can get for $5 per month. That includes daily coverage of Major League Baseball during the regular season. You’ll also get daily games during the regular season of the NHL.
Cable companies, of course, are freaking out: eMarketer says 22.2 million US adults cut the cord by the end of 2017, a trend that will continue for all age demographics below 55. In a November 2017 survey, Leichtman Research said that in the third quarter that year, the top six cable companies lost 290,000 subscribers, compared to 90,000 in Q3 of 2016. It's worse for the satellite providers Dish and DirecTV, which lost 475,000, while internet TV services (specifically via Sling TV and DirecTV Now) gained 536,000.
Pretty ubiquitous among the streaming hubs, Sony-owned Crackle offers an eclectic selection of content for free, mostly with ads. We are talking really bad commercials cut in at odd moments in movies—sometimes in the middle of a scene—as if an algorithm handles it rather than a human. The movies tend to be pretty craptacular with occasional gems. It's trying more and more to do original content, like TV show version of the movie Snatch, Start Up with Ron Perlman, and the new cop series The Oath with Sean Bean. It once could brag about having Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee but lost it to Netflix.
Plus, devices like AirTV or a computer set up with a tuner card and software like Plex can bring antenna channels to any of your other devices with very little setup required. Amazon is mixing things up with its Fire TV Recast, a "headless" box that can deliver live or DVR'd local TV to other screens in your house. The device launched November 14th, and the promise of Alexa-controlled viewing that stretches from your Fire TV stick, to an Echo Show, to iOS and Android phones running a Fire TV app, is a tantalizing one.
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