The only major broadcast channel to offer a live channel a la carte, this service offer live local TV from just one channel -- CBS, duh -- in some cities, in addition to video-on-demand and exclusive content such as Star Trek: Discovery. The on-demand stuff had ads, but you can get an ad-free option for $10 a month. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by CBS.)
If you’re a cable company, such as Comcast or Charter, it’s much easier to stay the course and extract maximum value from a steadily dwindling subscriber base, especially when the internet side of the business is more profitable and still growing. While cable companies have put forth some modest attempts at cheaper streaming packages, including Charter’s Spectrum TV Choice and Comcast’s Xfinity Instant TV, they’re generally not marketed toward existing TV customers, and they’re not especially appealing anyway. Spectrum’s streaming service, for instance, lacks DVR, and Comcast’s service quickly becomes pricier than other services if you want more than just local channels.
Most providers heavily encourage bundling your telecommunication services; phone, internet, and sometimes home security. Some providers, like Comcast and Cox, give you wide range of TV and internet options that you can purchase independently. Others, like Charter Spectrum, only offer one TV package without bundling. If you choose Mediacom, you won’t have an option at all, as all its TV plans require an internet bundle. On the plus side: By bundling, you’re likely to save an average of $20 to $30 for each service.
In a move that I’m fairly certain violated their rules (I live dangerously), we used the service at the rental in the summer, and in our home the rest of the year. Now that we have sold the home, the need for the Dish has vanished. This August, our contract was up. I was ready to cut the cord once and for all. Here’s what our bill looked like, without any premium channels.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.
There isn’t a single offering out there that makes any sense for most family homes. None. 5 TVs can easily get the complete Comcast lineup of TV stations, including all of their premium channels, plus anywhere DVR hardware to boot. Additionally, if the cost was itemized apart from the Comcast Voice, and GB internet they give me, I am paying WAY, WAY less than any streaming service out there. That just plain sucks because not one other provider is available where I am, so the competition is non-existent. I, for one, think Comcast is over-priced. But, based on what I would have to pay to get what I want in a cord cutting option, I would be even worst off. These alternatives are only beneficial for single TV homes.
If you're purchasing satellite TV, a professional will come to your home and set up a dish on the roof or balcony. This installation process tends to take longer than it would for cable or fiber TV because of the large equipment that's required. You can expect the installer to be at your home for several hours, whereas cable installation typically only takes 1-3 hours. Take advantage of that time by asking any questions you might have about how your new TV connection works. The installer will be happy to help! DIRECTV installation comes free with all of the provider's packages. Many customers can even opt for next-day installation. However, if you want to start watching your favorite shows before your installation process, with DIRECTV you can! As soon as your order has been confirmed, you can log into the DIRECTV app and start watching from your mobile device. The installation process for cable or fiber TV will be relatively easy if your home already has a cable or fiber connection from past service.
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.
Yeah, we had loading problems with Sling and it would often, maybe even a majority of the time, default to low res which was literally painful to watch. My eyes kept straining like it was their fault that everything was blurry. We called Comcast and they gave us a better price so DH and I just met in the middle with cheaper cable. The marginal cost is actually quite low as we bundle with internet. Though I guess they aren’t bundle pricing any more so he and I may need to renegotiate when our price is up.
Vue may be more expensive in your area if you have more local channels. In our area the cheapest bundle is $29.99, and I’m on the expanded $34.99 package with regional sports networks. In some markets the cost may be higher if you have local channels included in the package – in my market only 2 local channels are included, and as such the cost is less.
The Internet is your friend. As long as you have an internet connection, you can still watch some television. Many of the TV networks post videos of their shows on their websites which are available to watch for free. There are a number of other websites which provide hundreds of television series links, and allow you to browse the shows and watch all from their website. Some of the sites provide the service for free, while others charge a few bucks a month to users but either way, you’re going to save a lot of money compared to your existing cable bill.
Streaming live TV can be less expensive than traditional cable packages. Sites like Netflix and Hulu are giving traditional TV a run for its money (or your money, rather) but TV is catching up. DIRECTV, for one, now offers live TV streaming packages at competitive rates. When you cut the cord, you typically also cut out contracts and the need for equipment, making for a lower monthly bill. (Thinking of taking the leap? Check out our review of The Best TV Streaming Services.)
Don’t let them tell you that you need more! If you buy the Rokus(maybe the firestick works too?) and hook them up to tvs in your house, you can avoid the fees for the stupid little boxes that you have to rent now for digital cable. You just download the time warner app on the roku and enter your timewarner/spectrum id and password and all your channels are there!
There’s a good chance you won’t have more than two options for your cable TV service. Providers have limited competition by avoiding regions with existing monopolies. We favored cable providers with widespread available that were the most likely to be available to you. Local and more regional providers (like WOW! or Cincinnati Bell), score great in customer service but offer service in fewer than 10 states. If you happen to live somewhere with a local provider, it’s still worth considering.
I have not had cable for almost 7 years now. I do not even miss it. Television is a good distraction but than there is also YouTube and Netflix. Just sayin. Also, I find that I am a lot more active when I am not constantly wanting to keep up with the next series of shows. If I had cable now, I would probably be following like 6 shows. I don’t have time for that nor do I want to devote any time for that. It is a personal choice I guess. But yah, cut the cord a long time ago.
A typical triple play bundle package that includes home phone, satellite TV, and a high-speed reliable internet connection costs approximately 30 to 50 percent less than purchasing each one of these services separately. Over the course of a year or two, this will certainly be a blessing to you, as you will be able to save hundreds of dollars in the meantime.
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.
We watch hulu and subscribe to Netflix for the streaming video, and have not had cable in about 6 years. We have an antenna to pick up the local channels and we also make the most of our library card (so that’s what our $70/year property tax bill library line item is paying for!). I really like the Netflix just for kids channel, it makes it a no-brainer to decide what is/isn’t age appropriate for little ones. We are not big sports fans (would rather be out playing them than inside watching it on TV), but if there’s ever a game worth watching like the Superbowl or Olympics we can either go to a friend’s house or the sportsbar down the street to watch some of it.
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.
For more package options (and more channels) with Charter Spectrum, you’ll have to bundle with internet and phone service. Those bundles come at a fair price though, and include free installation (normally $35), WiFi set up (typically $10), and DVR service ($13 per month). That’s a potential savings upwards of $200 in one year. Spectrum also includes HD channels free of charge.
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
When it comes to standalone streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV, your viewing experience is completely dependent on your internet connection. So if the internet goes down or there are a ton of people in your neighborhood online at the same time, your speeds might be slow. You'll likely experience buffering, lagging, or even a completely frozen screen. With cable TV, you'll never have to worry about missing a moment, because the connection doesn't rely on your internet. Don't be that guy that misses the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl: NO ONE wants to be that guy.
To start, the quality of the video you get depends on the available bandwidth, which can vary with the number of users in your neighborhood who are on the same connection you’re using. So you may get a great picture late in the evening or early morning but find that it isn’t quite as good right after dinner, when more people are watching. Companies such as Netflix will dynamically adjust the quality of the video based on the speed of your connection, and they may downgrade the quality of the video to avoid it freezing or pixelating.
What you get: With recently 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. Sling is currently running a promotion that gives you either the Blue or Orange plans for $15 a month, or the combined plan for $25 a month, for the first three months.
It is obviously much cheaper than cable or satellite, but don’t expect Netflix to serve up the latest episodes of your favorite shows, or recent release movies. Netflix is best for catching up on the shows you missed. That said, Netflix has started producing its own shows and is the only place you can watch them. You can begin your access to Netflix streaming by first comparing the right broadband internet provider or data plan.
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.
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.