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.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
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.
Navigate Computer With Mouse & Keyboard: You connect your computer to the HDTV (for the big screen) and then proceed to go to your favorite websites like hulu.com, Netflix and others (see some options above) to view your shows. You can use the Hulu Desktop application. You can also watch shows that you've downloaded from Amazon, Itunes or other online video sources – or your own videos. You will most likely need a wireless keyboard and mouse to make this easy – although it isn't required.
Customer service is fairly average, with a rating of 60 out of 100 from the ACSI and 59 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. This can be attributed to the fact that you’ll likely have to call to get any information and access to more plan options. Those plans might include a Frontier Prime plan, that has 60% of the most popular channels. It only skips out on HBO, Nick at Nite, and other premium networks.
Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR. Its channel count is solid, but YouTube TV at $5 less is a better value if you don't care about Hulu's catalog.