Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.
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.
One more great selling point about YouTube TV is they now stream all their channels at 60 FPS. What is FPS? Frames per second (FPS) tells you how many times the image on your screen is refreshed every second. The more frames, the smoother the image looks. For a scripted drama, 30 FPS will look great; however, for programs involving speed, such as sports, 60 FPS makes the action look significantly smoother onscreen.
Apple TV: Like Roku, Apple TV is a streaming box that plugs into your TV. It has a great integration with iTunes, and supports many additional services including live TV stations through DirecTV Now. Apple TV also works with tons of services including Netflix and SlingTV. Expand on your entertainment with this device’s gaming capabilities, including the ability to work with an external gaming controller. Apple TV comes in two versions that cost $149 and $199 respectively.
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
This type of service is also used to circumvent sports network blackouts or simply to mask your identity online from would-be identity thieves. Of course, check with your content provider’s terms of service to make sure you are not breaking any end-user agreements. To learn the differences between a Smart DNS and VPN check out my post on VPN vs Smart DNS.
The early systems simply received weak (broadcast) channels, amplified them, and sent them over unshielded wires to the subscribers, limited to a community or to adjacent communities. The receiving antenna would be higher than any individual subscriber could afford, thus bringing in stronger signals; in hilly or mountainous terrain it would be placed at a high elevation.
Philo ($16/mo. - $20/mo.): This new cut-rate service is cheap for a reason: It eliminates all sports, major networks and premium movie channels, delivering instead what amounts to a stripped-down basic cable package with the likes of History Channel, A&E and TV Land. Philo also has limited DVR storage and can be watched on multiple devices simultaneously. It’s a good starter option for people who want a solid array of traditional cable channels to supplement with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now and others.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
Many plans include extra 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, are a little more unusual. Always check with a sales representative and review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Picking the right cable TV provider can be a challenge, but we've done our best to make the process as easy as possible for you. Some factors to consider when choosing a provider are your monthly budget, which channels and programs you want in your package, length of contract, and availability of TV and internet bundles or discounts. Let's say you're a movie fanatic and you want to have access to all the best movie channels without breaking the bank. Spectrum may be your best option for cable TV. If you're a die hard sports fan, you'll want channels like ESPN, the Big Ten Network, and the NFL Network. DIRECTV has the largest variety of these sports networks, along with NFL Sunday Ticket, so this provider's satellite TV packages are a great option.
Typical speeds (speeds that most users can expect during peak usage) are almost always lower than the maximum advertised speed across all providers. Cable providers in particular tend to have lower actual speeds than advertised. Speeds will vary by location. When you enter your zip code above you'll see actual vs. advertised speed for each provider in your area.
What you get: The Hulu With Live TV service offers about 60 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu is joining most of the other cable-style services with a $5-per-month price hike. When it kicks in at the end of February, the service will cost $45 per month. A second option, without ads, goes up to $51 per month, a $7 increase. Both services combine everything you get in the regular Hulu plan with the additional channels available on Hulu With Live TV.
Comcast reported a loss of 275,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, bringing the total for the calendar year to 625,000. The company said most of these losses were not from people leaving for another service. Moffett pointed out that cable companies needed to offer lower-cost packages, but a survey by Strategy Analytics revealed financial considerations were not the primary reason. People were not satisfied with what they could get, and online sources had a wider array of content. The survey showed that 13% of cable subscribers intended to cancel service in the next year. Slightly more than half were under the age of 40, and nearly all had a high school education. Two-thirds had or planned further schooling, and just over half earned at least $50,000 a year.
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.
Los Angeles Spectrum gave us an online quote of $89.93 for entry-level TV service that includes 2 DVRs, but cautions that prices will go up by $4 in February, bringing the total to $93.93, before taxes. (We tried getting TV-only pricing from L.A. competitor Frontier, but the rep told us the company won't sell TV service without getting Internet as well.)
The abbreviation CATV is often used for cable television. It originally stood for Community Access Television or Community Antenna Television, from cable television's origins in 1948. In areas where over-the-air TV reception was limited by distance from transmitters or mountainous terrain, large "community antennas" were constructed, and cable was run from them to individual homes. The origins of cable broadcasting for radio are even older as radio programming was distributed by cable in some European cities as far back as 1924.
Google was comparatively late to the game, but YouTube TV is now our favorite live TV streaming service in this price range. The main reason is because it's the cheapest of the four to offer local channels, and its local channel coverage includes all four locals in most areas of the country. It also has the best DVR of the bunch, including unlimited storage, with one catch: If an episode you've recorded appears in YouTube TV's VOD library, it gets replaced by the on-demand version -- so you lose the ability to fast-forward through commercials. Its interface is no-nonsense, even drab, and yet it offers most of the features a cable service can give you. And unlike Sling and others, it's dead simple: one package, one price, done.