Cable TV uses coaxial cables to transmit programming into your home. Because its infrastructure is underground, cable TV is generally less prone to service interruptions. Satellite TV delivers programming using antennas that receive signals from satellites orbiting in space. Satellite TV covers more locations than any other TV type and is available at most homes in the country.
Comcast has earned a reputation for bad customer service, but it has steadily improved its ratings year after year. Its ACSI score rose by eight points in just one year, from 54 out of 100 in 2015 to 62 out of 100 in 2016. This is an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation and will likely continue to progress. Though from 2017 to 2018, its rating did drop by one point.
Apple TV ($149 - $199): Similar to the Amazon Fire, the Apple TV is fantastic for dedicated Mac families, allowing them to sync programing between iPhones, iPads and laptops. Apple also has one of the better interfaces for finding and organizing content, with an app simply called “TV” that’s designed to function a lot like a DVR, keeping the latest episodes of your favorite shows in an easily accessible queue. Note: Netflix shows can be searched via the "TV" app, but they can't be added to its queue; users are simply redirected to the Netflix app.
Cable ISPs leverage some of the bandwidth they use to bring people television service to deliver data - thankfully without any noticeable negative impact to the former, in most cases. Cable is an always-on connection, which means that your modem is always in communication with your ISP, and it tends to be faster than DSL because your distance from the service provider isn't an issue. The only drawback of cable internet is that service delivery is sometimes less reliable during peak usage hours, as cable customers local to one another share their bandwidth.
CatchTV: Functionality requires a Gateway set-top-box, a media player for each additional TV, and an advanced cable modem. Promotional offer includes the rental of the Gateway for the first 12 months (normally $13/mo.) Media players for additional TVs are $6 each. Advanced cable modem costs $10 per month. $4.99 DVR Service fee applies. Standard fees apply at the end of the promotional period. Free Installation includes installation of the advanced cable modem, Gateway and up to 5 media players. In a case of non-standard wiring, installation fees may apply if determined by the technician at the time of installation. CatchTV requires customer to subscribe to qualifying Internet and TV service. CatchTV is not available in all areas. Other conditions may apply.
2010 was the first year that pay television saw quarterly subscriber declines. In the second quarter of 2012, Sanford Bernstein determined that losses took place in five quarters. Leichtman found that the decrease in pay subscriptions was not happening in large numbers. One reason was that some sports events, as well as other types of television (such as series airing on cable-originated networks), could not be seen online. Sanford Bernstein said the number of pay television subscribers increased by 677,000 during the first quarter of 2010, and a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News showed that 88% of people surveyed had such a service, and only 15% had considered going exclusively to web services. People under the age of 45, the survey said, were four times more likely to use the Internet only. To combat the trend, pay television providers were allowing people to stream television programs on desktop, laptop and tablet computers. Craig Moffett of Sanford C. Bernstein still stated that high prices and other methods would eventually drive customers away, calling cord cutting "perhaps the most overhyped and overanticipated phenomenon in tech history."
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller communities.
Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
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.
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.
Even if you’re only going to watch a few of these shows, the only way to do it is with a subscription, so buying just the programs you want to see isn’t an option this time. The same is true for another prestige network, HBO, which offers its shows exclusively through cable or a new $15 per month streaming option called HBO Now (unless, of course, you don’t mind waiting months to buy the latest of Game of Thrones episodes on iTunes). With these three services in hand, you should be able to fill in any gaps with a few single-season purchases.
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.
The gold medal for cheapest cable TV company is shared by AT&T and XFINITY. Both providers start their package pricing at $19.99/month. But while AT&T’s U-Basic TV package includes 15+ channels, XFINITY’s Digital Economy Package includes 100+. DIRECTV’s Select package comes in third place at $35/month for 155+ channels. (Note: Pricing and availability may change and can vary by location.)
Many TV providers only schedule installation appointments on weekdays, and they often can’t guarantee a timeframe for the technician to install your service. This can be frustrating if you work during the week or don’t have time to wait for the technician to arrive. With XFINITY, you can schedule a two-hour window for cable installation, and weekend appointments are available. If the technician is late, you get a $20 credit.
We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
Not quite, but close. What many people don’t realize is the NFL has a robust streaming service that broadcasts NFL games outside of the US. Anyone that’s lived abroad is familiar with it, but it’s still pretty rare for someone in the US to have heard of it. Since the NFL is selling it directly, they’re more than happy to let you sign up if you’re outside the US (and that’s the trick for you as the consumer to figure out). Is the NFL violating their license agreement with Dish Network who has exclusive rights over the NFL 1s and 0s broadcast in the US? Perhaps. The Supreme Court didn’t buy Aereo’s argument that an individual DVR recording live TV and sending it seconds later to the consumer didn’t violate copyright law. But this is a bit different since you’re paying the NFL directly, so they’re not going to complain about having their copyright violated. Again, it’s only Dish Network that likely feels their license is being violated. When the license expires, it’ll be interesting to see if the NFL thinks they can get more money from a provider like Dish or through selling the service directly themselves.
Those who want to see non-British foreign television have ample options, too. In addition to the aforementioned Acorn (which also features programs from Canada and Australia, among other countries), both MHz Choice and Walter Presents have well-curated collections of European series, with a particular emphasis on the many great Scandinavian crime dramas. And the increasingly popular TV coming out of South Korea is available on DramaFever, Viki, and Kocowa.
Those limitations have not stopped the segment from growing. Sling TV added 26,000 paying customers in the third quarter, bringing it to 2.37 million total customers. That's actually more than the roughly 1.8 million customers DISH has lost on satellite side, but the numbers are a bit deceiving since Sling -- even the more expensive packages -- generally costs much less than DISH's satellite service.