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.
Hulu is one of the most affordable alternatives to cable and satellite tv. Not only is there original content, but you can also view shows from local channels and some cable networks soon after they air. The baseline service comes in at a reasonable $8 per month, though you do have to tolerate some highly repetitive ads if you choose this option. If the ads get under your skin, for a $12 a month, you can upgrade to the commercial-free service.
The different types of television available to you will vary by location. For the most part, cable TV can be delivered through 3 different types of connections: wired, satellite, or online streaming. A wired cable connection delivers all of the shows that you love through copper and fiber-optic cables that are strung along telephone poles or buried underground. The second option for cable TV delivery is a satellite connection. This is a great choice for rural residents, as telephone lines and underground cables are limited in remote locations. Satellite TV is also a great option in highly populated areas, thanks to its widespread availability, diverse channel offerings, and competitive pricing. The last option for watching cable TV is through online streaming. TV streaming has become popular due to the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. Many of the nation's top cable TV providers now offer streaming services in their packages, so you can get all of the shows that you want. Whatever it is that you need, we're here to make sure you find the best TV provider and plan that fits your budget and preferences.
I’ve been thinking about cutting the cord when my current contract expires. I see that there are definitely savings to be had. The one thing holding me back is access to live sports (mostly college football in the fall). I could see purchasing a digital antenna to pick up the games on the broadcast channels but what suggestions are there in regards to ESPN or Big 10 Network?
Some 33 million people ditched their cable or satellite subscription in 2018, according to researcher eMarketer, up from 24.9 million in 2017. People got tired of paying to watch so many channels they didn't care about or being stuck in bundles that didn't matter to them. And need we mention the ever-rising prices of cable and new fees like $10 a month for broadcast TV, $8.50 for sports and more?
That's the new $6-a-month increase the Disney/Comcast/AT&T-owned service told customers about this week for its ad-free, top tier of service. Not that the ad-supported version is immune. That's going up $5 to $45 a month. This comes just shortly after Netflix raised its rates for 2019, although not as dramatically as Hulu, averaging around $2 more monthly. Or put annually, that's $72 more for Hulu and $24 more for Netflix.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
Internet speeds vary by type of internet, location and ISP provider. The fastest internet speeds come with fiber internet from providers such as AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, and can reach up to 1,000 Mbps or higher. Unfortunately, these speeds are only available in select markets for now. That means cable internet and DSL internet providers are the best choice for most internet users in the U.S. who need high-speed internet plans.
The option that has become the standard at our house for watching TV, movies via Netflix and a variety of other sources is a software called PlayOn. PlayOn is basically a media streaming software that will pull the video streams from sites like Hulu.com, Youtube.com, network websites, MLB.TV, Netflix, Amazon Video and others and allow you to stream them over the home network, to a network media player attached to your TV.
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.
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.
If any of these options think they are worthy to cause one to cut the cord they are all sadly mistaken. Once you add the total cost these options charge, just to get the more highly desirable stations most people expect, you run into limitations: how many devices you can stream simultaneously, how much bandwidth you would need to even maintain stability, and how much more speed you’ll have to pay for with your internet provider to get it. It’s almost as if they are pushing potential cord cutters right back to their cable providers. Not to mention, Comcast/Xfinity, as much as I despise them, gives more reasonable offers for less cost, with anywhere DVR – both local and cloud based.
For $40 per month, you get access to 60+ channels including locals, news, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, Syfy, National Geographic and more. Now, channel lineups will change slightly depending on where you live (local and regional sports being the ones that will be different). You can see exactly which channels are available in your area by visiting TV.YouTube.TV and entering your zip code.
XFINITY lets you bundle TV with home phone, internet, and home security services. Bundling TV with other services delivers better value and makes it easier to keep track of how much you spend each month on utilities. XFINITY has Double Play (TV and internet), Triple Play (TV, internet, home phone) and Quad Play (TV, internet, home phone, home security) bundles. Each bundle type offers at least two package options to choose from, so you can find the right fit for your household and budget.
PlayStation Vue is a streaming service similar to Sling TV, offering channels like AMC, TBS, Syfy and much more. However, this service starts at $44.99 per month. Check out this comparison of Sling TV Channels vs. PS Vue for the difference in each services channel lineup. You don’t need a PlayStation gaming console to use the service either. While the service is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, you can also use the service with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Android, iPad, and iPhone. Check out my review of PlayStation Vue for more details.
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.
Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
Committing to a long term contract can be scary, especially when you're not sure what your budget is going to look like in the next few months. Luckily, there are providers that offer “no commitment” options, so you won't be tied down by a contract. Providers like Spectrum even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide the service isn't worth the price, they'll give your money back: no questions asked and no hassle. If you're already stuck in a long-term contract from a previous cable provider with early termination fees, not to worry! Spectrum even offers to buy you out of your previous contract for up to $500, so you can get out of your commitment at no extra cost.
We looked closely at the ratings and scores by Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. Each of these groups rate cable companies on customer satisfaction, with some breakout categories like performance, value, communications, billing, and technical support. Companies that score well with these consumer resources are more likely to resolve issues, clearly communicate changes in billing, and consistently provide reliable television service.
Whether the price is worth it is in the eyes of the beholder. Vue may not be the cheapest, but many users feel it is the best value according to anecdotal reports in various forums. That assessment is based on features, channel selection, user interface, DVR, etc. Regardless of which streaming service is chosen, the vast majority of cord cutters claim they are saving a bundle compared to traditional cable/satellite. As for Vue's competitors, by the time you include add-ons (e.g., sports and/or movie packages) and premium channels, are you really saving much? Some of the competition also charges extra for DVR usage, but not with Vue.
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.
I saw somewhere online that there is a free streaming service that offered nearly 200 channels for free. Why do You not include that service in Your overview? You are right about Direct T.V. That's what I have now and it is EXPENSIVE and a terrible service. I am hell bent on getting rid of it. I just can't decide whether to go with streaming or a cable service. How dependable are the steaming services?
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.
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over the air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10. See our comparison of indoor antennas here.