Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
There are a lot of options out there to stream your favorite shows. Don’t feel overwhelmed. They all offer free trials and no contract. There is no risk to try them out. Don’t overthink ditching your traditional pay TV provider. Try cutting the cord. If you discover it isn’t for you, I’m sure your cable company will be more than happy to take your money again.
After the 1-week free trial, the service costs $44.99 per month. You can opt to just subscribe to the Hulu library instead of the Live TV service for just $7.99. Hulu also offers loads of original content and a decent back catalog of many past seasons of cable and network TV shows. You can test the live service or the on-demand service by using this 1-week free trial to Hulu Live TV. For more details check out my full review of Hulu.
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.
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.
You forgot Playstation Vue. It’s way better than Sling (Sling’s app is terrible), has full function cloud DVR and OnDemand access, and has access to local Comcast SportsNet channels (DirecTV Now doesn’t in Philly). I’ve been using Vue for 6 months and I did a trial of DirectTV Now and Sling. DirecTV probably has the best app (Amazon Fire), but Vue has the best content if you’re a sports fan. Sling is a distant 3rd, worst app and worst performance.
There are two major types of antennas - indoor types, which are placed inside your home next to your TV set, and outdoor antennas, which are mounted on the roof. Generally, outdoor antennas will have better reception and give a clearer picture. However, if you live in a strategic location close to the broadcast towers, you can still get a good signal even with an indoor antenna.
You do need to have Internet in order to take advantage of a lot of streaming options like Netflix, Playstation Vue, Direct TV Now and others. If, however, you only need broadcast channels you can get an antenna and/or an over-the-air DVR, and watch broadcast TV only. As far as finding cheap internet, a lot of the time you’re subject to what options you have in your area. IN my area I have two providers that I usually go back and forth between finding the best deal and sticking with it for a couple of years. Good luck!
If the primary purpose of your cord cutting is to cut back on spending, why not watch for free? Yes, you heard that right. With PlutoTV you can watch live TV, On Demand movies, and trending videos on the internet for free. Although this cable alternative doesn’t offer any major network channels, it does offer more than 40 live channels including live sports, and 15+ music streaming channels. You can also enjoy their exclusive PlutoTV sitcoms and even a Spanish language channel.
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
With just an antenna, you'll lose out on having a DVR to record shows, which is a cable perk, but there's ways around this. You can buy a stand-alone DVR. The AirTV sells for $120, but you'll need the antenna, a streaming player and an external hard drive to make it work, and that will bring the price to over $200. Amazon's own Fire TV Recast DVR is $229, and again you'll need a Fire TV or the Echo Show speaker as well to make it work. The unit has a built in hard drive, but you'll need to have a streaming player and/or antenna as well.
What you don’t get: Live TV still isn’t available in some smaller markets, and the new plans eliminate some popular networks that were available under the older plans, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, and Viacom. Those who subscribed before the change are allowed to keep their current plan and channel lineup, but are subject to the $10-a-month price hike.
Verizon Fios: The great thing about Verizon Fios is their fibre-optic network. The advantage of fibre-optic is that they're able to carry much more data than traditional copper or coaxial cable, theoretically making their internet speeds faster. Their connections also have symmetrical speed, which means the speed is the same whether you're downloading or uploading. This can be useful for people who upload a lot of data online.
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.
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee Offer: Limited-time offer. If you are not completely satisfied with your TDS experience within the first 30 days, TDS will give you your money back for services billed within the 30-day window. Customer must provide notice of disconnection prior to 30 days after installation and request the "Money Back Offer" at time of disconnection. Pay-per-view charges, international calling charges and charges for unreturned equipment will not be refunded. Offer is limited to new TDS customers without TDS service in the past 12 months, or existing customers with newly added TDS core services; phone, TV, and/or internet. To qualify, you must not have had the applicable TDS core service in the past 12 months. Offer cannot be combined with the Video or High Speed Internet Switching Cost Reimbursement Offers. Please allow 6-8 weeks for refund delivery. Offer cannot be utilized multiple times.
Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.
Expand your cable TV options to include specialty tiers. The Sports Tier includes up to nine channels of action, scores, and highlights. The Latino Tier gives you up to seven channels with Spanish-Language programming. With the Family Tier, add up to 50 channels with a wide variety of programming. The News Tier provides four channels with the latest from some of the world’s top news outlets.
For when I have the urge, I have the Network stations, youtube, and Netflix. When I get done with these, I’m often struck with a visual hangover. I’m finding that when it comes to actually getting something of substance, it’s really hard to beat the good old fashioned library book (unless you have a specific question, and then Youtube can work its magic). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book from the 80s or 90s, and then the same concepts explained in the books I’ve chosen to read are explained without being updated very much on the news or in the current memes (ie: The income inequality gap has been unacceptably large for decades, and that was mainstreamed just a few months ago. Also, a lot of the fiscal meltdowns we faced recently were predicted for our times in the ’90s.) Not to mention: In my city, all the art museums are free, and typically smaller museums are only $5 to $7 for a few hours of entertainment.
Start with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, tack on an HBO subscription to the latter, and consider paying for the Brit-centric streaming service Acorn as well. You’ll have plenty to watch, all commercial-free, and if you hear a lot of buzz about a show that isn’t available through any of those platforms, you can always pay for them on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon (or iTunes, Vudu, or whichever digital retailer you prefer).