Many cord cutters opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
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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.
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.
A cancellation or early termination fee is a charge that occurs when you cancel your service before your contract is up. Usually, early termination fees are prorated, which means the amount you’ll pay depends on how many months are left in your contract. For example, if you cancel service six months into a 12-month contract and have a $120 cancellation fee that’s prorated at $10 per month, you’ll have to pay $60.
An HD antenna won’t give you all of the channels you would have access to if you purchased a cable subscription. However, it will increase the number of channels you can watch on local TV. And the one-time cost (as opposed to an ongoing monthly fee) means you’ll save money. It can be another attractive feature of using antennas to expand your viewing choices.
Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.
There are other TV providers, such as RCN, Mediacom, and Suddenlink, but we didn’t include them in the “Best Cable TV Providers” because either 1) they are not widely available or 2) they did not meet our criteria. We determined which cable TV providers are the best (or better than most) by comparing prices, contracts, fees, channels, DVRs, and availability.
Because Fios TV travels into the home via fiber-optic cables, you’re required to have a router to receive service. You can rent or buy one through Verizon, but both options can get pricey. Verizon does list two compatible routers (the Actiontec MI424WR Rev. 1 and Verizon Fios Quantum Gateway, Model G1100) at checkout, so if you already own one of those, you’re in luck.
Netflix is one of the best and most popular alternatives to cable TV to date. Easy to use and boasting a seemingly endless library of TV shows and movies to watch at your own pace, Netflix is a binge-watcher’s dream. This cable alternative can be viewed on any computer, smartphone, tablet, Smart TV, PlayStation, Xbox, Chromecast, or Blu-ray player. All you have to do is subscribe and pay a monthly fee for the package of your choosing. Not totally sold on it? No worries. They offer a free 30-day trial to get you started.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.