One of the great dreams of cord-cutting is that it will allow consumers to pick only the channels they actually want, rather than paying for programming they never watch. But the services above essentially operate more like traditional cable, providing packages of channels, not all of which are widely desirable. It’s unlikely that any one of these subscriptions will offer everything that a given consumer is looking for, and it will require viewers to scroll past a lot that they don’t.
Pros: The most consumer-friendly terms (up to six screens, no DVR storage limits), best program guide navigation, easiest one-click for adding shows to DVR record list. Terrific app that makes it easy to watch the TV shows from bedroom, living room, office, park – anywhere. Plus, if YouTube TV doesn't have your show, the main YouTube website probably does have some variation of it. There's enough to keep you busy for days. The No. 1 choice for cord cutters – unless you live in an Amazon world. In which case,, buy a Roku streaming stick and get YouTube that way. It's that good.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
Roku ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).
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.
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
TV providers are stepping up the game when it comes to DVR and television equipment capabilities. Scroll through thousands of on demand titles, record all of your favorite shows, and watch your stored recordings on multiple TV's at once: all from a single box. Specific recording features will vary by provider and receiver. The DIRECTV Genie is the premier HD DVR on the market. With Genie you can connect up to 8 TV's to a single DVR, record up to 5 HD programs at once, and browse through over 10,000 On Demand titles. Got home too late to catch that new episode of your favorite show that you've been waiting all week to see? No problem. You can rewind live TV up to 72 hours with Genie, so you'll never miss a premiere ever again. Control what your children can watch. Schedule or watch recordings from your laptop, tablet, or phone. Discover new programs that you'll love with Genie's personalized recommendation feature. The possibilities are endless! Make sure to check the fine print when it comes to equipment fees. Some providers include the DVR for free, while others charge a monthly fee.
DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
You will instantly get over 100 channels, and there are tons more that you can add along the way. PlayLater is software for your computer or mobile device that records streaming media, saving it to your device for future viewing. If you already have a streaming device or gaming console, you've already got most of the features offered by this software, but for $39.99 for lifetime access, you won't waste a lot of money trying it out.
When it comes to standalone streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV, your viewing experience is completely dependent on your internet connection. So if the internet goes down or there are a ton of people in your neighborhood online at the same time, your speeds might be slow. You'll likely experience buffering, lagging, or even a completely frozen screen. With cable TV, you'll never have to worry about missing a moment, because the connection doesn't rely on your internet. Don't be that guy that misses the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl: NO ONE wants to be that guy.
You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.