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.
Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.
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.
Parks Associates estimated that in 2008, about 0.9 million American households relied entirely on the Internet for television viewing; by 2017, this figure had increased to 22.2 million. Leichtman Research Group found that six percent of Americans watched at least one show online each week in 2008, a figure that grew to eight percent in 2009. The number of Americans subscribing to cable service increased two percent in 2008, but the growth had slowed. Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. found that in the fourth quarter of 2008, the increase was seven-tenths of one percent, or 220,000 homes, the lowest ever recorded. A Centris report showed that 8% of Americans expected to cancel their pay television service by the third quarter of 2009. About half of Americans tried to get a better deal from a provider other than the one they were subscribed to. Amazon Video, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube, made cancelling service possible for those who would be unable to see their favorite programs over the air. Sports programming was a big reason for not cancelling pay television service, although online options existed for many events. Another problem was the inability to watch many programs live, or at least soon enough in the case of a television series.
Those increases aren’t always obvious to customers, either. In November, Charter raised Spectrum’s “Broadcast TV” surcharge from $9 to $10 per month, increased cable box fees from $7 to $7.50 per month, hiked digital adapter fees from $5 to $6 per month, and reduced the discount for bundling TV with internet by $5 per month. Charter plans to tack another $2 per month onto its “Broadcast TV” fee in March, bringing the surcharge price to $12 per month. Spectrum’s advertised pricing doesn’t reflect most of those rate increases.
Cable, from providers such as XFINITY, Spectrum and Cox, is likely available in your area. DSL is another commonly available internet service, from providers including AT&T, Verizon and Frontier. Fiber technology is available primarily in select metro areas and include providers such as CenturyLink and AT&T. Rural areas will likely have the fewest internet options and may only be eligible for satellite internet providers such as HughesNet. Use Allconnect to find out which internet options are available in your area.
Given that the average cost of TV service in the United States is around $100 per month, cutting the cord starts to look like a pretty attractive option. Even if you’re just replacing a cable bundle with a live TV streaming service such as YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, you could still potentially chop your TV bill in half. Unlike traditional cable or satellite TV, these services achieve lower prices by cutting out certain channels and not making customers rent expensive set-top boxes. They also subsist on slimmer or nonexistent profit margins while trying to build a larger audience for targeted ads. Because these services have lots of competition—both from other live TV providers and from on-demand services such as Netflix—the pressure’s on to keep prices low.
PlayStation Vue has an "evolved" interface that is also easy to use once you get the hang of it, but can have a learning curve. Its DVR is excellent, with unlimited storage and the ability to skip commercials on any show -- although unlike YouTube TV, shows in Vue's DVR are deleted after 28 days. The biggest knock is that it's one of the most expensive basic packages, but it has fewer channels than any of the Big Five, aside from Sling TV and DirecTV Now. You don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it -- just like the others, Vue has apps for numerous streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, as well as phones and PCs -- but a PS4 is the only way to get its sweet multiscreen view.