Sling is a good deal for serious TV fans, but if you’re not going to watch at least eight different shows on those channels per year, it’s cheapest to just get your Mad Men/Walking Dead fix by buying individual seasons on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video. That strategy, ironically, is pretty much what Dish Network’s chairman recommended back in 2012—before his company owned its own streaming business.
Slingbox – Originally the only way to enjoy SlingTV, Slingbox offers an integrated television and streaming solution in one package. Serious techies may enjoy the vast abilities of this box, but those with less technology comfort may are likely going to be happier with a simpler option like Roku or Chromecast. Slingbox allows you to stream your local cable TV to your phone or browser while away from home or stream SlingTV and other services. The most popular Slingbox is the M2 for $99. The more powerful Slingbox 500 runs $299.
Cable TV is what we have known for years. Only recently have we truly become acquainted with the ease of streaming video on demand. So what’s the difference? For starters, cable TV is easier for renters, doesn’t require a long-term contract, and isn’t affected by weather. Satellite, on the other hand, is cheaper and can be affected by weather. Satellite is available everywhere — you only need the sky. You can begin comparing satellite tv and cable tv right away. Here’s a list of satellite and cable tv pros to get you going:
The pioneer in this technology is Roku, which offers several boxes and streaming sticks to choose from. Additional options including Apple TV and Chromecast. I use a Chromecast myself, which is compatible with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, Google Play, and local media players Avia, and Plex. A Chromecast can also stream anything from a tab in the Chrome browser or any screen on an Android phone, opening up virtually the entire world of streaming video with a $35 HD streaming stick.
Netflix – Netflix has loads of content at a low price. Most TV shows wind up on streaming after a season airs. There are also movies and a whole host of children’s programming available. The pricing is reasonable at $8.99 a month for unlimited HD streaming to two TVs simultaneously. If you are comfortable waiting a few months for a TV series, Netflix may be all you need.
Not only do you have access to stream over 40,000 hit movies and TV shows, but you get free music, books, and unlimited photo storage as well. Your membership also includes free 2-day shipping from Amazon.com regardless of the order size. Some metropolitan areas offer 2-hour shipping. For more information, check out all the benefits you receive with Amazon Prime.
Los Angeles Spectrum gave us an online quote of $89.93 for entry-level TV service that includes 2 DVRs, but cautions that prices will go up by $4 in February, bringing the total to $93.93, before taxes. (We tried getting TV-only pricing from L.A. competitor Frontier, but the rep told us the company won't sell TV service without getting Internet as well.)
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?
ISP’s vary by location. I’m maintaining a list of providers with affordable internet only plans you can use to cut the cord. If you can’t find one on that page, try your existing provider. Now I know the “big” internet providers seem only to offer “triple play” packages bundling phone, TV, and internet. However, if you dig around on their site you should be able to find an internet service offering.
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With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air—you can watch it live like with cable or satellite, except you’re watching over the internet! The basic package includes 30 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, and Disney Channel. You can get a slightly different lineup of networks for $25, or get both for $40. There are also $5–10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones. So if ESPN is the only reason you’re clinging to your cable box, you may be out of excuses now!
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.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.
No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.
We think it’s worth the upgrade to the Hopper though, because along with all the other awesome Hopper features, DISH has integrated Amazon Alexa voice commands into its DVR experience. No longer must you sift through the couch-cushion chasms to find your lost remote. You can simply tell Alexa to turn on This Is Us and cry your eyes out with the rest of us.
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.
On November 28, 2011, a report by Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger said that young people who grew up accustomed to watching shows online would be less likely to subscribe to pay television services, terming these people as "cord-nevers". Anninger predicted that by the end of 2012, the industry's subscriber count would drop by 200,000 to 100.5 million; Anninger's report also stated that consumers were not likely to return to paying for television. In the case of land-line telephones, people had believed younger people would eventually get them, but now numerous subscribers only have mobile phones. Anninger predicted that the same would hold true for pay television, and that providers would need to offer lower-priced packages with fewer channels in order to reverse the trend. Also using the term "cord-nevers" was Richard Schneider, whose company Antennas Direct was selling antennas through the Internet. After a decade in business, the company was selling 600,000 antennas a year. However, Schneider said some people only knew of the Internet and services such as Netflix and were not even aware broadcast television even existed. In a speech on November 16, 2012, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said "cord nevers" did not see anything worth paying for.
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.
In March 2019, DirecTV Now became much, much less appealing than it was previously. Not only did corporate owner AT&T jack the price from $40 to $50 per month, it cut numerous key channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery and HGTV, from its base package. The upside is that HBO is included as part of the price. Getting a standalone HBO Now subscription costs $15 per month, so an increase of $10 to get HBO included is technically a $5 monthly discount. But it locks you into a bundle, just the kind of thing cord cutters want to avoid. On top of that, its DVR and app are a step behind most competitors.