After Charter Communications recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, it rebranded as Spectrum and has worked to simplify its services. Unfortunately, that means you’ll only have one option if you just want cable TV. That one TV-only plan is called TV Select. It comes with at least 125 channels and about 46% of the most popular channels. Notable absences include E! and the Travel Channel, but otherwise you’ll be getting a fair number of major networks.
Streaming TV service Sling offers an impressive list of channels without cable on your TV, SlingBox, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, laptop, phone, or other internet connected device through Sling Television. The $40 per month Orange + Blue plan includes ESNP and NFL Network, along with many other channels such as Fox, Fox Sports, NBC, NBC SN, and ESPN2.
One of the more popular options for watching streamed TV shows leaves out the media streaming software and network media device altogether, and has you just connecting your desktop or laptop directly to your HDTV. With this option you all you need is a TV and a desktop or laptop with a video output. Our laptop has a HDMI output, so it works well to connect it to our HDTV if we want.
Whether the price is worth it is in the eyes of the beholder. Vue may not be the cheapest, but many users feel it is the best value according to anecdotal reports in various forums. That assessment is based on features, channel selection, user interface, DVR, etc. Regardless of which streaming service is chosen, the vast majority of cord cutters claim they are saving a bundle compared to traditional cable/satellite. As for Vue's competitors, by the time you include add-ons (e.g., sports and/or movie packages) and premium channels, are you really saving much? Some of the competition also charges extra for DVR usage, but not with Vue.
Credit: ShutterstockTom's Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)
Cable and satellite TV providers aren’t entirely to blame for this trend. The main reason they’re raising prices is because they’re being squeezed by TV networks, which themselves are seeking more money to make up for a shrinking subscriber base. Discovery’s most recent earnings report, for instance, notes that “increases in contractual affiliate rates were offset by a decline in subscribers,” while Disney’s latest report notes that revenue growth for Disney Channels was “due to contractual rate increases, partially offset by a decline in subscribers.” Meanwhile, we’ve seen Comcast force regional NBC sports into basic TV service from small cable providers, and ESPN demand higher prices even as ratings decline.
I NEVER thought I’d get rid of cable until I bought an old house that had never been wired for it. It was going to cost a lot more to have the whole house wired for the first time (versus just activating it) and having just bought a house, I didn’t really feel like spending extra money. I decided I’d wait six months or so until I got my savings built back up to a comfortable level and then go for it. That was almost two years ago and I haven’t missed cable for one moment.
What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage, and you can have up to six individual accounts. Thanks to a recent expansion, the service is now available in most national markets. With YouTube TV you also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. You can add Showtime for $7 per month, Starz for $9 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
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One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
Meet Netflix’s binge-worthy cousin — Hulu. Hulu is an incredible alternative to cable TV for many reasons including its one-of-a-kind exclusive shows. Choose from a full-stacked library of exclusive series, hit movies, Hulu Originals, and even live TV. This cable alternative can be viewed on any computer, smartphone, tablet, Samsung and LG smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku TVs, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and Echo Show. The Hulu subscription costs anywhere from $7.99 to $44.99 per month depending on whether or not you add live TV.
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.