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.
Roku: The original streaming box, Roku now comes in several shapes and sizes and is even built in to some smart TVs. The the Roku box and Roku streaming stick play a long list of “channels” including Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, and others. For users looks to keep a traditional TV viewing experience with a remote, the Roku box is the best option. The streaming sticks currently costs around $30 while the 4k enabled Roku Ultra runs around $120. Both are available at Amazon and other retailers. On a personal note, I used to use Roku players on both TVs, but have since replaced them with Chromecasts.
By comparison, traditional TV providers face a huge risk in diverging from the status quo. Just look at what’s happening with DirecTV and Dish Network: Both companies dove headfirst into streaming with DirecTV Now and Sling TV respectively, yet those services aren’t drawing enough subscribers to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of customers now fleeing satellite TV every quarter.
The price writ in foot-tall gold letters on promotional material is likely not the price you’ll end up paying. We dug into the fine print to uncover potential rate increases after promotional periods end and extra costs like installation fees, activation fees, early termination fees, and equipment fees. Even if a provider’s advertised monthly rate is low, your bill will likely end up being higher, and information on additional fees typically isn’t easy to find on a provider’s website. We found the cheapest TV providers by basing our comparisons on those actual, final costs.
The lowest pricing tier here offers standard definition streaming on one screen at a time. Mid-tier adds High Def and would allow you to watch a Netflix show on your TV at the same time that another family member was watching something different on his or her own device. The top tier includes 4K streams and covers four screens for simultaneous viewing.
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.
Pay-Per-View (PPV): Customer can use parental controls to restrict programming or filter by rating. Event schedules subject to change. All events air on specified TV channel. PPV can only be ordered through the on-screen guide. Once ordered, a PPV event cannot be cancelled by remote control or TDS customer support. Customer will be billed regardless of whether an event was watched. PPV events have a specific start and end time so customers need to view the event in the timeframe purchased. Must be 18 or older to order adult programming. Other wiring, installation, and equipment charges may apply.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
The rapid rise of incredible TV content has also paved the way for new methods of plugging in to it. Gone are the days when you would stick an antenna on your roof and watch whatever was broadcast from the free-to-air networks. Today, the best TV is streamed over the internet and watched on-demand. Watch whatever you like, whenever you want to watch it.
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.
Your Local Library: Your local library will most likely have a decent selection of DVD movies that you can check out for a week or more. In fact, many libraries will actually buy copies of new releases that you can reserve. My local library tends to be a bit picked over, but if you get on a waiting list you can usually find movies or TV shows you’d enjoy watching.
What you get: The sports-centric Fubo now offers about 75 channels for the base $45-per-month package, or more than 90 channels with the new $50-per-month Fubo Extra plan. With Fubo you get a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (A&E, Bravo, FX, SyFy, USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, NBA TV). The company recently reached a deal to add Viacom channels (including BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1) to the base plan, and some additional ones as part of Fubo Extra. You now get Turner channels, too, plus sports programming such as the MLB on TBS and the NBA on TNT. Also in the mix: a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. The service comes with a free cloud DVR that lets you store 30 hours of shows, movies, and games.
Neither of us have ever watched sports, so that make it easier. I didn’t have cable growing up. The first year or two we were married, we would get the 3 month trials. We haven’t had it at all for the last 12 years. Beings we never had it for more than a few months, I can’t really say I miss it. Our company keeps calling us because it would only be $10 a month more to add channels. But there is no way I would want to fight that battle with my kids. After our 6 week trip (with no netflix), I have managed to keep screen time for the oldest two under 25 minutes a day. And my youngest have forgotten about it all together! At this point, I don’t know if they could pay me to get channels.
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
I saw somewhere online that there is a free streaming service that offered nearly 200 channels for free. Why do You not include that service in Your overview? You are right about Direct T.V. That's what I have now and it is EXPENSIVE and a terrible service. I am hell bent on getting rid of it. I just can't decide whether to go with streaming or a cable service. How dependable are the steaming services?