You simply can't get the live sports experience with internet based streaming services that you can get from cable TV. Don't believe us? We'll give you an example. Let's say you're watching the Super Bowl on your favorite streaming service. There's 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and your team is about to score the winning touchdown. Suddenly, the screen freezes. Now you're stuck screaming at your laptop or TV, not knowing if your team won the biggest game of the entire season. (And yes, this has actually happened before).
We watch hulu and subscribe to Netflix for the streaming video, and have not had cable in about 6 years. We have an antenna to pick up the local channels and we also make the most of our library card (so that’s what our $70/year property tax bill library line item is paying for!). I really like the Netflix just for kids channel, it makes it a no-brainer to decide what is/isn’t age appropriate for little ones. We are not big sports fans (would rather be out playing them than inside watching it on TV), but if there’s ever a game worth watching like the Superbowl or Olympics we can either go to a friend’s house or the sportsbar down the street to watch some of it.
PlayStation Vue is a streaming service similar to Sling TV, offering channels like AMC, TBS, Syfy and much more. However, this service starts at $44.99 per month. Check out this comparison of Sling TV Channels vs. PS Vue for the difference in each services channel lineup. You don’t need a PlayStation gaming console to use the service either. While the service is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, you can also use the service with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Android, iPad, and iPhone. Check out my review of PlayStation Vue for more details.
Prime Video enables you to watch an extensive library of both movies and TV shows for just $8.99 per month, after a 30-day free trial. You can also subscribe to more than 100 premium channels, including HBO, Showtime and Starz, as well as dozens of regular TV channels. However, unlike regular cable TV, you only have to pay for the channels that you actually watch.
The Amazon Fire TV specs are enough to allow for playing over 300 console and PC Games. If you are a gamer and want to stream games, then this is the one to get. The Fire is rooted in the Amazon Prime service and if you don’t plan on using Amazon Instant Video then the Fire TV may not be for you. You get 1 month of Amazon Prime free if you want to give the service a try.
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.
Coaxial cables are capable of bi-directional carriage of signals as well as the transmission of large amounts of data. Cable television signals use only a portion of the bandwidth available over coaxial lines. This leaves plenty of space available for other digital services such as cable internet, cable telephony and wireless services, using both unlicensed and licensed spectrum. Broadband internet access is achieved over coaxial cable by using cable modems to convert the network data into a type of digital signal that can be transferred over coaxial cable. One problem with some cable systems is the older amplifiers placed along the cable routes are unidirectional thus in order to allow for uploading of data the customer would need to use an analog telephone modem to provide for the upstream connection. This limited the upstream speed to 31.2k and prevented the always-on convenience broadband internet typically provides. Many large cable systems have upgraded or are upgrading their equipment to allow for bi-directional signals, thus allowing for greater upload speed and always-on convenience, though these upgrades are expensive.
Fire TV: Amazon’s Fire TV is the retailer’s foray into TV connected devices. Fire TV is an external box that supports 4k video and integrates with Alexa. In addition to Amazon’s streaming video service, it supports Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV, HBO Go, and many more. In my experience, Amazon devices are great for those entrenched in the Amazon ecosystem, but the user interfaces are not as friendly as competing devices. Fire TV costs $90 at Amazon.
Fiber-Optic TV is one of the newest types of television technology. Light travels through glass or plastic cables to deliver all of your favorite channels. These cables are much stronger than the copper cables used for cable TV, and they can transmit data across further distances while still maintaining the same high quality picture and sound. Fiber is typically the most reliable option, because the connection isn't affected by power outages or bad weather like cable and satellite TV are. Many fiber TV providers offer bundles with fiber internet, which is extremely fast. One of the downfalls to fiber television is that it has limited availability because it's a newer technology, so it may not be offered in your area. These fiber cables must also be installed perfectly by a professional to function properly, which is part of the reason that availability is limited. Fiber TV tends to be a more expensive option, but its incredible HD quality and reliability are worth the price!
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
The first thing you may want to consider is an HD antenna. This doesn't provide a way to watch streaming videos, but if you want to watch live TV, it's the cheapest and simplest solution. You may remember having rabbit ears on your hand-me-down TV as a kid — an HD antenna is basically the modern-day version of that. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and watch as the free channels roll in.
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.
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.