YouTube TV ($40/mo.): YouTube’s newest venture entered the market as one of the cheapest and simplest. Its channel package is small, there aren’t that many add-ons at the moment, and the service isn’t even available in every city or town in the United States yet (although the range is expanding every day; check here for updates). But if watching local stations live matters a lot to you, then you should know that YouTube TV is making that the cornerstone of its business — along with unlimited DVR cloud storage and enough portability that you should be able to shift easily from one device to another while watching a show you’ve recorded.
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.
Netflix is one of the best and most popular alternatives to cable TV to date. Easy to use and boasting a seemingly endless library of TV shows and movies to watch at your own pace, Netflix is a binge-watcher’s dream. This cable alternative can be viewed on any computer, smartphone, tablet, Smart TV, PlayStation, Xbox, Chromecast, or Blu-ray player. All you have to do is subscribe and pay a monthly fee for the package of your choosing. Not totally sold on it? No worries. They offer a free 30-day trial to get you started.
Most of the time, it’s not difficult to find deals on TV packages. Common deals providers offer include discounts on services, Visa® Prepaid Cards, and free premium channels. Though most deals are advertised on providers’ websites, it’s a good idea to call and ask a sales representative if there are any additional deals not offered online. On the other hand, some deals are online exclusives and might not be honored if you order service over the phone.
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.
Because Fios TV travels into the home via fiber-optic cables, you’re required to have a router to receive service. You can rent or buy one through Verizon, but both options can get pricey. Verizon does list two compatible routers (the Actiontec MI424WR Rev. 1 and Verizon Fios Quantum Gateway, Model G1100) at checkout, so if you already own one of those, you’re in luck.
Most providers heavily encourage bundling your telecommunication services; phone, internet, and sometimes home security. Some providers, like Comcast and Cox, give you wide range of TV and internet options that you can purchase independently. Others, like Charter Spectrum, only offer one TV package without bundling. If you choose Mediacom, you won’t have an option at all, as all its TV plans require an internet bundle. On the plus side: By bundling, you’re likely to save an average of $20 to $30 for each service.
You’ll have a better chance in bigger TV markets, where the networks own their own stations, says Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at research firm Frost & Sullivan. “Outside of the major cities, many live streaming services don’t have all the local channels due to licensing restrictions,” he says. “While some streaming services are adding more local channels each month, there are still a large number of local stations not available via streaming services for many consumers in the U.S.”
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.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
If the primary purpose of your cord cutting is to cut back on spending, why not watch for free? Yes, you heard that right. With PlutoTV you can watch live TV, On Demand movies, and trending videos on the internet for free. Although this cable alternative doesn’t offer any major network channels, it does offer more than 40 live channels including live sports, and 15+ music streaming channels. You can also enjoy their exclusive PlutoTV sitcoms and even a Spanish language channel.
If you're purchasing satellite TV, a professional will come to your home and set up a dish on the roof or balcony. This installation process tends to take longer than it would for cable or fiber TV because of the large equipment that's required. You can expect the installer to be at your home for several hours, whereas cable installation typically only takes 1-3 hours. Take advantage of that time by asking any questions you might have about how your new TV connection works. The installer will be happy to help! DIRECTV installation comes free with all of the provider's packages. Many customers can even opt for next-day installation. However, if you want to start watching your favorite shows before your installation process, with DIRECTV you can! As soon as your order has been confirmed, you can log into the DIRECTV app and start watching from your mobile device. The installation process for cable or fiber TV will be relatively easy if your home already has a cable or fiber connection from past service.
AT&T's has two separate services: DirecTV Now and Watch TV. The much-cheaper Watch TV includes 30 channels and many of them, such as AMC, HGTV and BBC America, are no longer available on DirecTV Now. Watch TV doesn't have any sports or local channels, and many of the shows on its channels can be watched on-demand with a Hulu subscription for less. It also doesn't work with Roku devices, but it is available on the other major streaming platforms. And some AT&T wireless plan customers get it for free.