In a move that I’m fairly certain violated their rules (I live dangerously), we used the service at the rental in the summer, and in our home the rest of the year. Now that we have sold the home, the need for the Dish has vanished. This August, our contract was up. I was ready to cut the cord once and for all. Here’s what our bill looked like, without any premium channels.
To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2019’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
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.
With Frontier, depending on your location, you may be able to choose between FiOS TV or Vantage TV. FiOS TV is service by fiber-optic cable, rather than traditional. If you choose to bundle, you’ll have fiber-optic internet too — which means astronomical speeds. For your TV service, it might mean a sharper image but only if you have an HD or Ultra HD television to support it.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
Here’s what I’m excited about: I have been recording all of my favorite shows on a Tablo Dual digital video recorder that hasn’t cost me a dime in subscription fees. And I’m loving it. It has truly opened my eyes to the fact that ATT can take its $100/month U-Verse TV service that keeps crapping out on us and stay away. I may never look to cable again.
As more companies launch 5G we will soon go from having two or three options for home Internet to having five or maybe even ten home Internet options. This competition from new companies jumping into the home Internet business will finally break cord cutters free from being stuck with cable companies that seem to do nothing but raise the price of cable TV.
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
I teach financial planning to Soldiers transitioning out of the Military. I always bring this up when discussing how to cut expenses. While there are always people who cannot fathom living without their cable, I am always surprised to see how many in class have already started to do this. In the past 10 years, I have only paid for cable for a year, although I have had it provided free for a few others. I love being cable-free and with HD antennas, Netflix, and Hulu, I am never without something to watch when I want. And I don’t find myself watching the “best of the worst” since I have no qualms with shutting off the tv and doing something else.
YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.
Up until a couple of years ago I had never paid for cable or satellite tv. I wrote in one post about how I still got all of my favorite shows via streaming alternatives, and how I wasn’t really missing anything by not having cable. I realized after we got cable (at my wife’s behest) that I HAD been missing watching all of my favorite sports teams because for the most part sports is one of the biggest things you can’t really get in all the free streaming options. Now that I’ve had the sports for a couple of years, I’d have a hard time dropping it I think. At the very least, however, we’re making sure to not pay too much for our TV. We just switched from Comcast cable to Dish Network when our promo deal expired and we had to pay $85/month for cable alone. When they wouldn’t droip our rates we switched to Dish Network and got more channels for about $40. I’m sure we’ll have to do the same again in a year or so when our new deal runs out. *sigh. If only all the sports teams streamed their games live for free!
Charter isn’t alone in squeezing TV holdouts for more revenue. In its most recent earnings statement, AlticeUSA reported flat year-over-year video revenue for its SuddenLink brand despite losing 31,800 TV subscribers. And while Altice’s Optimum TV customers declined year-over-year by 3.2 percent, TV revenue only fell by 1.9 percent over the same period.
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.
As equipment improved, all twelve channels could be utilized, except where a local VHF television station broadcast. Local broadcast channels were not usable for signals deemed to be priority, but technology allowed low-priority signals to be placed on such channels by synchronizing their blanking intervals. Similarly, a local VHF station could not be carried on its broadcast channel as the signals would arrive at the TV set slightly separated in time, causing "ghosting".
Cable TV uses coaxial cables to transmit programming into your home. Because its infrastructure is underground, cable TV is generally less prone to service interruptions. Satellite TV delivers programming using antennas that receive signals from satellites orbiting in space. Satellite TV covers more locations than any other TV type and is available at most homes in the country.
YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.
Streaming live TV is an effective cable TV alternative, but it does have some drawbacks. While it doesn’t have contracts or equipment costs, it requires a strong internet connection. You’ll want to get an internet download speed of 50 Mbps or more to avoid buffering. But before you sign up, just make sure all this doesn’t end up costing more than a cable and internet bundle would.
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
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.
That's the new $6-a-month increase the Disney/Comcast/AT&T-owned service told customers about this week for its ad-free, top tier of service. Not that the ad-supported version is immune. That's going up $5 to $45 a month. This comes just shortly after Netflix raised its rates for 2019, although not as dramatically as Hulu, averaging around $2 more monthly. Or put annually, that's $72 more for Hulu and $24 more for Netflix.
In my Google Chromecast Review, I stated Chromecast is the best option for pure cost-cutting. At $35.99 there isn’t much out there that will beat that price point. You will need an existing smartphone, tablet or laptop to use Google Chromecast. Chromecast allows you to stream content from apps on the device to your television. Installation is easy as all you do is plug it into your TV’s HDMI port and set it up on your Wi-Fi network.
Customers in areas with lots of ISP options don't get very far by searching ‘cable providers in my area'. Choosing between internet service providers can be overwhelming because there are a lot of cable companies with several service options that include not just internet delivery but also bundled TV packages and sometimes even telephone service. That's because cable providers leverage the existing underground cable television infrastructure to deliver digital data into your home via a specialty modem, which means they can offer a number of different services at once. So how to choose?
PlayStation Vue has an "evolved" interface that is also easy to use once you get the hang of it, but can have a learning curve. Its DVR is excellent, with unlimited storage and the ability to skip commercials on any show -- although unlike YouTube TV, shows in Vue's DVR are deleted after 28 days. The biggest knock is that it's one of the most expensive basic packages, but it has fewer channels than any of the Big Five, aside from Sling TV and DirecTV Now. You don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it -- just like the others, Vue has apps for numerous streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, as well as phones and PCs -- but a PS4 is the only way to get its sweet multiscreen view.