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.)
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.

I kinda wish I didn’t care that much, but spectator sports have been a part of my life from birth. I’m the third generation to graduate from the same B1G Ten school, and as far as being NFL fans, my Grandfather died suddenly in his recliner during a particularly stressful beatdown of the home team by Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf. We take this stuff that seriously!
If you’re always in the mood for a complete home entertainment experience, then take our advice. And bundle up! In this way, you’ll be able to enjoy all the awesome benefits that come with having an all-in-one service. We’re talking cable TV and high-speed internet wrapped up in one subscription plan. Or a ‘double play’ package, if you want to get all technical! You can even opt for a triple play offer and have a budget-friendly home phone deal thrown into the mix. And once you’re signed onto one of these high-end packages, you won’t want for anything more. Not if it’s some primetime screen entertainment that you’re after. Live TV, Premium Channels, ‘On Demand’ movies & TV shows, Hulu and Netflix. You’ve got to trust us when we say, that ‘TV will never be the same!’

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.
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
You do need to have Internet in order to take advantage of a lot of streaming options like Netflix, Playstation Vue, Direct TV Now and others. If, however, you only need broadcast channels you can get an antenna and/or an over-the-air DVR, and watch broadcast TV only. As far as finding cheap internet, a lot of the time you’re subject to what options you have in your area. IN my area I have two providers that I usually go back and forth between finding the best deal and sticking with it for a couple of years. Good luck!

Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?

If you thought it couldn’t get any better, Sling TV is one of the most compatible streaming services with supported devices including Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablets, Android, Apple TV, Airplay, AirTV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nvidia Shield, Select LG Smart TVs, LeEco devices, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, Chrome web browser, Windows, Xbox One consoles, Xfinity X1 and more. Start a free seven-day trial today and cancel at any time!
Showtime Online has a unique service of being able to be added on to other services that you may already subscribe to. For $9 a month, it can be added to Amazon Prime and Hulu and for $11, Playstation Vue. Showtime offers you award-winning series like Dexter, Weeds and House of Lies as well as a large selection of movies including action, comedies and dramas added each month. The stand-alone service is $11 and it offers both live viewing and streaming.

Most cable companies will send a representative to your home to install the TV, phone, and internet equipment. Usually the service provider will set up an installation date shortly after you order the package. The setup should take no longer than an hour. After the setup, the representative will give you a brief overview of how to use the equipment, which is usually straightforward. If you have any technical problems after the representative leaves, call the support line for additional instructions.


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.
A Nielsen report showed that during the fourth quarter of 2011, the number of people paying for television had dropped by 15 million people (a rate of 1.5 percent), and the number of cable subscribers dropped by 2.9 million.[11] A 2012 Deloitte report said 9% of television households dropped cable service during 2011 and an additional 11% planned to cancel their service.[12] Sanford Bernstein estimates 400,000 dropped pay video services during the second quarter of 2012, up from 340,000 in 2011. One reason for the drop was college students' returning home for the summer, while the companies made up for the loss in other quarters. However, the number of new homes paying for television service is less than the total number of new homes.[5] Another possible reason is services, such as time shifting and live recording capabilities, that were once exclusive to pay television services, are now being offered to cord cutters.[13] Although the number of subscribers usually increases in the third quarter, in 2012 only 30,000 people added pay television service, according to a study by the International Strategy & Investment Group. Cable lost 340,000 subscribers (with Time Warner Cable accounting for 140,000 of that number) and satellite gained only 50,000; telephone companies added 320 subscribers.[14] Throughout 2012, pay television added only 46,000 new subscribers, out of 974,000 new households overall, according to SNL Kagan. 84.7 percent of households subscribed, compared to 87.3 percent in early 2010.[15]

Premium Channels: NFL RedZone © 2019 NFL Enterprises LLC. Team names/logos/indicia are trademarks of the teams indicated. All other NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. SEC ESPN Network is a trademark of ESPN, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO®, Cinemax® and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc. SHOWTIME and related marks are trademarks of Showtime Networks Inc., a CBS company. STARZ and related channels and service marks are property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. ENCORE and related channels and service marks are the property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Visit encoretv.com for air dates/times.


We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.

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.
If you’re still not sold on Amazon Prime Video, know that its value goes beyond the TV screen. With this cable alternative, you can listen to music from Pandora, iHeart Radio, and Prime Music. You can also enjoy hundreds of games from top developers and connect apps like Uber, Yelp, and even daily fitness guides. Not totally ready to commit? Amazon Prime Video offers a free 30-day trial to get you started.

Nobody has to spend money to look at Basic TV Channels. I am so happy I can see LCD HDTV with a converter from Radio Shack and I see all the Channels Like 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 36, 66 and many others even Spanish Channels. I had my box saved but now it is gone. You can find these on line also. My pictures are clear and pretty. Best of all my viewing is FREE. Just go to Radio Shack they will know what you want.
I've found Sling TV to not offer competitive package. I was an early user and subscriber for a couple of years. However, I felt that I was able to get a basic cable package with what Sling offered. I also had major buffering issues with Sling, especially when a season premiere or big episode of a popular show was being shown. This year, I searched my options for alternative streaming options. I tried Playstation Vue, but, I found them price-y and did not offer Viacom channels. With a majority of channel apps offering episodes of new tv shows within 24 hours, I do not feel it is really necessarily to have a DVR option. Currently, I am with Directv Now and I've been extremely happy with them. I have not had the buffering issues other people have had. I only had buffering when watching NBC. Other than that, I save money on the cheapest package and a movie channel (Live a Little package and HBO) with more channels than what's out there for $40. I was fortunate to sign up when they were offering free, latest Apple TV. Looking forward to when there is an app on Roku so I can watch tv in bed! Btw, in case anyone is wondering, I do use Comcast for internet services on the cheapest option available with no buffering issues.
Many TV providers only schedule installation appointments on weekdays, and they often can’t guarantee a timeframe for the technician to install your service. This can be frustrating if you work during the week or don’t have time to wait for the technician to arrive. With XFINITY, you can schedule a two-hour window for cable installation, and weekend appointments are available. If the technician is late, you get a $20 credit.

Fiber-optic uses flexible glass wires to transmit data at a fast rate (and with higher quality) than traditional cable. Fiber technology doesn’t affect television like it does internet, but few providers give you the option of buying one without the other, so your quality of internet is a worthy consideration. Both AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS run on fiber-optic networks — but they’ve earned the best reputation in the industry thanks to their wicked-fast speeds.
Charter Communications (which rebranded as Spectrum after acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House in 2016) offers the perfect example of how customers are feeling the pinch. Last quarter, Charter lost 36,000 residential pay-TV subscribers, yet the company’s TV revenues increased by 3.4 percent. In the quarter before that, Charter lost 66,000 subscribers, but still squeezed out a 2.9-percent increase in TV revenues.
Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
×