There are now only two choices—down from five—for new subscribers: The $50-a-month DirecTV Now Plus plan has about 40 channels, and the $70-a-month DirecTV Now Max has about 50 channels, plus Cinemax and a number of sports channels, including regional sports. Both plans now include HBO, which had been a $5-a-month add-on. You get a free cloud DVR with 20 hours of free storage, and two users can stream at the same time. You can get a third simultaneous stream for an extra $5 more a month.
Those increases aren’t always obvious to customers, either. In November, Charter raised Spectrum’s “Broadcast TV” surcharge from $9 to $10 per month, increased cable box fees from $7 to $7.50 per month, hiked digital adapter fees from $5 to $6 per month, and reduced the discount for bundling TV with internet by $5 per month. Charter plans to tack another $2 per month onto its “Broadcast TV” fee in March, bringing the surcharge price to $12 per month. Spectrum’s advertised pricing doesn’t reflect most of those rate increases.
If the shows available streaming services like Netflix and Hulu aren’t enough for you, consider PlayOn. It’s another streaming video service with more than 60 channels, including Disney, ESPN, Comedy Central, HGTV and many other popular channels. It works with Roku and most of the other streaming video players. PlayOn has frequent “lifetime license” sales where you can get a lifetime license for $39.99, and you can record anything for playback later — even streaming content. (Reviewed by Jody Mace)
Now here’s the golden nugget of it all: We live in a very hilly area of Southern California. Over-the-air reception is awful in most of our house -- especially where our TV sets are positioned. I’ve tried many of the latest, over-the-air antennae and they are all incapable of mastering our topography. Although we’re closer to San Diego, we mainly get Los Angeles stations -- when we get stations at all. But because I don’t need to plug the antenna directly into a TV by using Tablo -- remember, I plug it directly into the Tablo box, which by the way has its own internal amplifier that strengthens incoming signals -- I can move the antenna to anywhere I want. In my case, it’s at the back window of our home upstairs where it receives just about every LA station. Then Tablo transmits wirelessly to all of my devices. And unlike other over-the-air arrangements I’ve considered, I don’t need to buy a separate antenna for each TV. One will do for the house with Tablo.
Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes. You can watch episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available for web site visitors.
The different types of television available to you will vary by location. For the most part, cable TV can be delivered through 3 different types of connections: wired, satellite, or online streaming. A wired cable connection delivers all of the shows that you love through copper and fiber-optic cables that are strung along telephone poles or buried underground. The second option for cable TV delivery is a satellite connection. This is a great choice for rural residents, as telephone lines and underground cables are limited in remote locations. Satellite TV is also a great option in highly populated areas, thanks to its widespread availability, diverse channel offerings, and competitive pricing. The last option for watching cable TV is through online streaming. TV streaming has become popular due to the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. Many of the nation's top cable TV providers now offer streaming services in their packages, so you can get all of the shows that you want. Whatever it is that you need, we're here to make sure you find the best TV provider and plan that fits your budget and preferences.
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.
Cable TV is what we have known for years. Only recently have we truly become acquainted with the ease of streaming video on demand. So what’s the difference? For starters, cable TV is easier for renters, doesn’t require a long-term contract, and isn’t affected by weather. Satellite, on the other hand, is cheaper and can be affected by weather. Satellite is available everywhere — you only need the sky. You can begin comparing satellite tv and cable tv right away. Here’s a list of satellite and cable tv pros to get you going:
Switching to streaming isn’t just for binging The Office on Netflix or watching yesterday’s episode of Bob’s Burgers on Hulu. You can sign up for services that allow you to stream select live TV channels, too. Some popular options are DIRECTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. Each allows you to choose between tiers of channels, but their base packages often offer many popular channels and for much cheaper than traditional cable. Curious about your options? We compare the best options in our TV streaming review.
To start, the quality of the video you get depends on the available bandwidth, which can vary with the number of users in your neighborhood who are on the same connection you’re using. So you may get a great picture late in the evening or early morning but find that it isn’t quite as good right after dinner, when more people are watching. Companies such as Netflix will dynamically adjust the quality of the video based on the speed of your connection, and they may downgrade the quality of the video to avoid it freezing or pixelating.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
Before you buy an antenna, use this tool from the FCC to see where local stations are broadcasting from. This will help you know what kind of range you need to look for with your antenna. If you don’t purchase a strong enough antenna, you might not be able to watch certain channels. Also, these are only broadcast channels, so be warned that you won’t be able to watch your cable favorites with OTA TV.
One of the advantages of unplugging from the physical cable sticking out of a socket in your home is that you’re free to enjoy the entertainment you’re paying for on any screen you happen to have handy, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, keep track of what you’re watching and will let you pause a show or movie on one device, then pick it up later on another device.
If there's one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there's a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.
As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.
The only major broadcast channel to offer a live channel a la carte, this service offer live local TV from just one channel -- CBS, duh -- in some cities, in addition to video-on-demand and exclusive content such as Star Trek: Discovery. The on-demand stuff had ads, but you can get an ad-free option for $10 a month. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by CBS.)