Some people make the assumption that cable or satellite TV limits you to watching live programming from your television set at home. However, most of the nation's largest TV providers offer SO much more than that. Seriously, the perks are endless. Let's say you're Drew. Drew watches all sorts of different networks: sports, reality TV, sitcoms, HBO, you name it. He also hates dealing with commercials. Every Friday Drew has a movie night with friends and family, so he wants lots of on demand options. He travels often and likes to watch TV on his tablet in the hotel room while he's away. Sometimes he misses his favorite premieres while he's on the road. So what can a TV package do for Drew?
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t 100% committed to cutting ties completely when I dialed those digits. I don’t live in an area with decent over the air reception for the networks, which makes fall weekend football viewing more challenging without paid television. I thought I might try a free month of Sling TV. At least you can get ESPN channels on that, and at least a dozen other decent channels.
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DISH TV has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any TV provider. It scored a perfect 5/5 Power Circle Rating from J.D. Power and this year stole the top spot from DIRECTV. DISH TV also ranks in the top three for customer satisfaction on the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report. Customers like DISH TV for its nationwide availability, two-year price guarantee and good channel variety.
Other TV providers are now putting similar compensational price hikes in place. This year, Comcast is raising its regional sports fee by an average $1.50 per month, and its broadcast TV fee by $2 per month, Bloomberg reports, while DirecTV and Dish are both raising prices by $3 per month or more for all packages. DirecTV is also pulling back on the discounts it once offered to new subscribers as roughly two million customers reach the end of their two-year contracts, The Wall Street Journal reports, because there’s little point in offering unprofitable promo deals if those customers end up leaving.
If any of these options think they are worthy to cause one to cut the cord they are all sadly mistaken. Once you add the total cost these options charge, just to get the more highly desirable stations most people expect, you run into limitations: how many devices you can stream simultaneously, how much bandwidth you would need to even maintain stability, and how much more speed you’ll have to pay for with your internet provider to get it. It’s almost as if they are pushing potential cord cutters right back to their cable providers. Not to mention, Comcast/Xfinity, as much as I despise them, gives more reasonable offers for less cost, with anywhere DVR – both local and cloud based.
Typical speeds (speeds that most users can expect during peak usage) are almost always lower than the maximum advertised speed across all providers. Cable providers in particular tend to have lower actual speeds than advertised. Speeds will vary by location. When you enter your zip code above you'll see actual vs. advertised speed for each provider in your area.
Depending on the service, you may find that not everyone in your household will be able to use it at the same time. Every streaming service we’ve reviewed has some limits on the number of separate devices that can be streaming content at the same time. For example, Sling TV’s Orange plan, $20 per month, allows for only one user at a time. The pricier Blue service, $25, allows access for three simultaneous users; adding a fourth user boosts the price to $40.
Pay TV: Pay TV refers to a paid subscription to non-commercial TV programming, usually provided by cable, satellite, and internet TV providers. Service providers would offer different channel packages for a monthly fee, and users would select packages based on the number and type of channels they want. Many providers require users to sign a contract, but there are some that provide month-to-month subscription. Certain premium channels, such as HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ would sometimes need subscriptions of their own.
What you get: With recently updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package is now $25 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $25 per month, supports three users and a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences: Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9. Sling is currently running a promotion that gives you either the Blue or Orange plans for $15 a month, or the combined plan for $25 a month, for the first three months.
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.
You forgot Playstation Vue. It’s way better than Sling (Sling’s app is terrible), has full function cloud DVR and OnDemand access, and has access to local Comcast SportsNet channels (DirecTV Now doesn’t in Philly). I’ve been using Vue for 6 months and I did a trial of DirectTV Now and Sling. DirecTV probably has the best app (Amazon Fire), but Vue has the best content if you’re a sports fan. Sling is a distant 3rd, worst app and worst performance.
On November 28, 2011, a report by Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger said that young people who grew up accustomed to watching shows online would be less likely to subscribe to pay television services, terming these people as "cord-nevers". Anninger predicted that by the end of 2012, the industry's subscriber count would drop by 200,000 to 100.5 million; Anninger's report also stated that consumers were not likely to return to paying for television. In the case of land-line telephones, people had believed younger people would eventually get them, but now numerous subscribers only have mobile phones. Anninger predicted that the same would hold true for pay television, and that providers would need to offer lower-priced packages with fewer channels in order to reverse the trend. Also using the term "cord-nevers" was Richard Schneider, whose company Antennas Direct was selling antennas through the Internet. After a decade in business, the company was selling 600,000 antennas a year. However, Schneider said some people only knew of the Internet and services such as Netflix and were not even aware broadcast television even existed. In a speech on November 16, 2012, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said "cord nevers" did not see anything worth paying for.
The best way to check this is to search by your zip code. If you’re in a more rural area, satellite internet and TV might be an option you want to pursue. Although satellite isn’t ideal for internet speed, it can do the job in a pinch. If you’re in a metropolitan area, you might have access to fiber internet and TV, which is far faster than DSL and most cable networks.
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.
Adam… there are countless options and opinions out there on what’s “best” but it all boils down to what the readers want and need. The wife and I cut cable completely about 6-7 years ago. We have internet only for $50/mo. We now have a $4 a month (taxes only) VOIP phone (Ooma) for home phone, cut our cell phones down to bare minimum $5/mo. plans and rolled the savings to an amazing 55″ OLED SmarTV television on an open box deal. Between the apps on that, the computer attached by HDMI, the over the air antenna and free apps and web sites, we don’t need any of the devices or subscriptions to have it all… and then some. There’s no need for Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Sling, Philo, Fire Stick or anything. Our motto is keep it simple. We get library access online 24/7 and instead of asking “what’s on TV tonight?” the question is “what do you WANT on TV tonight?” … $54/month total… we’re good!
Top shows include: Boardwalk Empire, Family Tree, Treme, Board to Death, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Arthur, Sesame Street, Twin Peaks, The Man in the High Castle, Six Feet Under, Hannibal, Hand of God, The Wire, The Americans, Transparent, Vikings, Justified, The Good Wife, Downton Abbey, Enlightened, Red Oaks, Veep, Entourage, 24, Duck Dynasty, and more. Also, you can add on other subscriptions, like Showtime, for a little less than it would cost to subscribe direction to Showtime. Learn about the “add-on” options.
I’ve even cut the television cord. About three years ago, we decided to live sans paid television. It actually went alright. We didn’t miss it much. It wasn’t football season. But, in order to make our one-time dream home amenable to rental guests, we had to provide premium television. Once again, we were beholden to the dreaded two-year Dish contract.
Not all media streamers offer the same channels: Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as standalone media streamers, don't all offer the same selection of channels and services. Roku devices are the most comprehensive with up to 4,500 possibilities, but there are other media streamers available (such as Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and others) that may not have the channels and services you desire.
We cut the cord a few years back but I haven’t written about it yet. A year or so after we did that, we bought a vacation condo that includes cable as part of the association fees. We were then able to have online access to our account so we can watch it when we are not at the condo! We don’t use it that often, but we certainly have more channels than we could ever need now. We also have a roof antenna and pick up all the local network stations in HD without any trouble.
Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.
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Comcast has earned a reputation for bad customer service, but it has steadily improved its ratings year after year. Its ACSI score rose by eight points in just one year, from 54 out of 100 in 2015 to 62 out of 100 in 2016. This is an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation and will likely continue to progress. Though from 2017 to 2018, its rating did drop by one point.
In broadcast television, cord-cutting refers to the pattern of viewers, referred to as cord-cutters, cancelling their subscriptions to multichannel subscription television services available over cable, dropping pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media available over the Internet such as Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube Premium. This Internet content is either free or significantly cheaper than the same content provided via cable.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
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Fubo TV is a sports-centric service that also offers a number of other channels including local OTA stations (except ABC) -- and more RSNs (regional sports networks) than any other service. Especially for fans of professional baseball, basketball and hockey teams, Fubo might be the only way to watch regular-season games without cable. There's no ESPN, however, and a convoluted user interface and high price mean it's not the first service we'd choose.