Where Mediacom really suffers is its customer service. It consistently ranks at the bottom, a worrisome practice in an industry with an already poor reputation. Consumer Reports readers gave it 58 out of 100, ACSI gave it 56 out of 100. If you choose Mediacom as your cable provider, keep a keen eye on your billing statements and confirm any deals your promised.
So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
DIRECTV also offers more full-time high-definition (HD) channels than anyone, and it has the ability to record up to 200 hours of HD video content. So whether you’re tuning in to see Tom Brady’s piercing baby-blue eyes or just want to marvel at the realistic zombie makeup on The Walking Dead, you can expect a crystal clear picture for both live TV and recorded shows off your Genie DVR.

HBO GO®, which offers more than 2,000 titles online, allows authenticated students to instantly watch every episode of every season of the best HBO® shows. This includes current series like Game of Thrones®, Girls®, and True Detective®and classics like The Sopranos®, Sex and the City® and Deadwood®, as well as HBO original films, miniseries, sports, documentaries, comedy specials, and hundreds of the latest blockbuster movies. 


Bundles are the glue that keeps many of us stuck to a pay-TV package, especially from cable companies or telco services such as AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS. In addition to the convenience of getting just a single bill for your TV, internet, and home phone services, you often get a discounted rate for internet service when it’s part of this type of package.
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.
DIRECTV’s promotional pricing is low, but you will see a spike in your monthly rate after your first year of service. The good news is, the company doesn’t hide the price increase, allowing you to budget for it in advance. But because DIRECTV requires a 24-month contract, you are more or less guaranteed to experience it, and with a prorated early termination fee, you’ll have to pay for the months remaining in your contract if you decide to cancel your service. Are you a renter, a student, or just someone who doesn’t like being in long-term contracts? DIRECTV might not be your best cheap TV provider.
An antenna is your means of access to local programming when cutting cable TV. If you want an in-depth guide for the information required for an optimal antenna solution, you should check out my antenna guide. Setting up an antenna may be seamless, or it may be the most difficult thing you do when canceling cable. There are numerous variables involved in television signals and antennas. If you are having a difficult time with this, the antenna guide makes this task easier.
Start with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, tack on an HBO subscription to the latter, and consider paying for the Brit-centric streaming service Acorn as well. You’ll have plenty to watch, all commercial-free, and if you hear a lot of buzz about a show that isn’t available through any of those platforms, you can always pay for them on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon (or iTunes, Vudu, or whichever digital retailer you prefer).
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.

Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.


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.
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