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The best way to pick the right TV package is to first set your budget. Next, ask yourself which channels you'd like to be included in your package. Most providers offer a similar set of core channels for every plan. With each plan upgrade, the provider adds either more HD or premium channels to justify the added cost. Some of these channels may be foreign networks that you can't normally get in the U.S. or even commercial-free movie channels. None of us want our favorite movie to be interrupted by an annoying commercial break. Most providers also offer access to On-Demand libraries filled with hundreds or even thousands of titles for you to enjoy at any time. Make sure to check out the free perks included in your chosen package. For example, Spectrum gives its subscribers free HD channels on some of its plans. Premium packages from Spectrum also include movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, and STARZ, as well as the NFL Network and NFL Redzone at no extra cost. Now that's what we call a deal!
What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There’s now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs even when they’re outside the home.
XFINITY TV offers more contract options than most TV providers, so you can select the one that works for you. These options vary by location but may include no-contract plans, 12-month contracts, and 24-month contracts. A 12-month contract will save you $10 per month over a no-contract plan, but if you’re a student or renter who might move soon, the month-to-month option will prevent an early termination fee down the road.
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.
Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.