I have been thinking and talking about getting rid of cable for years. Initially the motivation was to have more time, but when I started watching my expenses and saving for retirement, the $50/month bill started to bug me. Every time I try to do it, however, a show that I like to watch starts a new season – Master Chef, Top Chef, Survivor. (Clearly I’m a reality tv fan.) I think I might have finally accepted that I’m just always going to have tv, and that is okay.
Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.
Some 33 million people ditched their cable or satellite subscription in 2018, according to researcher eMarketer, up from 24.9 million in 2017. People got tired of paying to watch so many channels they didn't care about or being stuck in bundles that didn't matter to them. And need we mention the ever-rising prices of cable and new fees like $10 a month for broadcast TV, $8.50 for sports and more?
By comparison, traditional TV providers face a huge risk in diverging from the status quo. Just look at what’s happening with DirecTV and Dish Network: Both companies dove headfirst into streaming with DirecTV Now and Sling TV respectively, yet those services aren’t drawing enough subscribers to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of customers now fleeing satellite TV every quarter.
Coaxial cables are capable of bi-directional carriage of signals as well as the transmission of large amounts of data. Cable television signals use only a portion of the bandwidth available over coaxial lines. This leaves plenty of space available for other digital services such as cable internet, cable telephony and wireless services, using both unlicensed and licensed spectrum. Broadband internet access is achieved over coaxial cable by using cable modems to convert the network data into a type of digital signal that can be transferred over coaxial cable. One problem with some cable systems is the older amplifiers placed along the cable routes are unidirectional thus in order to allow for uploading of data the customer would need to use an analog telephone modem to provide for the upstream connection. This limited the upstream speed to 31.2k and prevented the always-on convenience broadband internet typically provides. Many large cable systems have upgraded or are upgrading their equipment to allow for bi-directional signals, thus allowing for greater upload speed and always-on convenience, though these upgrades are expensive.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
PlayOn Software: The 'PlayOn Desktop' app is a Windows PC program which lets you access online video streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and Comedy Central via the app itself. From your PC, the app can then stream these channels to any compatible playback device, such as a Roku Box, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and even gaming consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
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.
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.
Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
1 Number of available channels may vary by area. Please refer to your local channel lineup for details. An HDTV, HD cable box and HD cabling are required to view HD programming. HBO, Cinemax and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office Inc., LLC. SHOWTIME is a registered trademark of Showtime Networks Inc., a CBS Company. Starz® and STARZ ENCORESM related channels and service marks are the property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Vue may be more expensive in your area if you have more local channels. In our area the cheapest bundle is $29.99, and I’m on the expanded $34.99 package with regional sports networks. In some markets the cost may be higher if you have local channels included in the package – in my market only 2 local channels are included, and as such the cost is less.
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?
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.
To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2019’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
Amazon Prime Video: The "other" major streaming service, which is included as part of a $99 annual Prime Membership or $9 a month. The interface isn't as user-friendly as Netflix, but the service often offers shows not on Netflix, including originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon Prime also has the ability to add channels (HBO, Starz and more), making it a potential one-stop shop.