For original programming, it started weak, but upped it a notch with Casual, which got the critics interested and earned Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination. Now it's got a real cool factor thanks to the multi-award-winner A Handmaid's Tale. It's also made itself the exclusive place to watch the entire back catalog of classic shows like Star Trek, South Park, Seinfeld, the original CSI, and a bunch of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows. It has a smattering of movies, but really, Hulu is all about the TV shows.
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.
Since moving back to New York City and dropping TV service, my Time Warner Cable Internet-only plan costs $40 per month (I'm excluding the $5 promotional discount) for 15Mbps service. The flagship Roku 3 box I'm using costs $103 with sales tax (you can of course choose a lower-priced model). After getting the Roku I signed up for the $8 per month Hulu Plus account. I've always had Netflix in addition to my cable/satellite subscription so I'm not factoring my $8 monthly subscription for that service into the equation.
The comments about Spectrum DVRs are not accurate based on our experience. We have Spectrum (previously Time Warner) and our DVR allows us to record 4 channels simultaneously (not 2) while watching a fifth channel. Also, our DVR can store substantially more than 21 hours of HD content as the review claims. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure we are able to store at least 100 hours of content. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the Gold package. There are lots of channels including premium channels (HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, etc.) and there are decent mobile viewing capabilities. The Spectrum app allows you to watch all content and manage DVR settings when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Substantially fewer channels are available on the Spectrum app when accessed via the internet; however, this is shortfall can largely be made up by downloading the apps for individual channels such as HBO Go, Show Anytime, Max Go, etc. On the negative side, Spectrum is expensive and the internet speeds never measure up to what they advertise. Instead of getting 100Mbps we get about 50 down/35 up. In fairness, most people I talk to all seem to have the same complaint about their service provider. And, of course, the customer service generally stinks.
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.
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
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In the most common system, multiple television channels (as many as 500, although this varies depending on the provider's available channel capacity) are distributed to subscriber residences through a coaxial cable, which comes from a trunkline supported on utility poles originating at the cable company's local distribution facility, called the "headend". Many channels can be transmitted through one coaxial cable by a technique called frequency division multiplexing. At the headend, each television channel is translated to a different frequency. By giving each channel a different frequency "slot" on the cable, the separate television signals do not interfere with each other. At an outdoor cable box on the subscriber's residence the company's service drop cable is connected to cables distributing the signal to different rooms in the building. At each television, the subscriber's television or a set-top box provided by the cable company translates the desired channel back to its original frequency (baseband), and it is displayed onscreen. Due to widespread cable theft in earlier analog systems, the signals are typically encrypted on modern digital cable systems, and the set-top box must be activated by an activation code sent by the cable company before it will function, which is only sent after the subscriber signs up. If the subscriber fails to pay their bill, the cable company can send a signal to deactivate the subscriber's box, preventing reception.
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for significantly less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Amazon Prime Video, you’ll still be more than $250 in the black. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option with Sling TV for $60 more per year ($5 more per month); about the same price as buying two individual TV seasons.
You also don't need to fill tied to a particular day and time. There's a couple of good solutions for recording live television. The TiVo Bolt includes the ability to record live television from an antenna, but you will still need to pay TiVo's $15 a month subscription. Tablo offers a cheaper solution, but it is still $5 a month. Last, there is Channel Master, which doesn't have a monthly subscription.
Antenna: The antenna is the way TV started. You connect an indoor or outdoor antenna to your TV and receive programs from over-the-air local and network affiliate TV channels. This is a great way to receive free programming from the major TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, and PBS). It is important to note that older analog TVs, and many HDTVs made before 2007, will require the use of a digital converter box that is placed between the antenna and the TV.