It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
The general idea: Just like DirecTV is a flagship satellite provider, DirecTV NOW is their no-dish-needed streaming service that, not surprisingly, is a front runner in the market with the largest channel selection we've seen from any service. It's basically everything that DirecTV offers without the hassle of setting up a satellite. (Though the Cloud DVR and app aren't the best, so if you're really into recording or aren't super tech savvy, this may not be the right choice for you.) The baseline package starts at 60 channels (nuts) with access to an impressive variety of channels including ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central, ESPN, Disney, FX, Lifetime, and more.
"Many streaming services cost as much as a regular cable subscription, which defeats the purposes of ditching cable in the first place. Philo, on the other hand, a lifestyle and entertainment-focused service, comes in at a very affordable $16 per month for 40+ channels of live and on-demand content. It lacks higher-end features such as offline playback and does not offer a native Android app, but Philo still might make sense for you, if you enjoy its lineup of channels."
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
Spectrum is now requiring a box for all TVs to receive their signal. I have a TV in the basement that I use while exercising and watch only news programs. Is their a way I can use one of your suggestions that will allow me to watch the news. Or are MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc by definition only cable channels. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix and would love to cut the cable if there were a way to also get these news channels. Thanks.
Many TV stations allow their shows to be picked up by Hulu the day after it airs live. While you may not be able to watch the show the day it airs, you are able to still stay updated on your favorite TV shows. Hulu offers a few different subscription levels, one that includes commercials and one that does not. There are still limitations to the service too, especially when CBS is involved. The channel promotes its own streaming service, and many of its most popular shows are not available through Hulu.
Google TV is, quite literally, the Android of streaming boxes. It's available on a number of different devices from different manufacturers, in different price ranges, and with different remotes. As such, we can't talk too much about the hardware here (though the VIZIO Co-Star, shown at the right, is a great looking model available for preorder now). The software, however, is very reminiscent of an Android tablet...because that's exactly what it is. You have a wall of icons representing your media, live TV, apps like Netflix and Amazon, and others. You can download Google TV-optimized Android apps from the Google Play store and put them on your home screen.
With the Digital Starter package starting at $49.99 per month, Xfinity comes in with the best all-around package out of all our recommended TV providers. The channel selection for Xfinity’s entry package is pretty similar to DISH’s base-level package (including channels like ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Discovery). It’s also a better bargain than the satellite service (and the next-closest cable TV provider, Spectrum) by about $10 per month.
It could be true that choosing one of these options won’t get you all of shows you could get with cable. However, if you truly want to get rid of cable, knowing what some of the options are can help you choose the BEST one. Then you can make the decision of whether or not it is worth it to spend the additional money to get the extra one or two channels through cable OR sacrifice one or two shows to save a BUNCH of money. It just depends your priorities.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue service has moved from its PlayStation bonds to include Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV support. While Vue’s slew of channels makes it much more comprehensive, its base packages are a bigger investment than Sling TV, starting at $45 per month and moving up to $50, and $60, and $80 tiers. Vue has also ditched its Slim packages, which were cheaper, but didn’t offer local channels. In other words, PS Vue is a pricey affair.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
Hulu also now offers live TV streaming TV via a $45/month, which nabs you over 50 channels of live TV (depending on your region) and includes all the VOD content you’d get with a regular Hulu subscription to boot. We get more in depth in this service and how it compares to the likes of SlingTV, PlayStation Vue, and others in the Streaming TV section below.
We mentioned before: YouTube TV is not YouTube Red. Red is more like an advanced, commercial-free version of regular ol' YouTube. The YouTube TV option costs more and has a lot of catching up to do to rival the other live TV streaming services. It's in limited cities, has limited channels, and is available on limited devices (Chromecast, Android, iOS, LG and Samsung TVs, Xbox One, and browsers on PCs). It doesn't even bundle in YouTube Red as part of the service—you'd have to spend another $10 a month on Red to keep ads out of your regular YouTube streaming. Premium channel add-ons include $11-a-month Showtime, $5-a-month Shudder, and $7-per-month Sundance. The big plus: unlimited storage in the cloud-based DVR option.
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.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
Philo is unique among the other skinny bundle internet TV services in that it does not offer any sports channels. That means if you love both MTV and ESPN, Philo is not the service for you. By eschewing sports channels, Philo is able to offer entertainment-only networks for a low cost, but this does ultimately create a more niche service, compared to other options like Sling TV and DirecTV Now. You won’t get any sports coverage at all with Philo.
1. The good old fashioned antenna. Of course, this all depends on what kind of signal you can get inside your house. In my place here in CO, I can use an HDTV antenna and the channels come in beautifully. But I have lived in other houses where I couldn’t even get snow to show up on the TV (New Mexico, I am looking at you). Antennas mounted on roofs tend to be a lot better at pulling in those free signals, but remember that as of 2009 you need a special digital converter box, as the analog signals will no longer be broadcast (in most communities).
For the base price, you get on-demand stuff from almost all of the networks (but not The CW) and even get them live in some markets. There are lots of basic cable stations (minus Viacom-owned stations like SyFy and Comedy Central). Each new tier of service adds more channels, going up to $44.99 to add some sports programming, and $54.99 for 90 channels, ending with $74.99—that Ultra package has those 90 channels plus paid cable services HBO and Showtime (but no Starz) for a little less than adding them separately.