Skinny bundles are over-the-top (streaming) solutions that resemble cable and satellite subscriptions almost everywhere except for on your monthly bill. Skinny bundles tend to be slimmer than cable packages (hence the name), ditching some of the less important channels and keeping a core group of popular networks available for far less than the cable giants charge. Among the key channels featured in these slimmed-down bundles are local major network (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) affiliates from around the country. The bad news is that availability of live local major network feeds will vary by region, but the good news is that it's easy to check out the selection in your region by taking advantage of the free trials available with each of the services we've listed below.
Another drawback is that you usually don’t get your local networks with these services. Since most TVs include an integrated HDTV tuner, adding an antenna will give you access to those channels, but you won’t be able to record or time-shift them. Streaming services lag behind satellite and cable by 15 to 60 seconds, too, so if you’re watching sports and trying to avoid spoilers, you’ll probably have to stop checking your Twitter timeline. You can also run into buffering issues, but those are usually due to problems with your Internet connection rather than the streaming service. (Some people have encountered issues during peak shows such as Game of Thrones, but Wirecutter staffers haven’t personally experienced them—it may depend more on your Internet connection and local network speed.)
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
We included our custom-built XBMC media center—not everyone's taste, but a geekier option we love—for a bit of extra comparison (Note: since the writing of this article, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have gotten much more difficult in XBMC. See this post for more information). Obviously, you can't boil down five devices into just a small chart, though. So, we played with each of these five devices over the course of a few weeks, and here are our thoughts on each one: what it does well, what it lacks, and who it's good for.
This year alone, some 6 million people are expected to ditch satellite and cable, causing a major pain point for the providers of digital entertainment. Welcome many of the same companies (DirecTV and Dish Network), along with YouTube, Hulu and Sony, in a different sort of offer. A smaller collection of channels, along with broadcast TV locals, no equipment required, and an average price of around $40 monthly. (Along with your internet subscription.)
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).
Netflix – Netflix has loads of content at a low price. Most TV shows wind up on streaming after a season airs. There are also movies and a whole host of children’s programming available. The pricing is reasonable at $8.99 a month for unlimited HD streaming to two TVs simultaneously. If you are comfortable waiting a few months for a TV series, Netflix may be all you need.
I can’t speak to those channels specifically as I’m not really sure. Typically though if you use PlayOn, as long as the channel is available in the software or as a plugin you’ll be able to watch shows from that network. Not all networks make online streaming available, however, so it really depends. There is a link in the article above to the PlayOn site mentioning which channels are available.
There isn’t a single offering out there that makes any sense for most family homes. None. 5 TVs can easily get the complete Comcast lineup of TV stations, including all of their premium channels, plus anywhere DVR hardware to boot. Additionally, if the cost was itemized apart from the Comcast Voice, and GB internet they give me, I am paying WAY, WAY less than any streaming service out there. That just plain sucks because not one other provider is available where I am, so the competition is non-existent. I, for one, think Comcast is over-priced. But, based on what I would have to pay to get what I want in a cord cutting option, I would be even worst off. These alternatives are only beneficial for single TV homes.
LM&M- Sometimes its about $$$ only and not so much what people can and cannot watch. My mom’s cable package is $139 and ours is $69 – way above what a lot of people can afford, and if it comes down to food vs. TV, I would pick food as well. However, we are not in that situation, but rather just considering what our options are – We watch only a few shows a week, I cannot catch Sox games unless they are playing the Yankees (espn), and I don’t mind watching a show the next day…I work from home by myself. (thankfully) When they get all the bugs figured out, internet TV is definitely the future though…
That means all you need is an antenna to start grabbing these network TV signals to display on your television. Now I know what you’re thinking. If you were born before 1985, you probably have vivid memories of static all over the screen as mom or dad adjust the antenna. Digital doesn’t work that way. If your antenna can pick up the channel, then you get the picture as clear as it can be. Otherwise, you don’t get the picture.
Bear in mind that, if you’re on the ball, there’s also plenty you can watch for free — with no need to subscribe to anything. This may change in the future as major media companies put more of their products behind a paywall, but for now, some major channels (like ABC, Fox, the CW and PBS) make select episodes of their shows available online for nothing, for a limited time after their original broadcasts. You can watch them through a web browser or through an app on your set-top box.
To be honest, if you've got a decent laptop and a nice TV, with an HDMI cable between them you have all you need to be a cord cutter. Stream on your laptop and watch on the big screen. Or use your phone; the apps out there for casting or mirroring what you see on the phone to the TV are too numerous to mention. (Read How to Connect Your iPhone or iPad to Your TV for more.)
You might be able to quit cable completely, moving to a mixture of streaming services and paid downloads. Or you might be able to reduce your monthly fees by replacing expensive rental equipment with a streaming box and free apps. Alternatively, you could stick with cable or satellite but spend less by figuring out what you really need. It’s easier than ever to watch the content you want without being stuck in an expensive, long-term contract.
The savings are all tied to a service that is in a sense revolutionary. Sling TV, a new live TV streaming service from Dish provides you with access to networks like ESPN 1, ESPN 2, HGTV, Food TV,TBS, Disney and more for $19.99 per month. All you need is an internet connection to watch Sling TV on a television, phone or tablet. With a deal I found, just for signing up, you get a FREE Fire TV Stick.
The most notable difference is price. Skinny bundles get their name from the fact that they “bundle” together various cable TV channels for a lower cost and deliver these channels live streaming over an internet connection. This reduces costs significantly. The average cost of a “skinny bundle” is around $40-$50 per month, compared to the $100 average cost of a cable bill.
In general, streaming hardware all works the same way. The device connects to both the Internet (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and your TV (via HDMI), streaming content from channels that are either free or require a monthly subscription. You browse through channels directly on your TV screen via a remote. A large part of the appeal here is that you choose which channels you want to subscribe to. Netflix and Hulu Plus, the most popular channels (available on the Apple, Roku and Google devices) provide access to a robust selection of movies as well as current and past TV shows.
Hardware question. We are renters and can’t cut holes or run wires. TV is upstairs (old TV but we want to get a 46″ flat panel on a black Friday special). Computer using comcast is downstairs. We currently have the $12 cable upstairs. Don’t want it any longer. How do I get the “network” to work without drilling holes and running wires. Do I have to get a wireless transmitter for my computer and a wireless receiver for my new TV in order to stream from the playon software to my TV? What external ports do I need to make sure to have on my new TV? Thank You So Much!!!!
Following the acquisition of TV Guide Network by Lionsgate in 2009, its programming began to shift towards a general entertainment format with reruns of dramas and sitcoms. In 2013, CBS Corporation acquired of a 50% stake in the network, and the network was renamed TVGN. At the same time, as its original purpose grew obsolete because of the integrated program guides offered by digital television platforms, the network began to downplay and phase out its program listings service; as of June 2014, none of the network's carriage contracts require the display of the listings, and they were excluded entirely from its high definition simulcast. In 2015, the network was rebranded as Pop.
If you’re willing to invest in a Plex Pass subscription ($4.99/mo, $39.99/year, $149.99/lifetime) you may want to go with Plex for Android instead. Plex is very similar to Kodi and SPMC, only it can do more when it comes to OTA TV. With a Plex Pass, you can turn your Nvidia Shield into a Plex Server and use it to stream OTA TV channels to all your devices.
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.