Sling is the company that kickstarted the TV streaming category and still has the cheapest offering of the Big 5 (although sports-free options from Philo and AT&T Watch TV are cheaper at $16 and $15 monthly; see below). The main reason Sling can offer such low prices is it carries very few local stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), so many subscribers supplement the service with an antenna. Sling's interface isn't much to look at, but it offers all of the options you need without cluttering the screen. The only real letdown is its arcane live pause and DVR exceptions (you can't record Disney-owned channels like ABC, for example). Its options are myriad, including two base channel lineups (Orange and Blue) and numerous add-ons, so check out Sling TV: Everything you need to know for all the details.
When talking to people who are interested in cutting the cord, the issue that continually crops up is how to find affordable internet access. Many ask how to obtain internet access without a cable TV bundle. While market competition between internet service providers in the U.S. is extremely low, you can still find deals on high-speed internet only plans without a TV bundle.
Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.
Hauppauge TV tuners are solid, but they are not nearly as flexible as HDHomeRun. For example, you have to buy a specific type of Hauppauge if you want to use it with Xbox One – but you can use HDHomeRun on any platform that has an HDHomeRun app. Additionally, Hauppauge tuners are USB devices and have to be plugged in directly. HDHomeRun tuners connect to your network via WiFi, so you can set them up anywhere in your home.
With the exception of Sling, all five services continue to add local channels in an attempt to sign up viewers. Because most local stations, aka network affiliates, are owned by companies other than one of the big four networks in question, they usually require separate contracts with providers like streaming services, cable systems and satellite networks.
If you're looking for a little more flexibility, Mujay might be just the antenna. The double-sided antenna is similar to the VICTONY antenna in that it can be mounted by simply placing it behind the TV, on the wall, or on a nearby window. After mounting, set the antenna to either 0-35 miles or 35-80 miles to bring in the most channels. Just keep in mind that if your TV doesn't have an HDTV tuner, you'll need a digital converter to make sure the signal is coming through properly. It's also often on sale, making it an even more affordable option.
Ultimately, your final decision will completely depend on your needs, what services you subscribe to, and how much of a hassle you're willing to deal with. I'm still married to my home-built XBMC box, but I'd have to say the Roku was easily my favorite of the pre-built options. It's insanely cheap, has tons of streaming services, and with the addition of Plex, can even do some basic playing of network files. The Boxee Box was also pretty nice if you're willing to sit and configure it, while the Apple TV and WD TV Live provided great plug-and-play solutions. The Google TV is a bit more of a wild card for those that have specific needs, but provides a lot of configurability and niche apps that the others don't have (or, alternatively, makes a great feature-filled Plex box). Check out the home pages for each device to see more about what they offer and where you can buy your own.
Consensus: If you're trying to spend the least amount possible and are content with the 30-ish channels that Sling Orange offers, then only paying $20 a month is a sweet deal for you — and is a low price you won't find on most other streaming services. However, if you're thinking about opting for Sling's most expensive package, we'd suggest going with DirecTV's basic plan instead. You'll get a few more channels (over 60) and will be paying $5 less per month.
DIRECTV NOW is another great way to watch Fox News online without a cable subscription. DIRECTV NOW is a live streaming service that offers a minimum of 65 channels for just $40 a month. If you’ve been holding on to cable afraid to cut the cord, you’ll find that DIRECTV NOW is a true cable replacement. The only difference is that DIRECTV NOW is much cheaper than cable and the only equipment you need is a streaming device, computer, or mobile device. You won’t need a cable box or satellite dish.
Another approach to cord cutting is an online streaming package similar to traditional cable or satellite TV plans. Several companies now offer variations of this idea: PlayStation Vue from Sony (which works without a PlayStation console, despite the name), Sling TV from Dish Network, DirecTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV (not to be confused with YouTube Red), Philo, and Fubo.tv. Their services cost $16 to $40 per month, for their most basic plans, and they offer largely the same variety of channels as cable but give you a different experience than cable or satellite—one with both benefits and disadvantages.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
Subscribing to these services also gives you access to their exclusive content, which includes some of the most critically beloved and widely discussed shows on TV. Netflix is the only place you can watch Master of None, Stranger Things, or BoJack Horseman. Amazon is the only place you can watch Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, or The Man in the High Castle. And Hulu is the only place you can watch The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, or Difficult People.
Pluto TV: Pluto turns online video sources into cable-like channels that you can flip through, and many of those sources cover the news. Install this app, and you can tune into round-the-clock feeds from NBC, CNBC, TYT Network, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, RT America, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast
On October 5, 1999, Gemstar International Group Ltd. purchased United Video Satellite Group. Finally, throughout December of that year on cable systems nationwide, a new, modernized yellow grid began replacing the navy blue grid that had presented channel listings to viewers for the past six years. The old navy blue grid was completely phased out by early January 2000. With the arrival of TV Guide Channel's yellow grid, all remaining vestiges of Prevue Channel had been eliminated: its Amiga-based hardware infrastructure was decommissioned, and purpose-built, Windows NT/2000 PCs employing custom-designed graphics/sound expansion cards were installed. With this new infrastructure additionally came the ability for local cable companies to perform silent remote administration of all their installations' locally customizable features, making live, on-screen guide maintenance interruptions by cable system technicians a thing of the past.
Always take a moment on a new TV to switch off any special features that are meant to reduce motion-blurring. (These go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but the setting typically has the word “motion” in it, as in Sony’s “Motionflow” or LG’s “TruMotion.”) These settings tend to make movies and even most modern television shows look more flat and artificial, in what’s often called “the soap opera effect.”
Different Internet Service Providers, known as I.S.P.s, have different tiers. The various streaming services make different recommendations — typically available on their individual sites — as to the minimum requirements that allow their content to look sharp and run smoothly on different devices. Averaging their recommendations out, you’ll probably want to make sure that you have a minimum 4 Mb/s (that’s megabyte per second) connection, which, be warned, isn’t available in some of the more rural areas of the United States.
Laura M. LaVoie resides in a 120 square foot house in the mountains of Western North Carolina. There she has a solid internet connection and access to some of the best craft beer in the country. Email her at [email protected] Disclosure: Streaming Observer is supported by readers. Articles may contain referral links. For more information, see the disclosure at the bottom of the page.
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.