In hindsight, some TV executives believe the industry would be much healthier now if everyone—programmers and distributors—had agreed to make all episodes of shows available to cable subscribers on any device. That was the dream behind TV Everywhere, an idea hatched in 2009 by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. But in those crucial early days, TV Everywhere struggled to get off the ground.
In terms of bonus features, Sling TV is pretty standard, but it does have some unique standouts. The first is Game Finder, a search feature on the Sling TV website that finds live and upcoming sports content available for your channel package and region. There’s also a bandwidth limiter, which will help keep you from going over your data limits — streaming video content can eat up data quickly, after all, so this is a welcome feature.
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.)
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
The $99 Apple TV is a tiny little device that fits anywhere in your living room. The remote is very basic, but extremely easy to use—something a lot of living room remotes lack these days. It feels very solid, and the buttons respond nicely, making the whole product pleasant to use. Setup is a snap: just plug it in, link it up with your iTunes library and Apple ID, and you're ready to go. Typing in your credentials is kind of annoying due to the lack of keyboard. I wish I could set up things like Netflix and Hulu in iTunes from my computer, but for now you'll have to trudge through the remote-driven setup.
Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
Livestream TV services have no hidden fees, and if you ever decide to cancel, it’s easy and painless — a refreshing change from the hassle of dealing with cable and satellite call centers, even if prices are on the rise. There are many services out there, however, and they all have different prices, channels, and features. To help you sift through the chaos, we’ve put together this handy guide detailing the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice for you.
Active: Active HDMI cables have a small chip built into the cable that takes a little power from the device's connector, and uses it to boost the signal. These cables cost a little extra, but are far more likely to work. A long passive cable might work for you, but it might not. It depends on your gear. Since they're not significantly more expensive, they're worth considering for any long run.
As we said in our introduction, cord cutting is the easiest thing in the world: just cancel cable! It's replacing the content that gets tricky. And part of what makes it tricky is that pesky truth that a lot of our peers in the cord cutting media would prefer to ignore. We'll say it again: if you want every channel that cable offers in exactly the way that they offer it, you should not cut the cord. When we explain how to watch TV without cable, we explain how to watch certain channels for free, and others for less, and some shows and movies on demand. What we're not saying is that you can watch every cable channel you used to get for less without cable. We're simply giving you to tools to replace a whole bunch of stuff, plus gain some new content and perks. It's up to you to decide what to do with that!
Streaming video on demand is a great way to replace content from TV: you can watch your favorite shows and movies online whenever you want! But is that really the same thing as being able to watch TV without cable? To some people, sure – but others might find that their favorite things about TV are missing. What about brand-new episodes of the latest network TV shows? What about channel surfing and “just seeing what's on?” What about live sports?
In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
You will instantly get over 100 channels, and there are tons more that you can add along the way. PlayLater is software for your computer or mobile device that records streaming media, saving it to your device for future viewing. If you already have a streaming device or gaming console, you've already got most of the features offered by this software, but for $39.99 for lifetime access, you won't waste a lot of money trying it out.
Video is watched on the desktop via the included app, or is sent over the home network and played full screen through a connected device. In our case that means the Xbox 360, Nexus tablet, Fire TV, Samsung Galaxy Smartphone or Chromecast connected to our 50″ Plasma TV. We can control playback via a smartphone or tablet via the PlayOn app. We can watch our shows on whatever devices we want!
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.)