Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
Although most cable systems kept the original, full-screen EPG in operation well into the early 1990s, some systems with large numbers of subscribers opted for this upgraded version of EPG Sr. in order to exploit the revenue potential of its graphical local advertising capabilities. The Atari-based EPG Jr. was never afforded this split-screen upgrade and fell out of favor during the late 1980s as cable systems migrated to the full- or split-screen Amiga 1000-based EPG Sr., and later to the Amiga 2000-based Prevue Guide. However, the EPG Jr. remained in service as late as 2005 on a few small cable systems, as well as on a number of private cable systems operated by various hotel chains and certain housing and apartment complexes.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
We are die hard LSU fans and for years we kept our Dish satellite because we wanted the games 3 months a year. I finally had enough of the kids watching mindless television and we called to shut it off. Dish let us keep the equipment and for $5 a month we keep our service contract and are allowed to fire it up for the college football season. We didn’t think we’d have ANY channels but there are a ton of shopping channels and a few feel gooders like OWN and UP. Nothing I have concern over for the kids. If I find something that allows me to stream the games we will cut it off entirely but it’s not a horrible solution. We also use Amazon Prime which we love.
The Amazon Fire TV has gone through a few iterations now, getting better with each one. The current version is a veritable revolution in streaming boxes, offering simple operation, as well as the ability to control your entire home theater and smart home system with your voice. That includes the ability to turn on and control basic functionality on other devices, including not only your TV, but also your A/V receiver and even your cable box thanks to CEC control and IR blasters — all with the power of your own voice. The result earned the Cube a perfect score in our recent review and a place on our TV console.
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
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.