Includes: From the folks who brought you the Dish Network for satellite viewing, Sling has a skinnier color-coded channel lineup than others. The "Orange" offering has some popular channels, like ESPN, CNN and Comedy Central, but it's missing big ones like CBS, ABC and PBS. The "Blue" offering, also for $25, has a more sports-oriented lineup. (You can get both Blue and Orange combined for $40 monthly.) Many favorites may be missing from "Blue" or "Orange" for you. For instance, if you like MSNBC and CNBC, you'll have to pay $5 more monthly for the "News Extra:" package. To get TCM, look for the Hollywood Extra package, MTV and TV Land are in the Comedy extra offering. All add $5 each monthly. Nickelodeon is missing from all of them.
Another way catch to prime-time network television is the combination of Hulu On-Demand and CBS All Access. This combination will provide several hit prime-time shows on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and The CW. You can try a one-week free trial from Hulu to see if you like the service. If you’re looking for PBS shows, they can be accessed through the PBS app. It is available on almost any device.
You might also be able to save by bundling your TV and Internet subscriptions: After a recent move, one of the authors of this guide, Chris Heinonen, discovered that with his new Internet provider, it was cheaper to get Internet service bundled with TV than without. However, once Chris added the cost of multiple cable boxes and DVR service, those savings disappeared. So Chris currently rents one non-HD cable box, which sits in a closet unused, and uses an Apple TV, Roku, or tablet to stream all his family’s favorite shows. This setup lets them start and finish shows on any TV, and it offers more flexibility than any cable box would. (The downsides to this strategy are that one can’t “record” shows for offline viewing, and each network you want to watch must provide an app with streaming support—but more and more networks are offering such apps.) In the end, Chris saves around $10 a month compared with paying for Internet alone while also being able to stream the Olympics, college and NFL football, Mr. Robot, The Americans, and more directly to his iPhone and various media streamers.
In my case having cable TV is the bargain over high speed internet. I called and asked for what they call “limited service” cable — it gives me the major networks, with QVC, FAM, all the spanish channels and two public broadcasting stations thrown in, for $17.00 a month. The high speed internet was costing me $52 a month, so I reluctantly let it go. Watching TV online is no bargain at all for me.
Cable TV was once the ultimate entertainment necessity. The over-the-air days of VHF/UHF television signals couldn't keep up with voracious viewers who needed more, more, more channels. Having a cable directly pumping all that content into your home became the norm, and the cable providers—which likely provide your high-speed broadband internet access as well—knew they had you on the hook.
Pretty ubiquitous among the streaming hubs, Sony-owned Crackle offers an eclectic selection of content for free, mostly with ads. We are talking really bad commercials cut in at odd moments in movies—sometimes in the middle of a scene—as if an algorithm handles it rather than a human. The movies tend to be pretty craptacular with occasional gems. It's trying more and more to do original content, like TV show version of the movie Snatch, Start Up with Ron Perlman, and the new cop series The Oath with Sean Bean. It once could brag about having Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee but lost it to Netflix.
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.
Just because you subscribe to cable or satellite doesn't mean you have to use the provided set-top box. In an effort to become part of the cord-cutting landscape, many of the major cable and satellite providers, who double as internet service providers, let users subscribe and then access all programing via apps rather than the cable box or even the tuner in the TV.
Free over-the-air TV solves some of the same problems as live TV streaming services do: it offers live TV and the channel-surfing experience, two things that SVOD solutions lack. It lags in content behind live TV streaming services, as many familiar channels are available on pay TV streaming services but not via free over-the-air TV. On the simplicity front, though, nothing beats free over-the-air TV: just plug the antenna into your TV, scan for channels, and watch. You won't need a streaming box, streaming stick, or a smart TV. You won't even need an internet connection!
If you're looking for something with a little more range, the ClearStream 2V is a good place to start. While at first glance the antenna looks like something meant for the roof, it works perfectly fine indoors. In fact, the 2V eliminates some concerns with foliage and building materials that could weaken the signal for other antennas. On the downside, the size can make it a little tricky to figure out where it could go without being a hinderance.
The setup I talked about above is only one way to get free or low cost TV content. Another way we get free content at home is through the free over-the-air HDTV channels that are now available to everyone who has a HDTV tuner and an antenna. Did you know that 94 of the top 100 watched shows are shown on network television – that you can get over-the-air?
Cons: Those unlimited screens come at an extra cost. Available only to Hulu With Live TV subscribers, the add-on costs an additional $14.99 per month, nearly twice the price of the basic subscription itself. One of users' biggest gripes with the service is that it doesn't allow for offline viewing. A lot of subscribers also recommend the no commercials add-on.