Prime Video is a nice hybrid of an all-you-can-eat streaming service like Netflix, plus a video-on-demand store, with plenty of original content to go with it. It's "free" to anyone with a Prime account, which is best known for giving customers free two-day shipping—but you can also get Prime Video for $8.99 a month as a standalone service, with none of the other Amazon extras.
On both Roku devices and Apple TV, much of the best content does require a pay per view fee or subscription, so you'll want to keep an eye on how many you buy. And there are a growing number of apps like HBO Go that are restricted to those still with a cable/satellite TV subscription. But even if you never venture much beyond Netflix and Hulu Plus, you're getting a lot of content for very little money.
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.
HBO – You can get HBO through cable or – as we just mentioned – through Amazon. You can also get it through skinny bundles (more on those later). But HBO also offers a standalone streaming service under its HBO Now branding. Regardless of how you choose to subscribe, you'll be able to stream great content. HBO has been producing the best shows on cable for ages, so the fact that you can get it over the internet now is bad news for cable. Plus, HBO's shift to streaming has helped prompt the original series arms race that now includes Netflix, Amazon, and others.
DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime are all add-on options like they are with regular Hulu. Sports and news stations galore. You can "record" 50 hours of programming to the cloud-based DVR or upgrade it to 200 hours for extra; it also costs more to have access to Hulu with Live TV on multiple screens. Hulu with Live TV is on a more limited number of devices but includes all the usual suspects: a browser, iOS, Android, Roku products, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and Samsung Smart TVs. Try if free for one week.
Unfortunately, there's no way to tell just by looking at a cable whether it can handle the deluge of data required for 4K and HDR content. Even if it says "High Speed" on the jacket, that's not 100 percent useful. A cable can be considered "high speed" if it passes 1080p, but not be well enough made to handle 4K. The only way to verify it works is to test it.
PlayOn Media Streaming Software: The PlayOn software allows you to stream online video from popular services like Hulu.com, Netflix, Amazon Video, the big networks and a myriad of others straight to your TV through a networked media device (see below). They also have a feature if you pay for the “Plus” version of the software that allows recording of series of shows, and automatic skipping of commercials. They even allow you to record your favorite Netflix or Amazon shows so you can take them with you on the go (with no need for internet). It's essentially a home DVR for online video. Cost: Limited functionality free version, or one time fee of $59.99 for lifetime license. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are also available.
In 2008, Heidi Brown wrote in Forbes that "the Kremlin is using charm, good photography and a healthy dose of sex appeal to appeal to a diverse, skeptical audience. The result is entertaining – and ineffably Russian." She added that Russia Today has managed to "get foreigners to at least consider the Russian viewpoint – however eccentric it may be..."
On the other hand, we found no streaming package with a sport channel lineup more comprehensive than a standard cable package as of late 2017. You also won’t find many popular regional sports networks that carry local MLB, NBA, and NHL teams. You can watch games that local teams play on ESPN and other national broadcasts, but you usually can’t watch every game through streaming-only services. (Many of these regional sports networks may end up under the ESPN umbrella as part of Disney’s planned acquisition of 21st Century Fox, but it’s still to early to say how this move will affect the streaming availability of local games for about half the teams in those three leagues.) In addition, some particular events are subject to their own licensing rules—for example, you can’t watch Monday Night Football through Sling TV on your mobile phone, because Verizon has exclusive rights to stream NFL games to phones.
Today you've got plenty of options. Six major services -- DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV -- stream multiple channels of live TV over the Internet, including local channels. Each has its plusses and minuses, including pricing (starting at $25 per month), features (like cloud DVRs) and user interface, but the biggest differentiator is channel lineup.
One of the advantages of unplugging from the physical cable sticking out of a socket in your home is that you’re free to enjoy the entertainment you’re paying for on any screen you happen to have handy, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, keep track of what you’re watching and will let you pause a show or movie on one device, then pick it up later on another device.
The crown jewel driving this premium streaming service is Star Trek: Discovery (which isn't even that good a Star Trek show), plus other originals like The Good Fight, which can only be seen via All Access, at least in the US (ST:D is on Netflix in other countries). You can also add Showtime programming to watch in the All Access interface for $14.99 per month.
What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There’s now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs even when they’re outside the home.
A reader of the blog informed me that WOW! now offers Internet access in Knoxville Tennessee. They offer speeds of 30 Mbps for just $25 and 60 Mbps for just $40 a Mbps. If anyone has any experience with their Internet-only service them please post in the comments. They appear to offer service in parts of South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.