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.
Basically, when you go to your xbox and select to view video, you can view video from the xbox’s hard drive (stuff you download from xbox live), or from one of the connected media servers. Playon would be one of the connected media servers (in addition to the built in media server in windows vista -which only has limited streaming capabilities). Does that make sense or did I just muddy the water even more?
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
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.
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.
In my Google Chromecast Review, I stated Chromecast is the best option for pure cost-cutting. At $35.99 there isn’t much out there that will beat that price point. You will need an existing smartphone, tablet or laptop to use Google Chromecast. Chromecast allows you to stream content from apps on the device to your television. Installation is easy as all you do is plug it into your TV’s HDMI port and set it up on your Wi-Fi network.
Netflix – The oldest major SVOD service is still the one to beat. Netflix offers movies and TV shows from all different studios, but it has helped lead the charge in original content, too. Thanks to Netflix and its competitors, asking how to watch TV without cable makes less sense every year – if the best shows aren't on cable, then maybe the question should be how you'd ever watch decent TV with cable!
PlayStation Vue is the slickest of all the major streaming TV providers, with a pleasant, evolved interface that is also easy to use. Its DVR is excellent, with unlimited storage and the ability to skip commercials on any show -- although unlike YouTube TV, shows in Vue's DVR are deleted after 28 days. The biggest knock is that it's one of the most expensive basic packages (Hulu is now also $45), but it has fewer channels than any of the Big Five aside from Sling TV, and local channel coverage is less comprehensive, too. You don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it -- just like the others, Vue has apps for numerous streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV as well as phones and PCs -- but a PS4 is the only way to get its sweet multiscreen view.
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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.)