YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.
“I tried Aereo before they lost their court case. Then I was a SlingTV user for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. Just switched to YouTubeTV in the last week. Mostly so we could get local channels. It’s okay but I am already missing A & E, HGTV and History Channel. We are going to give it a try for a while but may check out DIRECTV now because it has most of the channels we like as well as local options.” ― Sean Cook
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On April 30, 2007, Gemstar-TV Guide announced that beginning on June 4, 2007, TV Guide Channel would be rebranded as the "TV Guide Network". According to its press release, the move was intended to reflect "the continued evolution of the Channel from primarily a utility service to a more fully-developed television guidance and entertainment network with a continued commitment to high quality programming."
But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.
If you need a cheap alternative to a gaming system I’d highly recommend the $35 Google Chromecast. I did a full review of it here: Google Chromecast review. Basically you can use it in conjunction with services like Netflix, Hulu, Google Play and others for cheap entertainment. It can also stream online shows in your Chrome web browser from your computer over the wi-fi connection. We’ve been using it a bunch lately and love it.
Unless you live near the center of Pennsylvania, you probably won’t be very interested in what USTVNow Plus offers in the way of local channels. USTVNow is a service designed to let Americans living outside the country access American broadcast TV channels, but the only feeds you can get originate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Additionally, we’re not sure if UTVNow Plus is even totally legal since it doesn’t seem to play by the strict sports licensing rules that other streaming services have to follow.
Our top pick for the best streaming service on a budget is SlingTV: Sling has made a serious mark in the streaming service world, as it was one of the first major live TV streamers and has been able to make significant updates throughout the years. For as little as $20 a month (and no more than $40), Sling offers an impressive variety of up to 50 channels and offers great customization with add-on bundles to make your experience exactly how you want it. Supported by a wide range of devices, SlingTV is an ace cable replacement for those who want to cut their bill in half and then some.
Reliable figures for RT's worldwide audience are not available. In the United States, RT typically pays cable and satellite services to carry its channel in subscriber packages. In 2011, RT was the second most-watched foreign news channel in the United States (after BBC World News), and the number one foreign network in five major U.S. urban areas in 2012. It also rates well among younger Americans under 35 and among inner city areas.
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.
Hi Peter, I’m sorry to sound so ignorant, but I have no Internet service, cable or satellite t.v. We do have a xbox. Is there a way to watch t.v. through our xbox? Please tell me if there is. We are so tired of watching our same DVD’S over and over. My son’s are nine and eleven, so they get really tired of the DVD’S. Could you please send me an email? Thank you so much!
Television manufacturers have been moving toward “smart TVs” that connect to the internet and provide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and the like. The selection of apps on these sets vary depending on licensing agreements made between the manufacturers and the O.T.T. services. (O.T.T. is short for “over the top,” a term applied to any streaming media provider to which a consumer can subscribe directly.) Also, not all of them will let you plug in and get a seamless, cable-like TV experience without any other hardware. The technology and interfaces are certain to improve in the years ahead, but for now, for the best results, you’re better off just investing in a set-top box.
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over-the-air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10; see our comparison of indoor antennas here.
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?
For many people, the main reason to subscribe to cable or satellite is sports. (The huge licensing fees that sports leagues command, by the way, are a big reason you can’t watch sports without such a subscription—and why subscription fees are so high.) Watching live sports without cable used to be easier, but more and more sports programming has shifted from OTA broadcast to cable. For example, of 38 college-football bowl games in the 2015–2016 season, only four aired on OTA networks. Even the NCAA basketball tournament has moved its semifinal games onto cable networks. For the sports fan, watching all the important games without cable has become impossible.
4. Consult cord-cutting websites. Several free websites tell you where and how you can watch your favorite shows without a cable connection. Untangle.tv inquires about all of your viewing habits and then recommends the hardware and software you need. (Just keep in mind that it’s run by an antenna manufacturer that recommends its own antennas.) Fan.tv and JustWatch.com allow you to search for one show at a time and see all of the ways you can watch that program without cable. You can also try The Post’s own TV bundling tool here.
Although HULU+ is a paid site you can still watch many FREE movies and tv shows on the regular HULU. Also, another site my husband and I watch a lot is crackle.com which is a legit FREE site for movies and tv shows. The tv shows aren’t of much interest to us but crackle have many good movies and some of their own original shows. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t watch a lot of live sports, we would do away with our cable provider altogether. Maybe in time this will be an option?
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.
Apart from the basic packages, add-on packs like Sports Extra, News Extra, Kids Extra, and other bundles can be added on top. There’s even a respectable selection of movies for rent in HD for $4 each. While the picture may not be quite as reliable as cable or satellite TV (often dependent upon your device), Sling TV is affordable and easy to use, and the reliability has improved remarkably since launch.
Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
I would love to save, although our cable bill for TV is not extraordinary. But I’m 75 and I don’t understand the details. We don’t want to watch TV on a computer. It sounds as if the cheaper options all require the internet. But the internet doesn’t connect to the TV set. I don’t think our TV can receive a wireless signal unless we add some kind of cable box to it (it has a separate cable going to it than the cable box for the computers). Also, my husband watches FOX news most of the day and also all the channels with food shows, Alaskan living, ancient aliens, Pitbulls and Paroles – so we don’t want to cut off his entertainment. We live in SE Iowa and our cable bill is $157 a month including: high speed internet, landline with free long distance, TV package, TIVO. The basic cost is $120 – the rest is fees and taxes, etc. The stuff tacked onto the bill is ridiculous! Also, we practically never watch a movie – never as far as newer movies go. And we aren’t interested in the shows produced by HBO or Netflix, etc. I’m thinking our current plan is our best option. Am I missing something?
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.
The most famous of the cheap HDMI brands, Monoprice has dozens of options to chose from. The linked cable is "Premium Certified," which is actually a certification. It basically means the cable is more or less guaranteed to work with 4K and HDR. The Premium Certified logo isn't required for 4K HDR, but if you see a cable that's Premium Certified and has the matching hologram and QR code, it's a pretty safe bet it will work.
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.
Last, download the necessary software. You can download a compatible app for your Mac right from myhdhomerun.com. You can also download the HDHomerun app for iPhone and iPad. On Apple TV, you can use Plex with your Plex Pass subscription or Emby with an Emby Premier subscription, or you could also side load Kodi and use the HDHomeRun add-on. If you don't already use Plex, Emby, or Kodi on your Apple TV, you should probably get Channels for Apple TV (my personal recommendation) or InstaTV Pro.
In 1991, Prevue Networks launched Sneak Prevue, a spin-off barker channel that was exclusively used to promote programming on a provider's pay-per-view services; it displayed full-screen promos (augmented by graphics displaying scheduling and ordering information) and a schedule of upcoming films and events airing on each pay-per-view channel based on either airtime or genre. The channel was also driven by Amiga 2000 hardware, and its software was as crash-prone as the Prevue Guide software itself. TV Guide Network ceased operations of Sneak Prevue in 2002.
For decades, consumers who wanted just a few channels had to pay for all of them. Comcast or DirecTV couldn’t offer, say, MTV without also including Viacom’s less popular channels such as TV Land. While consumers wanted to pay for single networks on an a la carte basis, the industry fought attempts to break the bundle into smaller, less expensive pieces.
This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.
For example, Russia Today broadcast stories about microchips being implanted into office workers in EU to make them more "submissive"; about "majority" of Europeans supporting Russian annexation of Crimea; EU preparing "a form of genocide" against Russians; in Germany it falsely reported about a kidnapping of a Russian girl; that "NATO planned to store nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe"; that Hillary Clinton fell ill; it has also on many occasions misrepresented or invented statements from European leaders.[unreliable source?][unreliable source?][text–source integrity?] In response to accusations of spreading fake news RT started its own FakeCheck project. The Poynter Institute conducted a content analysis of FakeCheck and concluded it "mixes some legitimate debunks with other scantily sourced or dubiously framed 'fact checks.'"
For the base price, you get on-demand stuff from almost all of the networks (but not The CW) and even get them live in some markets. There are lots of basic cable stations (minus Viacom-owned stations like SyFy and Comedy Central). Each new tier of service adds more channels, going up to $44.99 to add some sports programming, and $54.99 for 90 channels, ending with $74.99—that Ultra package has those 90 channels plus paid cable services HBO and Showtime (but no Starz) for a little less than adding them separately.
As these services begin to invest more of their money to create original programming and securing streaming rights to shows became more expensive, their back catalogs of old shows have started to suffer. For example, even as Netflix made new episodes of Arrested Development and a second season of Fuller House (no one asked them to do that, by the way), shows like Scrubs or the first six seasons of Futurama are no longer available. Because of this, it’s increasingly becoming a good idea to treat these services a bit more like individual networks than comprehensive libraries of all the TV and movies you’ll ever want to watch.
TV executives have also spent billion of dollars acquiring sports rights, which has driven up the price of TV service—and almost no one has bid more aggressively for sports than Disney CEO Robert Iger. Disney, owner of ESPN, is on the hook for $45 billion in sports rights in the coming years. To cover those fixed costs, ESPN charges TV operators about $8 per month per subscriber, making it the most expensive channel and an easy target for critics.
Local broadcast channels are still available for free over the air. All you need is a digital TV antenna and a TV with a digital tuner (which is standard on pretty much any TV purchased within the last decade). If you’ve got a TV older than that, you can still receive broadcast channels, but you’ll need a digital-to-analog converter box along with your digital antenna.
The best time to sign up to a new broadband deal is pretty much always going to be when the provider is offering you something extra. Enticements to new customers come in the form of cashback, shopping vouchers (E.G. Marks & Spencer, Amazon and so on), free gifts (usually a games console, TV, smart home device or something similar), or simply a sizeable reduction in the monthly cost of the broadband.
All that said, Google TV does have a feature that is—in my opinion—the Holy Grail feature of set-top boxes: universal search. If you enter the TV & Movies app and search for a TV show, it'll show you a list of seasons and episodes. Select an episode and it'll show you which services it's available on (like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube). You can then decide from there which service you want to use to watch it. It's a lot nicer than having to search each library separately for that show that's harder to find. Every device should implement this, and I really hope Google expands it to include other apps in the future.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
About 80 percent of RT's costs are incurred outside Russia, paying partner networks around $260 million for the distribution of its channels in 2014. In 2014 RT received 11.87 billion rubles ($310 million) in government funding that year and was expected to receive 15.38 billion rubles ($400 million) in 2015. (For comparison the bigger BBC World Service Group had a $376 million budget in 2014-15.) However at the start in 2015, as the ruble's value plummeted and a ten percent reduction in media subsidies was imposed, it was thought that RT's budget for the year would fall to about $236 million. During the year, government funding was increased to 20.8 billion roubles (around $300 million in September). In 2015, RT was expected to receive 19 billion rubles ($307 million) from the Russian government in 2016.
This steady decline is the driving force behind a series of blockbuster mergers reshaping the media landscape, such as AT&T buying Time Warner, Walt Disney acquiring much of Fox, and Comcast pursuing Sky. Entertainment companies, nervously watching their business model waste away like a slowly melting glacier, are deciding they need to get larger and expand globally to compete with deep-pocketed rivals like Netflix—or sell.
In designing our guide, we took all of these factors into account and simplified things, designing five bundles of online television programing—one of which, we think, will suit just about any type of TV viewer. For each bundle, we show you the price, the projected savings compared to the 2014 average basic cable price of $66.61, and how many additional a la carte TV seasons (estimated $30 per show) you could buy before cable would be more cost-effective.
Nothing is perfect. I can easily imagine more flexible user interfaces and certainly look forward to more customer friendly and consistent licensing rights for TV episodes. Long term, the good news is that content creators are essentially carrier agnostic. "They've learned the lessons of the music industry and want to get their content in front of viewers on whichever platform they choose to consume it," says Robin Diedrich, media analyst at Edward Jones.
The Boxee Box is the most expensive device on the list at $175, and it's easy to see why. Unlike most of the others, the Boxee Box seems to be geared more toward the tech-savvy user, providing a more feature-filled media center without the hassle of building it and installing the software yourself. You can add all of your networked files (of nearly any file type) to a library that grabs thumbnails and plot information for a beautiful browsing experience, as well as stream content from services like Netflix and Vudu. If you buy it with the live TV adapter, you can also integrate your live TV-watching experience, which is pretty nice. Boxee also has a lot of social integration, letting you get recommendations from your friends on Facebook and Twitter and see what other people are watching. It has a browser, which—while a pain to use—can play many Flash videos not supported by one of its channels. It also supports AirPlay, which is wonderful to see in a non-Apple device.
But cable providers didn't factor in that the internet they provide would become their worst enemy via access to streaming video. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are the most well-known names in what's become known as "cord cutting"—doing away with pay TV and using over-the-air (like the old days) or internet-based services to get all your "television" programming. That means no more paying a huge monthly fee for thousands of hours of TV you don't watch (in theory). Instead, you pay individual services for a la carte programming. It's a lot like paying for just what you watch. Almost.
Unfortunately, its similarities to Android do it more harm than good. Some apps are clearly ports of tablet apps that don't work very well with a remote, and you'll need to control them with the clunky trackpad or control stick on your remote. Sometimes you'll only need to do this for certain actions, like seeing a movie's info, but in some cases—like with Amazon's absolutely horrendous streaming "app" (which is really just a shortcut to the Amazon Prime web site)—you'll need to use the mouse for everything, which is really not an enjoyable experience. It also has the quirks we've come to know on Android phones, like the occasional force quit or popup confirming a security certificate (which isn't a huge pain, but something regular users will find confusing). All in all, it feels like you're using a computer from your couch, not a set-top box.
While I cannot vouch for the legality or the quality of all of these websites, here are 35 a lot of different ways you can still catch your favorite shows and web videos without paying for cable or satellite TV. And while I haven’t tried each and every one of them out for any extended period of time, the first 5 I list are my favorites, to help guide you to some of the ones that work well. I have either given my own opinion of each one or when possible I have taken a blurb from each site’s “About” page to give you a little more info. And if you have a favorite, or you use a site that isn’t listed here, please be sure to mention it in the comments so everyone can check it out!
1. Buy an HDTV antenna. Since 2007, local TV stations have been broadcasting digital signals so crisp that the reception is better than that of cable TV. Plus, despite all the hype about shows on niche networks, 19 of the top 20 TV shows in 2016 aired on over-the-air broadcast networks. That’s why Step 1 is to buy an antenna. These are not your father’s antennas. No rabbit ears necessary. A modern digital TV antenna can be so sleek it will match your decor or so skinny you can mount it out of sight. When Consumer Reports tested antennas ranging in price from $8 to $80, it found the cheapest often performed just as well as the priciest. So try an inexpensive one first and upgrade only if necessary.