For original programming, it started weak, but upped it a notch with Casual, which got the critics interested and earned Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination. Now it's got a real cool factor thanks to the multi-award-winner A Handmaid's Tale. It's also made itself the exclusive place to watch the entire back catalog of classic shows like Star Trek, South Park, Seinfeld, the original CSI, and a bunch of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows. It has a smattering of movies, but really, Hulu is all about the TV shows.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
There are a lot of options out there to stream your favorite shows. Don’t feel overwhelmed. They all offer free trials and no contract. There is no risk to try them out. Don’t overthink ditching your traditional pay TV provider. Try cutting the cord. If you discover it isn’t for you, I’m sure your cable company will be more than happy to take your money again.
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.
Bear in mind that, if you’re on the ball, there’s also plenty you can watch for free — with no need to subscribe to anything. This may change in the future as major media companies put more of their products behind a paywall, but for now, some major channels (like ABC, Fox, the CW and PBS) make select episodes of their shows available online for nothing, for a limited time after their original broadcasts. You can watch them through a web browser or through an app on your set-top box.
Netflix: Offer available 1/31 – 4/3/2019 and must be redeemed by 8/31/2019. Valid for 12 months of Netflix service on the Netflix Premium UHD streaming plan for $15.99/month (total value of $191.88) with subscription to eligible Verizon Fios plan. Must maintain qualifying Fios services for 31 days after installation, with no past-due balance to receive a one-time bill credit of $191.88 applicable directly to customer’s Netflix account. A Netflix compatible device (manufactured and sold separately) and broadband internet connection are required. 4K Ultra HD availability subject to device capabilities and content availability. Not redeemable or refundable for cash. Value may be applied to a different Netflix streaming plan; exchanges in this manner may alter the duration of the offer. Netflix Service price plans subject to change. Not available to subscribers billed through iTunes or Google play unless subscriber begins a new subscription billed via alternate payment provider or via Netflix.com. See www.netflix.com/termsofuse
Beyond the DVR issue, DirecTV Now is one of the stingiest services we’ve seen when it comes to simultaneous screens. You can only stream on two devices at a time, regardless of which channel package you choose. So even if you put down good money to get the $70-per-month “Gotta Have It” channel package with 120 channels, you still won’t get any additional streams added to your account.
You might have a Blu-ray player or smart TV with streaming apps on board, but those offer a pretty dismal streaming experience. Newer TVs from Samsung and LG have pretty impressive smart interfaces, and Roku TVs like TCL’s 6-Series are fantastic for all-in-one streaming. Otherwise, if you’re going to transition to a full-time streaming entertainment plan you may want a separate device purpose-built for the job. Below is a small selection of some of our favorites. If you want more recommendations, we highly recommend sourcing our full list of the best streaming devices you can buy.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
PS Vue’s biggest selling point is just how many channels you get, boasting the most of any services out there. Plus, you can bolster your services with add-on channels and features. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus (Sony’s premium online service for PS4 and PS3) will get discounts on some of those packages, and some channels are exclusive only to Plus subscribers in the first place. Similarly, PS Vue ties directly into the PS4 interface and the PlayStation ecosystem at large, which makes adopting it almost a no-brainer for PlayStation players looking to add online TV — provided the pricing and channel listings meet your needs.
Yes, in theory, the higher the dB gain number the better. Although, overall performance is just as important. You must also consider where you live and where the broadcast towers are located. If they are over the visual horizon, a higher number is better. If not, a lower number is ok. You must watch out for high dB numbers that are marketing ploys to get you to pay more for a product you may not need.
* Offer for new Fios Internet res. customers is non-transferable and has no cash or refund value. Documentation of early termination fee (ETF) for TV, Internet and phone from your prior service provider must be provided w/in 90 days of installation and offer will be fulfilled via bill credit, to your Verizon account, in the amount of the ETF up to $500. You remain solely responsible for paying the ETF to your prior service provider. If you cancel your Verizon service w/in 90 days of installation, the ETF credit will be charged back to your final bill.
Bonus: If you take advantage of Amazon Instant Video by purchasing Amazon Prime you’ll get other benefits. You’ll get on-demand, ad-free music streaming. In addition, you have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This means you can borrow one Kindle book a month free with no due dates. Also, you’ll qualify for free unlimited photo storage and more.
“I realized that I missed my Live TV. I bought an HDTV antenna, however the only channel I could get was NBC because I’m not close to the towers. I researched all of the live streaming options including Hulu Live ($40/month), Sling TV ($20, $25 or $40) and DIRECTV NOW ($35). I got free trials for all three. I liked Hulu Live, however the live user interface took me awhile to get used to. Plus it was the most expensive at $40, still for a bunch of channels I don’t watch. Also it did not have Animal Planet or TLC, channels that I watch. Next I was excited about Sling because of the price, however even with Sling’s $40 option, you don’t get all of the major broadcast networks. So my final selection for live streaming TV is DIRECTV NOW (Live a little package). It has the best value at $35/month with all of the major broadcast networks plus TLC and Animal Planet. Plus I like the user interface for browsing live TV. It has a nice channel guide similar to cable. The only channel that I don’t have live and would like is the OWN network, but I’m not going to pay an extra $15 a month for the next higher package that includes it.” ― Angela L. Lee
You might be able to quit cable completely, moving to a mixture of streaming services and paid downloads. Or you might be able to reduce your monthly fees by replacing expensive rental equipment with a streaming box and free apps. Alternatively, you could stick with cable or satellite but spend less by figuring out what you really need. It’s easier than ever to watch the content you want without being stuck in an expensive, long-term contract.
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.
Because neither version of the EPG software was capable of silent remote administration for its locally customizable features, cable company employees were required to visit their headend facilities in order to make all necessary adjustments to the software in person. Consequently, EPG channel viewers would often see its otherwise continuous listings interrupted without warning each time a cable company technician brought up its administrative menus to adjust settings, view diagnostics information, or hunt-and-peck new local text advertisements into the menus' built-in text editor.
Sling TV offers two base channel monthly packages: Sling Orange ($25) and Sling Blue ($25). Sling Orange offers popular channels like ESPN, but is limited to a single stream — meaning subscribers can only view on one device at a time. Sling Blue offers many of the same channels as Orange along with a whole lot more, but is also missing some key channels, ESPN among them. On the flip side, Sling Blue offers NFL RedZone as part of the Sports Extra add-on package, a must-have channel for NFL fans. Viewers can sign up for both packages and get a discount, bringing the total to $40 per month.
You’re right. Cable TV and satellite TV costs have increased over the years and it’s out of reach for people who can’t afford it. Also, if you’re busy and don’t watch too much TV it doesn’t make sense to pay more than you should for the service. However, all is not lost. There’re many good deals out there. So do your research and the math before cutting the cord.
You might think that local news and cable news would be easy to find via your set-top box, but even if you get a live TV subscription, it may be missing your local channels, and it may not have your preferred cable pundits. (Fox News, for example, isn’t available on every service.) Hulu With Live TV will get you a lot of what you need with minimal hassle, but do check out your local line-up on the Hulu website first.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are the best-known subscription-based services, and for good reason. They have excellent selections of TV shows and movies, both modern and classic, and the services are quite inexpensive. Each one costs between $8 and $12 per month, depending on what kind of options you need. Even if you subscribe to all three, this will represent a substantial price break over cable.
Next, connect the HDHomeRun box to your home modem or router using the included ethernet cable. Just plug one end of the ethernet cable into the box and the other end into the ethernet port on the modem or router. The HDHomeRun will always need to stay connected to the modem or router, so make sure you've got room nearby to set up the box and antenna. You could also invest in a longer ethernet cable if you need to.
Offer ends and new service must be installed by 4/9/18. Rewards must be redeemed online within 60 days of new activation and are subject to change. New or qualified former DISH customers must provide a valid, original certificate number at time of order for service, prior to installation and activation. Certificate is nonrefundable, not redeemable for cash, nontransferable and may not be combined with other Reward offers. Certificate(s) may be deactivated and referral eligibility may be revoked. Other restrictions apply. Visit mydish.com/refer for full details. All prices, fees, packages, charges, features, functionality and programming subject to change without notice.
Con: The pricing. The most confusing of all the offerings. What seems like the best rates may not look so good once you've figured out that you have to tack on extras to get what you need. And boo-hiss on the extra charge for the DVR. Additionally, Sling is the only one of the cable alternatives mentioned here that doesn't offer the complete roster of broadcast networks. CBS and ABC are huge omissions. Because of all the negatives, SlingTV would be the last choice on this list.
If there's one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there's a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.
PlayStation Vue got its name from Sony's gaming console, the PlayStation. But don't let that name fool you: while PlayStation Vue was originally only available on PlayStation consoles, the service now enjoys broad platform support and is an option for everyone, not just video gamers. PlayStation Vue offers multiple tiers of service at different price points. It offers the major networks in its cheapest package (“Access,” $44.99 per month), and peppers local and regional sports stations in at various price points. Read our full review of PlayStation Vue here.
A high definition simulcast feed of the network (broadcasting in the 1080i format) was also launched that year; it was added to various providers through the renewals of TVGN's existing carriage contracts. The high definition feed only carries the channel's entertainment programming, with no overlays or hardware used to provide listings information. The final agreements with providers which specified that the channel carry a listings scroll ended in June 2014. Some providers, such as the municipally-owned cable system in Frankfort, Kentucky, continue to carry the scroll without any video programming on a separate channel (such as a local origination channel) for customers who subscribe to the provider's analog service.
Hulu is more than just a place to find some streaming originals and a lot of day-after-air shows. Last year it launched a live TV service—and it quickly became the PCMag Editors' Choice in this arena. Yeah, you pay more, but for that $39.99 you get access to the entire Hulu library we discussed above, plus lots of cable channels, including many local affiliates that stream live (depending on your location).
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?
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
Philo, like nearly every other service listed here, gives you a long list of popular cable channels to watch live over the internet. But it differs significantly in what content is supports — or more accurately, doesn’t support. Despite boasting a bevy of channels, including Viacom-owned favorites like MTV and Comedy Central (absent from many competing services), the four major networks — Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC — are not carried by Philo, nor is anything from ABC’s parent company, Disney. That means, along with no local affiliates, there is also no ESPN. When it comes to locals, though, many viewers can get them over the air with a simple (and affordable) HD antenna for free.
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.
Pluto TV: Pluto turns online video sources into cable-like channels that you can flip through, and many of those sources cover the news. Install this app, and you can tune into round-the-clock feeds from NBC, CNBC, TYT Network, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, RT America, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast
Sports nuts would have to spend more money on another service to get a portion of the channels offered by FuboTV, but there is one glaring omission to its sports listings: ESPN. The service does not currently carry ESPN or ABC channels, and can’t be used to access ESPN+ through the ESPN app, so if those are a staple of your sports coverage consumption, FuboTV isn’t going to satisfy your appetite.