These services offer the network TV channels you crave: ESPN, AMC, TBS, and a whole lot more. You can subscribe to premium channels like HBO through these same services (they're usually available as add-ons for a set price), and you'll also get major broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC – though the catch with those four is that they'll be available in select markets only. The major skinny bundles also offer a mix of regional sports networks (in their relevant markets only), meaning you may be able to cancel cable and still watch your favorite local professional and college sports teams.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue service has moved from its PlayStation bonds to include Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV support. While Vue’s slew of channels makes it much more comprehensive, its base packages are a bigger investment than Sling TV, starting at $45 per month and moving up to $50, and $60, and $80 tiers. Vue has also ditched its Slim packages, which were cheaper, but didn’t offer local channels. In other words, PS Vue is a pricey affair.
The majority of cable and satellite TV providers offer customers packaged deal pricing on a contract basis. Generally, rates are locked in for two or more years, although companies may include an increase in cost after six or 12 months. Customers should ensure they do research about their contract and what it entails before locking in service with one company.
Price: The basic plan, Live A Little, has over 60 channels for $35/month. The Just Right plan has over 80 channels for $50/month. The Go Big plan has over 100 channels for $60/month. And finally, the Gotta Have It plan has over 120 channels (what) for $70/month. Kinda pricey, but damn, having that many choices sounds nice. There's also a Spanish plan, Todo Y Mas, with over 90 channels for $45/month.
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.
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.