You've voted on your favorites before—and many of you voted for one of these five—but we decided to test all five for ourselves and see what they can do. Each device has its own niche and advantages, but they all aim to serve your movies and TV shows to you without the need for a cable subscription or library of discs. Here's a quick rundown of what each box supports:
A lot of people pay a lot of money in order to be able to watch the TV shows that they want, when they want. In the process they end up spending upwards of $500-1000 a year, mostly for programming that they don't watch. If they would just look a little deeper they might find that there are a lot of free or low cost options out there, and they can get a lot of the same TV shows, movies and other video content for free.
Unlike some of the other streaming services available, Fubo.tv is marketed directly at sports fans. It has access to most of the standard sports channels, like NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports 1, but it notably does not include ESPN. In lieu of the worldwide leader, Fubo.tv includes the most robust combination of specialized sports stations. Fans of international soccer and major college football conferences with their own networks, in particular, should be satisfied by the service’s access to the Big Ten Network, Pac 12 Network, and BeIN Sports. Fubo.tv also provides access to certain regional sports networks, depending on where you live. In New York, we found that Fubo.tv subscribers could stream programming from the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games.
Cable stinks, but it didn't always stink, and its channel bundles include some great stuff. That inspired the companies behind the major live TV streaming services to set out to beat cable at its own game. They began to offer pay TV “multichannel” services – industry lingo for cable- and satellite-type pay TV bundles – only they slashed the size and the price of cable's bulky bundles and offered folks a key selection of channels for less. And since these services stream online, you can watch them anywhere and on almost any device.
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.
A lot of these shows are from years ago, so binging one episode after the other is a go. However, if you're watching a new one and you're not in Japan, keeping up can get difficult with other services. While other streaming sites (like 123movies) may not have new episodes up until a day later, Crunchyroll posts them within the hour. PCMag's review writes:
With the exception of Sling, all five services continue to add local channels in an attempt to sign up viewers. Because most local stations, aka network affiliates, are owned by companies other than one of the big four networks in question, they usually require separate contracts with providers like streaming services, cable systems and satellite networks.
The antenna seems well-made and it works. I tried it initially indoors on the first floor. I wasn't expecting too much, as the TV stations are around 50 miles away. I only got a few stations set up this way. It makes a difference where in the room the antenna is located. Sitting in a window that faces the direction of the TV stations is the place to start. Or maybe in an attic. This antenna is also designed for outdoor use. I mounted it outside on an eave-mounted TV mast. If you have a mounting mast, it is VERY easy to install.
At my house, basic digital cable TV cost over $69 per month (plus taxes) and I watch maybe 10 or 15 of the 150+ channels that they provide me, meaning that I pay for many channels that I have no interest in. With the price of just about everything headed skyward, and paychecks plummeting, paid cable and satellite TV is often one of the first things to go from anyone’s budget. There are a lot of people who have taken the big step of getting rid of paid TV in their house and reverting back to antennas or no TV at all. Because I often give thought to ditching my cable, especially when my “deal” with Comcast expires, I was curious just how many ways there are that provide the ability to watch your favorite shows free-of-charge one way or another… and there are there a lot!
John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus says he appears on RT as well as the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, commented "I’ve been given the opportunity to talk about military expenditures in a way I haven’t been given in U.S. outlets". On the fairness issue, he said: "You're going to find blind spots in the coverage for any news organization".
Launched in 1981 by United Video Satellite Group, the network began its life as a simple electronic program guide (EPG) software application sold to cable system operators throughout the United States and Canada. Known simply as the Electronic Program Guide, the software was designed to be run within the headend facility of each participating cable system on a single, custom-modified consumer-grade computer supplied by United Video. Its scrolling program listings grid, which cable system operators broadcast to subscribers on a dedicated channel, covered the entire screen and provided four hours of listings for each system's entire channel lineup, one half-hour period at a time. Because of this, listings for programs currently airing would often be several minutes from being shown. Additionally, because the EPG software generated only video, cable operators commonly resorted to filling the EPG channel's audio feed with music from a local FM radio station, or with programming from a cable television-oriented audio service provider such as Cable Radio Network.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
On 4 March 2014, Breaking The Set host Abby Martin, speaking directly to her viewing audience during the show's closing statement, said that even though she works for RT, she is against Russia's intervention in Ukraine. She said that "what Russia did is wrong", as she is against intervention by any nation into other countries' affairs. Later, Martin asserted that RT still supports her despite her differences of opinion with the Russian government. RTs press office suggested that Martin would be sent to Crimea and responded to accusations of propaganda, stating "the charges of propaganda tend to pop up every time a news outlet, particularly RT, dares to show the side of events that does not fit the mainstream narrative, regardless of the realities on the ground. This happened in Georgia, this is happening in Ukraine". Glenn Greenwald said that American media elites love to mock Russian media, especially RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred. Agreeing the "network has a strong pro-Russian bias", he suggested that Martin's action "remarkably demonstrated what 'journalistic independence' means".
“We cut out cable and tried to replace it with just streaming options, then with those plus PlayStation Vue (because they were the only option for live sports). That was a bust because the internet streaming couldn’t keep up with the speed of most sports, plus the DVR options were abysmal [which made missing live game broadcasts not an option]. So we went back! We are the proud payers of a DIRECTV bill and I’m not even sad about it.” ― Stephanie Bowen Earley
Consensus: If you're a PlayStation household, this is hands-down the service to choose for obvious reasons. While Vue certainly isn't worthless to other devices, its packages are slightly pricier than competitors who offer mostly the same channel selection. However, if you value channels like HBO and Showtime, PlayStation Vue's Ultra package is a better deal than purchasing those channels as add-ons elsewhere.
That is far from an exhaustive list. You may find some of these on your big TV streaming hub (Roku has a great list of apps), but not all—some may only be on mobile devices. Remember, a lot of the shows that you watch on these stations end up on other services—specifically Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video. So you may not have to suffer through watching these on small screens with un-skippable advertising.
History appears to be on your side if you're ready to cancel your traditional paid TV subscription. The Video Advertising Bureau released a report suggesting that the number of households without a cable or satellite service in the United States has just about tripled since 2013. As the report doesn't take cable replacement services into account, the actual number might be even higher.
During the 2008 South Ossetia War, RT correspondent William Dunbar resigned after the network refused to let him report on Russian airstrikes of civilian targets, stating, "any issue where there is a Kremlin line, RT is sure to toe it." According to Variety, sources at RT confirmed that Dunbar had resigned, but rejected that it was over bias. One senior RT journalist told the magazine, "the Russian coverage I have seen has been much better than much of the Western coverage... When you look at the Western media, there is a lot of genuflection towards the powers that be. Russian news coverage is largely pro-Russia, but that is to be expected."
We like the Leaf Metro because its small profile easily tucks away, without sacrificing much functionality. Though its range is limited to approximately 25 miles, it’s perfect for those living in smaller apartments or rented rooms, especially in urban environments where over-air TV signals are plentiful. To compound the versatility enabled by its tiny size, the antenna comes in either black or white, and you can also paint it to match your interior. Plus, its adhesive coating means it will stick to most any surface and can be moved to other locations with ease. An included 10-foot coaxial cable allows for fairly flexible installation.
TV Everywhere apps are what many TV networks use to give viewers access to content on demand. Some popular ones include Discovery, History, Food Network, Comedy Central, Smithsonian, NBC, ABC, and FOX — but there are lots more to choose from. You can download TV Everywhere apps for your phone, tablet, or streaming device such as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
Cord cutting isn't just a millennial fad. Ditching cable allows you to save hundreds per year without being completely clueless about what's on TV. Nothing will you decide which service is best for you better than physically trying it for yourself. Each of the eight streaming services we've picked all offer free trials, so there's no reason to not take advantage of them — and all together, that's like two months of free TV.
Start with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, tack on an HBO subscription to the latter, and consider paying for the Brit-centric streaming service Acorn as well. You’ll have plenty to watch, all commercial-free, and if you hear a lot of buzz about a show that isn’t available through any of those platforms, you can always pay for them on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon (or iTunes, Vudu, or whichever digital retailer you prefer).
The light grey program-by-program summaries for individual channels, red and light blue channel highlighting, and graphical "Prevue Weather" forecasts that were previously available to cable systems as optional grid features and inserts remained available in the same manners as before. Closed captioning, MPAA movie rating and VCR Plus+ logos were additionally introduced by this version of the software, and unlike in prior versions, large graphical Prevue Guide logos appeared within its grid, between listings cycles. The old, synthesized interstitial music that had been used since 1988 was also replaced with a more modern piece called "Opening Act," from the defunct James & Aster music library.
If you watch only a few favorite shows, it may be cheaper to purchase and download seasons of the shows you like from Amazon, Google, or iTunes. This strategy works especially well if you don’t need to watch particular shows immediately, if you prefer to binge-watch, or you buy, rent, or borrow the DVD or Blu-ray box set when available. For example, a full season of Game of Thrones at the Google Play store was $30 at the time we checked, while season two of Mr. Robot was only $20.
Here’s a good place to experiment. Don’t look for a live TV option with Nickelodeon or Disney; instead, make use of the PBS app and YouTube’s kid-friendly channels, which are free. Get a subscription to Boomerang for some classic cartoons, and supplement that with some combination of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, all of which have some excellent children’s shows.
It could be true that choosing one of these options won’t get you all of shows you could get with cable. However, if you truly want to get rid of cable, knowing what some of the options are can help you choose the BEST one. Then you can make the decision of whether or not it is worth it to spend the additional money to get the extra one or two channels through cable OR sacrifice one or two shows to save a BUNCH of money. It just depends your priorities.
“I’m really disappointed in the slow deterioration of popular film offerings from the Big 3 (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon). I remember when they started up, Netflix had an amazing selection. But now it seems like they never have any of the films I’m looking for. I have Amazon Prime, but any of the movies I really want to see inevitably require that I pay extra to rent them. The number of B and C-grade movies that are on these services is quite remarkable. That’s a lot of chaff to pad their offerings.” ― Susan Houston
A perk to a setup like this is that it will directly integrate into Amazon’s growing ecosystem of connected devices. That means you’ll be able to check what’s on the premium Prime add-on channels just by talking to Alexa. That feature might not be a game changer, but it’s helpful nonetheless, and only serves to strengthen the case for subscribing to these channels if you’re an Amazon Prime member not subscribed to them elsewhere.
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.
It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.
Amazon Prime has a long list of perks for its members, but one of the lesser-known incentives is the ability to augment your Prime Video library with a handful of curated TV channels. Compared to the other services here, Amazon Prime’s channel add-ons don’t pose much competition. Prime simply offers a small number of channels supported currently by just Fire TV.
I was very disappointed when the NBC-based channel US Sports went to cable on January 1st. I used to enjoy the gymnastics and skating there. Now, in an Olympic year, they decided to move from the free NBC channel 5.3 to a paid cable channel. It’s like those certain sports events are only available on paid cable, or video reruns on USsports.com. It’s really lousy in an Olympic year!