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.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
*All offers require credit qualification, 2-Year commitment with early termination fee and eAutoPay. Prices include Hopper Duo for qualifying customers. Hopper, Hopper w/Sling or Hopper 3 $5/mo. more. Upfront fees may apply based on credit qualification. Fees apply for additional TVs: Hopper $15/mo., Joey $5/mo., Super Joey $10/mo. Internet not provided by DISH and billed separately. Free premium channels for 3 mos: After 3 months, you will be billed $20/month unless you call to cancel. Free standard professional installation available as soon as tomorrow for up to six rooms. Voice Remote requires an internet-connected Hopper.
The WD TV is kind of a "jack of all trades, master of none". It does a good job of playing your own files while being easy to use, streaming from a few different services (but not a lot of them), and being configurable only where it counts. Tech-savvy media center users may find it a little basic, but it's the perfect box for someone who wants more than Apple TV can offer, but without the work that goes into Google TV, Boxee, or a homebrew XBMC box.
If you're looking for a little more flexibility, Mujay might be just the antenna. The double-sided antenna is similar to the VICTONY antenna in that it can be mounted by simply placing it behind the TV, on the wall, or on a nearby window. After mounting, set the antenna to either 0-35 miles or 35-80 miles to bring in the most channels. Just keep in mind that if your TV doesn't have an HDTV tuner, you'll need a digital converter to make sure the signal is coming through properly. It's also often on sale, making it an even more affordable option.
While DirecTV Now is more for the type of customer who is looking to replace their cable service, AT&T WatchTV is more like Philo. You shouldn’t look at it as a replacement for all of your live TV needs. Instead, look at it as a supplement to on-demand streaming services like Netflix. If you’re mainly a binge watcher but want the occasional bit of live TV, WatchTV might be for you. Throw in an HD antenna and you’ve got a pretty good setup.
Most cord cutters know that there are plenty of ways to watch popular movies and television shows without cable. Netflix and Hulu have made it easy to check out big-budget Hollywood films, and HBO's streaming option has freed TV binge-watchers from the clutches of the cable companies. But what about local content? Many cord cutters don't know how to watch local channels without cable, and may not even realize that they can.
The other caveat is that the majority of these channels aren’t actually TV channels but internet channels, meaning stuff from websites and online creators like IGN, CNET, and Cheddar, rather than traditional TV channels. You’ll still get those, too, but you won’t find any of the major prime-time networks or cable favorites like Comedy Central, Syfy, or FX here.
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.
“We have Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and the T1 from Xfinity (with their best package) plus internet and sports packages. We would definitely cut cable as there is enough with Netflix, Amazon and Vudu ... BUT my husband HAS to have the football and baseball packages and local channels. That’s the only thing keeping us from cutting completely as we only pay about $30 a month combined for streaming compared to almost $300 a month for cable.” ― Anna Day
NFL Network – Though this is actually the National Football League's official cable channel, its website has a ton of post-game video footage for fans to check out. Due to licensing and TV restrictions, finding a legal way to live stream NFL football is next to impossible unless you live outside the US, but at least you can listen live to every game of the season with an NFL Field Pass.
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?
Pretty ubiquitous among the streaming hubs, Sony-owned Crackle offers an eclectic selection of content for free, mostly with ads. We are talking really bad commercials cut in at odd moments in movies—sometimes in the middle of a scene—as if an algorithm handles it rather than a human. The movies tend to be pretty craptacular with occasional gems. It's trying more and more to do original content, like TV show version of the movie Snatch, Start Up with Ron Perlman, and the new cop series The Oath with Sean Bean. It once could brag about having Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee but lost it to Netflix.
Philo is one of the newer streaming services to enter the market and it’s also one of the cheapest. The service aims at providing value by carrying entertaining channels without expensive sports programming. One of those channels is AMC. At $16 per month, it is now the most affordable way to watch The Walking Dead without Cable. You can sign up for their free trial or read more about them in our review of Philo.
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.