Usually, the apps themselves are free. However, some networks offer paid subscription options to access certain shows or old episodes. But that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t potentially reasonable, depending on how many shows you may watch. For example, CBS All Access is available for as little as $5.99 per month (plus tax), which isn’t bad in comparison to the cost of cable.
You no longer need a cable or satellite TV subscription to watch your local TV channels. You can now watch your local networks through the internet through streaming services that now stream local broadcast affiliates in several markets. You can even get a device like a Roku and watch them on your TV set. If you live in on near a major metro area, you can likely receive all of you local channels online. Here are some of those services:
Even if you can’t easily cut the cord, you might be able to reduce your cable costs. For example, renting a cable box for your TV often costs at least $10 to $15 per month—for each TV—to get HDTV and DVR capabilities, so a simple $35 cable plan can end up costing two to three times as much once you add hardware fees. Instead, many cable channels have streaming apps that let you watch programming on a Roku or Apple TV box as long as you’re paying for that channel through your cable subscription. In other words, you can pay for a single cable box in the living room while streaming episodes of The Americans or Mr. Robot to your streaming box, smartphone, or tablet for free. Reducing the number of cable boxes, while still being able to watch most programming, could save you a decent amount every month.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
If you want a power upgrade from the ClearStream 2V, there's the ClearStream 4. The mantra with this antenna is simple: bigger is better. Because of that, the range is bumped up to 70 miles and the antenna is 4K-ready out of the box. Unfortunately, that will make setup a bit harder because of the bigger size, but given its improved performance over its counterpart, that definitely makes up for it.
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.
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 Roku is a clever little device, designed to be an easy-to-use, one-stop shop for any streaming service you want—and it does the job well. We tested the top-of-the-line XS model, which is still as tiny and inexpensive as they come, clocking in at only $99. Like the Apple TV, it sits out of the way, unnoticed, and is very easy to use, so even the least tech-savvy friend or family member can fire it up and watch their shows.
Ultimately, your final decision will completely depend on your needs, what services you subscribe to, and how much of a hassle you're willing to deal with. I'm still married to my home-built XBMC box, but I'd have to say the Roku was easily my favorite of the pre-built options. It's insanely cheap, has tons of streaming services, and with the addition of Plex, can even do some basic playing of network files. The Boxee Box was also pretty nice if you're willing to sit and configure it, while the Apple TV and WD TV Live provided great plug-and-play solutions. The Google TV is a bit more of a wild card for those that have specific needs, but provides a lot of configurability and niche apps that the others don't have (or, alternatively, makes a great feature-filled Plex box). Check out the home pages for each device to see more about what they offer and where you can buy your own.
Not so long ago, blogs like ours tended to be a bit skeptical about smart TVs. The reason for that was that external streaming devices had an edge, generally speaking, in ease of use and in their app libraries. Like your smartphone or tablet, streaming devices and smart TVs tend to connect you with services through individual apps rather than through an internet browser. Also like your smart phone, apps for one platform don't work on another – so each platform has its own “app store,” just like iPhones and Android phones have different app stores. services have to make apps for each platform separately, and streaming platforms that traditionally came on external devices, like Roku, have the most apps available.
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.
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