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.
Just because you subscribe to cable or satellite doesn't mean you have to use the provided set-top box. In an effort to become part of the cord-cutting landscape, many of the major cable and satellite providers, who double as internet service providers, let users subscribe and then access all programing via apps rather than the cable box or even the tuner in the TV.
HBO Now’s $15/month price point makes it among the most expensive on-demand service here, but that comes with the benefit of seeing all of the service’s latest shows, including Game of Thrones, Westworld, Silicon Valley, Veep, and more, all at the same time they appear on the traditional service. Add to that a cascade of past classics, from Sopranos to Deadwood, newer movie releases, and virtually everything on the network anytime on demand.
Of course, as mentioned above, watching live sports through a streaming service means you’ll suffer a bit of a delay. If you’re watching the game on your own, you probably won’t notice, but you won’t want to follow along on Twitter or read text messages from your friends if you want to avoid spoilers. (Wirecutter staffers sometimes notice the neighbors yelling after an exciting play only to see it happen on our TVs 15 to 30 seconds later.) And if you’re using an older media streamer, we’ve found that Sling TV can start to stutter and lag after streaming a football game for two-plus hours; we “fix” the problem by restarting the app during a commercial break.
However, if you’re a more casual sports fan or a supporter of an out-of-market team, cord cutting is still a worthwhile option. Sling TV—assuming it can hold up under the strain of future events—will give you ESPN and ESPN 2 in addition to a handful of basic cable channels for $20 a month, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. Add in an indoor TV antenna and you’ll also have access to network sports.
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
Google TV is, quite literally, the Android of streaming boxes. It's available on a number of different devices from different manufacturers, in different price ranges, and with different remotes. As such, we can't talk too much about the hardware here (though the VIZIO Co-Star, shown at the right, is a great looking model available for preorder now). The software, however, is very reminiscent of an Android tablet...because that's exactly what it is. You have a wall of icons representing your media, live TV, apps like Netflix and Amazon, and others. You can download Google TV-optimized Android apps from the Google Play store and put them on your home screen.
This year alone, some 6 million people are expected to ditch satellite and cable, causing a major pain point for the providers of digital entertainment. Welcome many of the same companies (DirecTV and Dish Network), along with YouTube, Hulu and Sony, in a different sort of offer. A smaller collection of channels, along with broadcast TV locals, no equipment required, and an average price of around $40 monthly. (Along with your internet subscription.)