It’s a no-brainer that the largest video platform in history would build its own live TV streaming service. Like Hulu’s service, YouTube TV offers a single channel package. You’ll get 40-plus channels with a $40 monthly subscription — including sports channels you’d normally have to pay much more for on other services — with the option of supplementing with a small handful of premium add-ons. On top of the TV content, you’ll also get access to all of YouTube’s premium content, which includes YouTube-produced series from popular creators and celebrities. The service is still offered in select areas only, so you’ll want to check if it’s available in your town before getting too excited.
After the 1-week free trial, the service costs $44.99 per month. You can opt to just subscribe to the Hulu library instead of the Live TV service for just $7.99. Hulu also offers loads of original content and a decent back catalog of many past seasons of cable and network TV shows. You can test the live service or the on-demand service by using this 1-week free trial to Hulu Live TV. For more details check out my full review of Hulu.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
Reliable figures for RT's worldwide audience are not available. In the United States, RT typically pays cable and satellite services to carry its channel in subscriber packages. In 2011, RT was the second most-watched foreign news channel in the United States (after BBC World News), and the number one foreign network in five major U.S. urban areas in 2012. It also rates well among younger Americans under 35 and among inner city areas.
PlayStation Vue’s packages used to be scaled based on whether your market had access to local live channels or not, but now all pricing tiers are priced identically regardless of where you live. The vast majority of markets include at least some live local channels on PS Vue, as the service now offers more than 600 local affiliates. Fox channels, in particular, get a special highlight on the service, with a specialized Fox feed that curates Fox-owned channels like Fox News, FS1, Fox Business, Fox Soccer Plus, and local Fox affiliates into a single feed that includes both live and VOD content. You can find which local channels are available in your area on Sony’s PS Vue page.
Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes. You can watch episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available for web site visitors.
Every major television broadcaster (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and the CW) has some kind of free content available on their website — some more than others. You might have to poke around a bit to find out if full episodes of your favorite show are available. Sometimes the full episodes are hidden behind a paywall, with only a smattering of episode clips available for free.
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.
There is also this thing called broadcast television, which anyone can watch as long as they have a TV that supports digital television (or a digital conversion box) and an over-the-air (OTA) HDTV antenna. The thing about broadcast television is that I couldn't watch it on Apple TV. I'd have to switch my TV input over, and then flip through the channels until I found something to watch. I rarely watched broadcast television because I tend to stick with Apple TV for my TV and movie watching activities.
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
The Amazon Fire TV has gone through a few iterations now, getting better with each one. The current version is a veritable revolution in streaming boxes, offering simple operation, as well as the ability to control your entire home theater and smart home system with your voice. That includes the ability to turn on and control basic functionality on other devices, including not only your TV, but also your A/V receiver and even your cable box thanks to CEC control and IR blasters — all with the power of your own voice. The result earned the Cube a perfect score in our recent review and a place on our TV console.
If you have unpredictable tastes, but only focus on one show at a time, it might be most cost efficient to just buy all your television a la carte. For the price of a year of cable, the average viewer can buy 26 seasons of TV. Assuming these are all 45 minute shows with 14 episodes, that’s almost 300 hours of content. If you can’t ever imagine yourself watching more than that, then this plan is for you. Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching prime time now and then.
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
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.
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YouTube TV has AMC, but the live streaming service is only available in a small number of cities across the U.S. That’s likely to change later in 2017. For $35 per month, YouTube TV offers 40+ channels, including USA Network, FX and IFC. Right now, you need to use a Chromecast or Airplay via Apple TV to live stream on YouTube TV. But that’s like to change by this fall — maybe even in time for Season 8 – so stay tuned.
Sally, I use YouTube TV and it works great. I get all my local channels and a total of about 40. They also supply a large amount of movies and TV shows. My 40 dollar fee is half of what I paid to cable and DirecTV. A point of using it when you first start is if you’re done with your use of YouTube, use your back button several times to get an exit screen. It is really easy. Otherwise, you will have to go to sign in screens all the time. It took me a little while to figure all this out. Good luck.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
Consider that 5Mbps may get you one HD video stream, but you may experience loading and buffering delays if your network is getting choked up with any other traffic. Of course, if you’re looking to get into the streaming big leagues to access the growing array of 4K Ultra HD streaming content available from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and others, you’ll want to kick up your broadband speed to at least 25Mbps. Cable TV doesn’t interrupt your show to buffer, so you don’t want to get unnecessarily frustrated. If you’re only going to be downloading 4K content from sites like FandangoNow or Ultraflix, 10Mbps will probably suffice, but fast and reliable internet is key to a positive streaming experience.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
Basically, when you go to your xbox and select to view video, you can view video from the xbox’s hard drive (stuff you download from xbox live), or from one of the connected media servers. Playon would be one of the connected media servers (in addition to the built in media server in windows vista -which only has limited streaming capabilities). Does that make sense or did I just muddy the water even more?
With Spectrum TV, for example, you get access to live TV streams for any of the networks in your tier of service. There's also lots of on-demand content for individual shows and some movies. It integrates channel guides and search for select shows/movies. If a channel (or show on a channel) that isn't available to you shows up on a menu, it's generally grayed out. And you can mark shows as favorites so they're easier to follow. But what's annoying is it takes a lot longer for a show to appear in the on-demand section—three or four days, instead of just one with a show on Hulu or even a network's own app, for example.
On top of that, you can combine free over-the-air TV with many of these devices by using either an OTA DVR (once your antenna is connected to the DVR, devices like Tablo will let you stream the OTA feed on your streaming device via the relevant app – in this case, Tablo TV) or Plex (connect an antenna, via a PC TV tuner, to the computer hosting your Plex server and then use the Plex app on supported streaming devices and access the live TV feature). It's simplest of all with a smart TV (such as the ones that Roku makes with its manufacturing partners): just plug your antenna into your TV, which is also your streaming device, and scan for channels!
The next time you come across the question, "can you still get local channels without cable?" you will know the answer is one big yes! From indoor TV antennas to outdoor TV antennas to mobile apps, there are quite a few options when it comes to accessing your favorite local channels. Wave goodbye to that cable bill and start watching local channels your way.
Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
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.
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.
Our top pick for the best overall premium streaming service is PlayStation Vue: If you've got a few extra bucks to blow on TV, Sony's streaming service is worth it. Their base package goes for $35/month and offers nearly 50 live channels, which is a crazy good number for being the low-tier plan. With four package options all together, the top-tier package goes for $75/month and offers over 90 live channels and includes exclusive channels like HBO and Showtime with no add-on price. DirecTV NOW offers more channels in each tier, but their app isn't nearly as user-friendly as Vue's, and Vue is the only service we've seen that allows five streams at once (instead of the regular two).
A reader of the blog informed me that WOW! now offers Internet access in Knoxville Tennessee. They offer speeds of 30 Mbps for just $25 and 60 Mbps for just $40 a Mbps. If anyone has any experience with their Internet-only service them please post in the comments. They appear to offer service in parts of South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.