If you are a regular reader, you know that I dropped cable TV about five years ago. Thousands of people have visited our website and downloaded our free 17 page report on cable TV alternatives. You can download this PDF report for free (right click here and select a location to to save the report to your own computer). The good news is that it is now easier than ever to replace cable TV with one of several streaming services. When I dropped cable TV years ago it was more of a patchwork to put together the channels I wanted. I also had to accept the reality that it was not possible to completely replicate the channel lineup I had available through cable TV. In this article I want to focus on the four major TV streaming services that provide a suite of live channels, including news and sports. Remember, however, that you will still need a decent Internet connection to utilize streaming TV. The equipment you will need will vary depending on what streaming service you subscribe to (the most common devices are ROKU and Amazon Fire TV). Also, the new Smart TVs have this technology built in (eliminating the need for a set top box altogether).
A Closer Look At The Major Live TV Streaming Services
SlingTV (owned by DISH) offers several channel packages, the basic package starts at just $20. Of the major offerings, SlingTV offers the lowest base price for their starter channel package. Included in the $20 subscription are 29 channels. There are a variety of upgraded channel packages that can be added on for $5 just each. Many people are surprised to see that the basic package includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel, and many other popular channels.
Another satellite provider getting into streaming TV is DirecTV. DirecTV Now starts with a base price of $35 monthly. DirecTV Now has a basic package that includes 60 channels (which explains why the price is nearly double the basic channel package of SlingTV).
YouTubeTV is rolling out nationwide. At $35 monthly, the basic package includes 40 channels. One drawback is that there is not a Roku or Amazon Fire app yet. You can use a Google Chromecast device (since you have to use a computer or smartphone to navigate the channels, it is not as seamless of an integration as using a set top box).
You may already be familiar with Hulu as one of those streaming services that plays TV shows and movies on demand. Hulu is now getting into the live TV game with this new offering. Another drawback here is presently the lack of integration with Roku and Amazon Fire (another case requiring the use of a Google Chromecast). The cost is $39.99 monthly and this includes Hulu's premium limited commercial on demand library as well. So, if you already subscribe to Hulu you would be eliminating the cost of your standalone subscription. In our home we have the $7.99 Hulu basic streaming subscription, so if we went with Hulu Live the net increase in cost would be just $32. The basic package includes more than 50 channels.
Each of the above services has not just their own unique channel lineup, but there are other differences that have to be considered. For example, one major issue is the limitation on how many devices can access your account at the same time. This is important if you will have multiple family members watching TV simultaneously on different devices. Some services only allow two devices to access the account at the same time, while others allow up to six. Of course, the ease of integration with your TV is another consideration. It appears that apps for Roku and Amazon Fire TV are just around the corner for those services not presently offering them. Nonetheless, Google Chromecast is just not as convenient to use as one of these set top boxes.
Another consideration is the ability to record programs for later playback. The features and limitations of the so called 'cloud DVR' capabilities will vary with each service as well. The great news is that all of these services offer a free trial and month-to-month agreements if you sign up. This means you can experiment until you find the service that is right for your family.
Any way you slice it, all of these packages will save you money compared to the cost of cable or satellite TV. They also make it convenient to access live TV on your laptop, desktop computer, and mobile devices. We are also seeing a limited number of local channels being added as well (this appears to be the next major feature improvement). All in all, it appears that streaming TV is here, and on average is being offered at a discount of 50 percent or more from cable TV. I expect prices to drop even more from here as additional streaming services are launched. I also expect cable TV to drop their prices as well due to the mass exodus to these streaming alternatives. Well, the Internet just changed yet another industry.
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