Tech Review: If you want to ditch your traditional pay TV provider, you have a lot of streaming options available. Here’s an overview.
More people than ever are ditching their traditional pay TV providers. In fact, eMarketer estimates the proportion of U.S. adults with a pay TV subscription will fall from 78 percent in 2017 to 69 percent by the end of 2021. Many people are migrating to over-the-internet alternatives.
Of course, cord cutters don’t need a streaming “skinny bundle” of channels to get by — an antenna plus a few subscription digital video services will suffice for extreme bargain hunters. But if you want a bundle of channels, you’ve got a wide spectrum to choose from.
Here’s an overview of what’s available at monthly prices (some channel options depend on where you live):
• Sling TV — Starting at $20
Sling TV, from parent company DISH, offers cheap, minimalist bundles with upgrades for people who have niche interests. The $20-per-month plan, called “Sling Orange,” gets you around 30 cable networks, including ESPN, HGTV, Food Network and CNN. Just be advised, this package doesn’t include local broadcast affiliates.
The $25-per-month package, called “Sling Blue,” is a nice step up with more channels and the local Fox station and NBC on demand — what’s absent are Disney-owned stations.
Extras: A cloud-based DVR costs $5 more per month. Sling TV also has a variety of add-on packages, costing between $5 and $10 each, to round out service.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Roku, Xbox One and some smart TVs.
• PlayStation Vue — $40 to $75
Don’t be confused by the name, PlayStation Vue from Sony doesn’t require a PlayStation, and its channel lineup is actually quite impressive, even for people with very particular demands.
There are four different streaming packages, all of which include a cloud DVR, but I recommend the “Core” bundle for $45 per month. You’ll get the live, local feeds for NBC, CBS and ABC, Fox series on demand, cable staples (Bravo, CNN, HGTV, ESPN, Food Network) and regional sports networks. If sports channels aren’t necessary, give the $40 “Access” package a look.
Extras: A sports pack, costing $10 more per month, tacks on more sports channels. An Español package comes with Spanish-language stations for $5 a month.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th gen), Chromecast, iOS, Android, Roku, PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles, and some smart TVs.
• DirecTV Now — $35 to $70
The most cablelike of the streaming pay TV services, AT&T’s DirecTV Now starts at $35 a month for 60 channels (or $20 a month for AT&T unlimited subscribers) and climbs to $70 a month for people who want everything. Each bundle includes the local ABC, Fox and NBC affiliates, as well as on-demand CBS material.
Extras: HBO and Cinemax can be added on for $5 more each, while Showtime and Starz cost an additional $8 a pop.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th gen), Chromecast, iOS (beta), Android (beta), Roku (select models), and some smart TVs.
• YouTube TV — $35
For the price, you get a lot with YouTube TV, including AMC, Bravo, FX and all four of the broadcast networks. What you don’t get are some cable favorites, most notably Turner’s CNN, HGTV, TBS and TNT. There’s also an unlimited cloud DVR, but fast-forwarding is sometimes tricky to navigate from a smartphone, which acts as the primary interface and remote for most TV viewing.
For now, shows are “cast” from the app to your TV by way of Google’s Chromecast streaming stick or through Airplay on Apple TV, unless you have an Xbox or Android TV set. YouTube TV has promised a stand-alone app for both Apple TV and Roku devices, as well as Sony TVs, “in the coming months,” but exact timing remains unclear.
Available on: Chromecast, iOS, Android, Xbox and some Android TVs.
• Hulu with Live TV — $40
Hulu with Live TV, an offshoot of the company’s on-demand-only service, comes with an impressive selection of 50 popular broadcast, sports and cable networks. Subscribers also get staples such as Food Network, Lifetime, FX, TNT, CNN, ESPN. NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports.
A so-called DVR is included in the price, but the offering is really a glorified on-demand content library, unless you want to pay more to fast-forward through ads.
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Extras: The enhanced DVR, with fast-forward ability, costs an additional $15 a month. To stream on more than two screens at once, customers will also have to pay $15 more per month.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th gen), iOS, Android, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox and select Samsung TVs.
• fuboTV — $40
This skinny bundle caters to sports fans and comes with 75 channels, some of which (Pac 12 Networks and Big Ten Network) don’t come standard in other streaming packages. FuboTV also provides live, local access to CBS, Fox and NBC, and comes with plenty of cable stations you know and love. That means people who want to supplement their sports viewing can tune into HGTV, Lifetime, A&E and other networks.
Extras: Channel packs, including sports and Spanish-language bundles, are available, ranging in price from $6 to $15 more a month.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th gen), Roku, iOS, Android, Chromecast and some Android TV’s.
• Philo — $16 to $20
Designed for the viewer who doesn’t care for sports, startup Philo’s base bundle costs $16 a month and comes with 37 channels, albeit no local stations. The cheaper-than-cheap rate even includes streaming on up to three devices at the same time and the ability to save shows to watch later.
Philo might be the best fit for the occasional traditional TV viewer who also has an antenna and subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Video.
Available on: Roku, iOS and Android.