Hate Comcast? Time-Warner Cable? Cox? Me too — been there, done them all.
Longing to cut the cord, but not sure how to do so without missing your favorite shows, movies and sports?
Never fear. The following is a guide to the various Internet streaming services and devices that can make up for your lack of cable, so you never have to deal with Comcast customer service again.
Best of all, you can pick and choose which services you want to cover your preferred programming — and leave the rest.
Netflix is perhaps the most well-known streaming service available. With a healthy combination of movies, TV shows and quality original programming (frankly, Netflix is worth it just for House of Cards and Orange is the New Black), you can’t go wrong with a Netflix subscription ($9.99 per month for a standard package which includes streaming on up to two devices at once).
Some important notes: Netflix programming changes on a regular basis. For example, a movie that you watched in October might not be available to watch again in November. Netflix is also known for its wide array of content — but not necessarily for the speed at which it obtains it. Interested in watching a full series like The West Wing or Breaking Bad from the beginning? Netflix has you covered. Looking to watch last night’s episode of Nashville or the latest new movie release? You’ll need to use another service.
Hulu is similar to Netflix, but specializes more in current television programming. What does that mean for you? If you just can’t miss the latest episodes of network TV programming and want to stay up to date on watercooler chat, Hulu is for you. At just $7.99 a month, it’s a steal compared to your current deal with the cable company.
Together, Netflix and Hulu can be enough for most people to cut the cable cord. They provide a vast selection of movies, television shows old and new, and quality original programming.
But what if the basics just aren’t enough to cover everything you want access to? Personally, as an (older) millennial, I like everything on demand. If you like options, too, keep reading.
HBO NOW is HBO’s answer to the millennial generation and increasing consumer frustration with cable companies. For just $14.99 a month, you can have access to all of HBO’s content — on demand — without a cable subscription. That means original series like Game of Thrones, The Brink (hilarious show, by the way) and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, as well as new movies, exclusive documentary content and more. Speaking of documentaries, if you haven’t started watching VICE, run, don’t walk, to your nearest Internet connected viewing device and sign up for HBO.
Amazon Instant Video
You’re probably familiar with Amazon Prime as the yearly subscription service that gives you unlimited, two-day shipping on many items. What you may not know is that it also gives you access to Amazon’s continually growing library of streaming TV and movie content.
Of note: Some of Amazon’s TV and movie content is only available for an additional fee, with different price levels based on whether you want to rent (meaning the selection will be available for a limited period of time) or buy (meaning you will always have access to the selection once you make the purchase).
If you don’t have a Prime membership, I would probably recommend considering other services before Amazon Instant Video to make up for your soon to be defunct cable subscription. If you do already have Prime, as many people do, this is just an added bonus to round out your cutting-the-cord arsenal.
Sports lovers — I haven’t forgotten you. Sports are more complicated to navigate in the world of Internet streaming, especially because there are so many different sports and leagues that aren’t all bundled into one service. While there are ways to reliably stream any sport you want to watch — no cable required — the most inclusive service is Sling TV.
Sling isn’t only for sports. Billed as, “The Best of Live TV,” Sling carries live programming from channels including AMC, Food Network, TNT, A&E, The History Channel and many more. That said, it’s your best bet for sports, exclusively carrying ESPN and ESPN2, meaning you can get your NFL, NBA and much of the MLB here.
Personally, I’ve found my favorite part of relying on streaming services is not having to choose from what’s on right now — rather, I choose whatever I want, whenever I want it. I also rarely watched live TV via cable. It was always something DVR’d. Therefore, if sports aren’t your top priority* and you don’t mind waiting a few hours or a day to watch the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows, save your money and skip Sling ($20 per month) in favor of some of the services already mentioned.
* There are ways to watch any sport, often for free (see link above), but it’s more of a patchwork quilt, whereas Sling covers America’s three most popular professional sports, plus everything else on ESPN.
Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox
So you’ve chosen your cable replacement lineup. Now how are you going to watch it? There are many options available, but I’ll cover the most popular ones here (I own all of them).
The Roku is the most often used device in my house. It has a wide selection of streaming channels, including all of those mentioned above. It’s easy to use, and the remote comes with a headphone jack so you can listen silently without disturbing others in your household.
Apple TV is a similarly simple device, designed around the concept of individual apps. The tvOS interface is designed to make your large screen viewing as seamless as the way you operate your Apple smartphone and iPad products, and the remote comes with Siri built in. The disadvantage? Apple locks you into Apple, so don’t expect to find Amazon Instant Video here.
Full disclosure: We almost never use our Chromecast. That said, I’ve heard the new one is pretty nifty. Chromecast is different from the previously mentioned devices in that it lets you stream content directly from your phone or laptop to your TV or speakers, meaning it works for both video and music content. With Chromecast, you’ll be downloading the mobile app versions of the services mentioned above and operating the system from your phone or laptop. Chromecast works with Apple and Android platforms. (Remember to stream over Wi-Fi on your phone to avoid huge data usage bills!)
Already have an XBox? Your gaming system can be used just like a Roku to view the services you’ve selected. Our XBox is probably the second most often used device in my household for streaming content.
The bottom line
If you opted to pay for all of the services covered in this article, you’d still only be paying $734.64 a year, or $61.22 a month. Obviously, you can pay less than that if you only want one or some of the services.
Either way, that’s a whole lot less than my cable bill.