Overall, Amazon is still playing catch-up when it comes to Netflix and other streaming services just because they don’t have as much content. However, at technically $8.25 / month it is a bit cheaper than your typical $8.99 or $9.99 package, and you get free, 2-day shipping as a perk. If you shop online a lot, that could end up swinging your choice.
If you like premium channels like HBO: DirecTV Now is definitely the best choice. You have a number of bundles to pick from and HBO is $10 cheaper per month to add on than with any of the other services or if you bought HBO Now as a standalone. PlayStation Vue is a close second, though, with HBO and Showtime included in the $74.99/mo "Ultra" bundle.
Another drawback is that you usually don’t get your local networks with these services. Since most TVs include an integrated HDTV tuner, adding an antenna will give you access to those channels, but you won’t be able to record or time-shift them. Streaming services lag behind satellite and cable by 15 to 60 seconds, too, so if you’re watching sports and trying to avoid spoilers, you’ll probably have to stop checking your Twitter timeline. You can also run into buffering issues, but those are usually due to problems with your Internet connection rather than the streaming service. (Some people have encountered issues during peak shows such as Game of Thrones, but Wirecutter staffers haven’t personally experienced them—it may depend more on your Internet connection and local network speed.)
With the exception of Sling, all five services continue to add local channels in an attempt to sign up viewers. Because most local stations, aka network affiliates, are owned by companies other than one of the big four networks in question, they usually require separate contracts with providers like streaming services, cable systems and satellite networks.

I have just started disability retirement. After figuring out the bills, I come up short. I called Spectrum to drop the HD channels and was informed that starting next month, all tvs must have a digital box. That forced me to drop one of the tvs. I have been paying Time Warner for 100mps for years but did a speed test to discover the speed is below 50 so I figure I will negotiate with them for the lower speed. My main question is: Blu Ray players have come way down in price and I know they have wi-fi capability. What options should I look out for? Will I have to buy a player for each tv? Are there conversion cords that will work with 20+ year televisions to connect blue ray?


The chart -- which is too big to fit on this page, so I made it a Google spreadsheet -- answers the question of which streaming local channels are available where. You see, just because a service like DirecTV Now offers Fox, that doesn't mean it offers your local Fox station live. If you live in Asheville, Las Vegas or Schenectady, for example, DirecTV Now doesn't carry your local Fox station. Hulu and YouTube TV do, however.
You may need to check with your internet provider before you decide to switch to streaming only options and see what kind of usage limits they enforce. A friend of mine just got burned when he suddenly found out his ISP didn’t appreciate the bandwidth usage and cut off his service for the month after he streamed 10 hours or so of video. He had to ride out the rest of month with no cable and no internet.
The best way to watch local content is by subscribing to a live TV streaming solution. If you were burned by cable, the idea of signing another contract might seem daunting. Thankfully streaming TV is a different world than cable, free of long-term contracts that screw you on the details. Each of these services allows subscribers to cancel at any time, so if a service isn’t right for you, make sure you try another one. You’ve got options and time to shop.
We watch hulu and subscribe to Netflix for the streaming video, and have not had cable in about 6 years. We have an antenna to pick up the local channels and we also make the most of our library card (so that’s what our $70/year property tax bill library line item is paying for!). I really like the Netflix just for kids channel, it makes it a no-brainer to decide what is/isn’t age appropriate for little ones. We are not big sports fans (would rather be out playing them than inside watching it on TV), but if there’s ever a game worth watching like the Superbowl or Olympics we can either go to a friend’s house or the sportsbar down the street to watch some of it.

There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
For those looking for "cable lite" in the form of small packaged cable subscriptions from services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, we've got a list of the best streaming live TV services. Keep in mind, though, that most of these services don't offer unlimited access to broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. What I'm referring to is the ability to watch any broadcast channel available in your area.
Credit: ShutterstockTom's Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)
There are a lot of options out there to stream your favorite shows. Don’t feel overwhelmed. They all offer free trials and no contract. There is no risk to try them out. Don’t overthink ditching your traditional pay TV provider.  Try cutting the cord. If you discover it isn’t for you, I’m sure your cable company will be more than happy to take your money again.
Playon allows you to stream a wide variety of video sources to your TV via a connected device. If you already pay for and you’re fine with Netflix, Hulu and a couple of others you get through your Blu-ray player, you’re probably fine without Playon. But Playon would allow you to stream TV shows from networks, some cable networks, and a bunch of other places that you might not be able to otherwise (unless you regularly hook your laptop up to the TV).

Hi to everyone tuned into this conversation here. First off, Peter I have to thank you for sharing your advice and putting it out on here for all of us to benefit from. I’m just beginning to embrace this shift in the way TV is consumed. (I’ve admittedly but proudly been without TV and cable for the past 3 years). I just had a projector, a dvd player and a super nes.


Includes: From the folks who brought you the Dish Network for satellite viewing, Sling has a skinnier color-coded channel lineup than others. The "Orange" offering has some popular channels, like ESPN, CNN and Comedy Central, but it's missing big ones like CBS, ABC and PBS. The "Blue" offering, also for $25, has a more sports-oriented lineup.  (You can get both Blue and Orange combined for $40 monthly.) Many favorites may be missing from "Blue" or "Orange" for you. For instance, if you like MSNBC and CNBC, you'll have to pay $5 more monthly for the "News Extra:" package. To get TCM, look for the Hollywood Extra package, MTV and TV Land are in the Comedy extra offering. All add $5 each monthly. Nickelodeon is missing from all of them. 
Playon allows you to stream a wide variety of video sources to your TV via a connected device. If you already pay for and you’re fine with Netflix, Hulu and a couple of others you get through your Blu-ray player, you’re probably fine without Playon. But Playon would allow you to stream TV shows from networks, some cable networks, and a bunch of other places that you might not be able to otherwise (unless you regularly hook your laptop up to the TV).
You may need to check with your internet provider before you decide to switch to streaming only options and see what kind of usage limits they enforce. A friend of mine just got burned when he suddenly found out his ISP didn’t appreciate the bandwidth usage and cut off his service for the month after he streamed 10 hours or so of video. He had to ride out the rest of month with no cable and no internet.

Spectrum is now requiring a box for all TVs to receive their signal. I have a TV in the basement that I use while exercising and watch only news programs. Is their a way I can use one of your suggestions that will allow me to watch the news. Or are MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc by definition only cable channels. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix and would love to cut the cable if there were a way to also get these news channels. Thanks.


There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
Another issue is the availability of the local streams for networks like the Big 4: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Several reasons prevent the services from just putting local streams out there. As a result, you will find situations like in Phoenix where YouTube TV streams all four, Sling TV streams just FOX and DirecTV Now can’t stream local channels at all. You can read our review of the best services for streaming local TV for more details.

Subscribing to these services also gives you access to their exclusive content, which includes some of the most critically beloved and widely discussed shows on TV. Netflix is the only place you can watch Master of None, Stranger Things, or BoJack Horseman. Amazon is the only place you can watch Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, or The Man in the High Castle. And Hulu is the only place you can watch The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, or Difficult People.

There are many differences. SlingTV is the cheapest, but it's missing many channels unless you pay extra for them. And If you're a fan of Nickelodeon or PBS, you won't be able to see the kids' TV favorite on YouTubeTV, SlingTV, Sony PlayStation VUE or Hulu with Live TV, but you can get Nick with DirecTV Now. And if you have an Amazon Fire TV Stick as your streaming device to bring Internet to your TV, you can't see YouTubeTV. 


The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!
Not sure if anyone has mentioned this: We pay for standalone high-speed cable Internet service. I connected a digital splitter so that one cable goes to the modem and the other to two TVs in our house. For the price of Internet service, we also get all the over-the air stations (cable quality). These include PBS (5 stations), CBS (2 stations), ABC (3 stations), NBC (3 stations), Fox (2 stations) plus an assortment of other over-the air stations in the 70-100 range–where the local access stations are also located.
I’ve been thinking about cutting the cord when my current contract expires. I see that there are definitely savings to be had. The one thing holding me back is access to live sports (mostly college football in the fall). I could see purchasing a digital antenna to pick up the games on the broadcast channels but what suggestions are there in regards to ESPN or Big 10 Network?
Today you've got plenty of options. Six major services -- DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV -- stream multiple channels of live TV over the Internet, including local channels. Each has its plusses and minuses, including pricing (starting at $25 per month), features (like cloud DVRs) and user interface, but the biggest differentiator is channel lineup.
I use a combo of Roku, a Mohu Leaf antenna (excellent picture quality) to get OTA signals and a Tivo Premiere box as I wanted the option of recording the OTA signals and the convenience of watching them when I wanted to. The Tivo service is $20 a month, but has lots of great features (season pass, Tivo Desktop, online programing to name a few) and is LESS than 1/3 the price of my FORMER dish bill :)
I don’t see on here the fact that Sling only allows you to stream on one device. I have contacted them and they seemed to have no clue that this is an issue but it is. We need to stream on 3 like Netflix does; Sling offers that as a “Family” pack but not in the U.S. That makes no sense to me. Do you know if they plan to remedy that? The service rep I spoke to seemed to have no clue.
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