Make the Streaming Wars Work for You

If you want a cable-like TV experience without feeling trapped by a cable subscription, a streaming service could be right for you. Paid live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV and Sling TV will give you most of your favorite TV channels streamed over the internet at a substantially lower cost than you’re paying for cable. Whether you’re looking for a basic package at a budget price or you’re willing to pay more for a deluxe experience, there’s a streaming TV service for you.

Prices for paid streaming start at $15 per month with no extra fees or contracts. If you don’t like the service you’re on, you can easily switch. You’ll replace your cable box (and stop paying the monthly rental fee) if you start using an app to watch on a smart TV, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku.

More media giants are jumping in

As the already competitive streaming landscape gets even more crowded, viewers can find hundreds of choices. November saw big guns Apple and Disney jumping into the fray to join familiar companies such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Entertainment giant HBO launches HBO Max and NBC Universal introduces Peacock in the spring.

There are even more ways to find TV online if you recognize that free options may not match cable’s quality and variety of content. If you have internet access, you can watch for free. Explore signing up for a streaming service’s free trial, use a no-cost app or website and check out offers from cell phone carriers.

How to navigate through streaming

Experts recognize the number of choices can be overwhelming, and they suggest viewers take a step and consider how they use TV. What type of content do you want? Live TV? Sports? News? Movies? Shows? What services fit your budget? Where do you plan to watch—at home or on the go with a tablet, phone, other mobile devices, or even a PC?
First select a service that carries the cable channels and shows you don’t want to miss. If local channels—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—are important to you, realize that not every service offers all of them in every area.

Then make sure your choice offers enough simultaneous streams if you plan to watch more than one program at a time. Some of the less expensive services will block you if you try to watch more than one stream. You’ll need fast, reliable broadband internet if more than one person will be watching at once on supported devices.

You’re cutting cable, not internet

And don’t forget you’ll pay for that broadband internet on top of the cost of your streaming service. The average cost of internet starts at $60 per month and can go higher. Add that to the $12 that Hulu and $13 that Netflix charges each month, or the YouTube TV monthly base cost of $50, or the AT&T TV Now base of $65 per month. Start piling on the goodies and it’s easy to pay more than the average cable or satellite bill of $107.

If you’re smart about your choice of entertainment and the price you’ll pay, you may be ready to happily cut the cord and join the 74 percent of U.S. households with subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime and/or Hulu.

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