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The Best Streaming Services For You


A hurdle for many interested in learning how to watch TV without cable is picking the best streaming services for them. In this post I want to provide some examples of the types of potential cord cutters out there, and which streaming TV services will meet their needs.

As TV tastes vary greatly from person to person, I won’t be able to describe every single TV viewer out there. However, I can describe some archetypes and price out the best streaming services to meet their needs. I’ll also describe potential gaps and how to address them.

I’ll assume a $50 per month cost on internet service for each example. I also recommend an antenna for anyone with broadcast signals in their area.  This is a free way to watch ABC, FOX, CBS, NBS, PBS and CW.

The Best Streaming Services for the Cost Cutter

The cost cutter enjoys watching TV, but is looking to make a huge savings by dropping their cable bill. The following streaming TV services provide more than enough content at a low monthly cost.

Amazon Prime or Netflix

Choose one of these for access to movies and past seasons of TV shows. Amazon Prime requires either a yearly subscription of $99.99 or $10.99 per month. Netflix, on the other hand, varies based on package. Their offerings are summarized in the table below.

Netflix Pricing

Monthly Price Simultaneous Streams Max Video Quality

$7.99

1

Standard Definition Only

$9.99

2

High Definition (HD) up to 1080p

$11.99

4

Up to Ultra High Definiton 4K UHD

Personally I feel Amazon Prime is a better value as you also get free music, books, shipping, and photo storage with a Prime membership. You can try Amazon Prime free for 30 days to see if you agree.

I recommend grabbing the 1 month trial to Amazon Prime while simultaneously subscribing to Netflix. This allows you to try both services side by side and drop the one you least prefer.  Just make sure you decide before the month is up.

Update: Amazon Prime now offers Showtime and Starz without cable. You can enjoy every show those networks have to offer without cable for just $8.99 per month, per network.

Hulu

Hulu will provide on demand access to current and past season of TV shows on ABC, Fox, CW, and NBC. While CBS has some shows available many current seasons are unavailable on Hulu. I personally don’t find this to be a problem as all their shows are available on CBS.com.

Hulu provides tons of other great shows like South Park, The Daily Show, and The League. They also have original content you can only see on Hulu. There service is month to month with no contract so you can try it and cancel anytime. For more information check out my full review of Hulu.

What About Must-See Cable Shows?

The cost cutter may want to keep up with the current seasons of shows available on cable networks like AMC, A&E, and TNT. Many of these shows are available on Sling TV albeit at a cost of $20 a month.  You can take Sling TV for a test as they are currently offering a 7 day free trail. Alternatively, you may want to experiment with season passes of shows from iTunes or Amazon Instant Videos.

Episodes of current cable TV network shows are available for streaming 1 day after an episode airs.  The season pass price varies from show to show, but I find them quite affordable.

For instance, my wife and I watch the current seasons of “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” which cost $26.99 and $16.99 respectively.  That breaks down to a monthly cost of $3.67 per month. I also have access to watch the shows whenever I want and as many times as I want. The shows are yours indefinitely. This article on how to watch cable TV online will give you an idea of some of the shows available.

Of course the more “must watch” shows, the higher the monthly cost will be.  If you are coming close to $20 a month you may want to go with Sling TV. To give you an idea, purchasing season passes of 5 current series will cost around $11 per month.

Cost Cutter Recap

  • Internet Service – $50 per month
  • Hulu Plus – $7.99 per month
  • Netflix or Amazon Prime – $8.25 or $8.99 a month

This TV Streaming Service Package starts at $66.25 per month for tons of TV content and Internet service. It also provides the flexibility of purchasing must watch seasons of shows not available on the Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.

That cost is what you make it, but 5 full seasons of hit shows per year should only bring the costs up to about $77 per month. That’s a great value considering your monthly cable bill would be around $130 per month for a similar experience.

The “Make It Like Cable” TV Streaming Services

The  “make it like cable” wants as much content as possible and a lower cable bill. While this person won’t save as much as the “cost cutter”, they will soon realize its better deal cutting the cord than staying with cable.

This package will follow all the advice given to the “cost cutter”, but we will be adding Sling TV and possibly HBO Now.

Sling TV

Sling TV will provide ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, TBS, TNT, AMC, CNN, Food Network, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, A&E, History Channel, Disney Channel and much more for $20 per Month. That’s a great value considering that those are the most watched cable TV networks.

HBO Now

This is an optional add on.  If you want HBO, then it’s going to be available to cord cutters in April 2015. For the first three months the only device HBO Now will be available on is Apple TV. After that period, the exclusivity ends and other devices will be able negotiate to make the HBO Now service available.  The Service is priced at $14.99 per month.

Sling just announced they will also offer the HBO Now service which provides access to current and past HBO original program along with their huge film library. Sling recently stated the following in a press release:

Sling TV will be the first and only Internet TV service to offer live HBO and ESPN. . . Best of all, we’ll be up and running in time for one of the most important TV moments of the year: the April 12 season premiere of Game of Thrones.

Read my full review of Sling TV for more information on what Sling TV has to offer.

“Make It Like Cable” recap

  • Internet Service – $50 per month
  • Hulu Plus – $7.99 per month
  • Netflix or Amazon Prime – $8.25 or $8.99 a month
  • Sling TV – $20 per month
  • HBO – $14.99 per month

All that content with High Speed internet will cost 101.23 per month.  I had HBO with a mid-tier cable TV package before cutting the cord and was paying $150 per month. This is more content than I personally need, but I can’t deny it’s a great value compared to cable TV.

The beauty of this package is you are still saving money compared to cable TV and you aren’t stuck in a contract. You can drop services to slim down the bill, or add season passes to the shows you are missing (although I don’t see you missing much with this package).

The Best Streaming Services for Sports Fans

It’s going to be tough to nail down one price for this cord cutter as taste in sports varies greatly from one person to the next.  However, I can show what the most expensive sports streaming will cost and you can simply subtract the services you do not need.

Sling TV

Sling TV will provide Access to ESPN and ESPN2. It will also provide a whole host of cable TV networks like TBS, AMC, and many more. You can also purchase the Sports add-on package for $5 per month. The Sports package bundles the SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes and  beIN Sports.

MLB

If you love baseball then MLB.TV is the service for you. Blackout restrictions apply to your local market, but it’s in the form of a delay before you can watch the game.  All other teams games can be viewed live.  That’s a lot of content for $109.99. You can check out my full review of the service here: Watch MLB games without Cable

NHL

For those that can’t get enough NHL action, NHL GameCenter Live lets you watch every NHL game from every team live for $99.95 per year.  There is a delay to games that fall under blackout restrictions.  For more details, check out my article on How to Watch NHL without Cable.

NBA

NBA Fans can watch every game from every team with Choice NBA League Pass for $125.00 per year.  Once again, there is a delay for games that fall under league blackout rule. I give an overview of the service in my post on How to Watch NBA without Cable.

NFL

Watching your home team and Sunday Night football is easy enough.  You can simply use your antenna as the NFL broadcasts all games for free in each team’s home market.  Monday night football can be seen on ESPN with Sling TV.

Watching NFL action outside of your home market can be a bit more problematic.  If you meet certain requirements, you can purchase NFL Sunday Ticket without subscribing to Direct TV. Otherwise NFL Game Rewind is your only option to watch NFL games without cable.

NFL Game Rewind allows you to watch all NFL Games on a delay for $69.99 per year. The delay is between 8 and 24 hours depending on the time that the game aired.

The Sports Fan Recap

  • Internet – $50
  • NHL GameCenter Live ($99.95 per year)
  • MLB.TV ($109.99 per year)
  • NFL Game Rewind ($69.99 per year)
  • Choice NBA League Pass ($125.00 per year)
  • Sling TV with the Sports Add on ($300 per year)

Internet and the ability to watch almost every game from the 4 major US sports will break down to a cost of 108.75 a month. Netflix and Hulu will bring the costs up to $125 per month. I can’t image what all that would cost through a cable TV subscription.

Build Your Own Package

This will give you an idea of what different types of cord cutting packages will cost.  If you want to experiment with the costs of different services and compare it to the cost of your current monthly cable bill, you can take a look at my Cord Cutting Calculator.

Suggestions are welcome in the comments. If you like the content published at Grounded Reason, please subscribe and new content will be sent to your mailbox as soon as it’s published. You can also follow us on social media. Just scroll up and look to the right.

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Categories: Streaming Services
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (65)

  • This is great info. I'm not sure that I understand it all, but want to give it a try. There is one part that I really don't understand. Do I have to buy an atenna for every tv in my house? Also, do I need an HDMI cord? If so, from the tv what do I plug it into? I only need the regular tv stations and sling.
    Thanks

    • Thanks Kathy!

      If you get an outdoor antenna you can usually run that to multiple TVs. You can check out this post to help you with that aspect . It's possible to do that with an indoor but you would need really strong signals in your area. Otherwise, yes I would recommend an indoor antenna on each TV. Sling TV will need to run on either a Smart TV, game console on streaming device which use the HDMI cable to connect to your television. Let me know how it goes, or if you have any other questions.

  • Hi Dennis, just discovered your site today--excellent content--thank you! Do you have any recommendations for ISPs by location? I'm in Orlando FL and live close to airport so not a whole lot of options. Appreciate any insight you can share. Take care. -E

  • Hi Dennis,
    I am an Investigation Discovery addict. Would I be able to get it on any of these venues?

    • If you have a Sony PlayStation you can get Investigation Discovery through VUE, which I should be reviewing soon.

  • Is there any way to get the E channel. The website that is associated with it Eonline doesn't allow broadcast unless you have cable tv/satellite/etc...

    • Currently, I'm not aware of an affordable options. Which shows are you interested in? There may be other options.

  • There is just so much to think of and I don't know if I understand much of it. I am a tv person big time. But usually watches the same shows really. I have Uverse now and I am so sick of my bill going up, them forgetting to send my bill so I end up late on payments. I am so done with them. We have an antenna in our bedroom which gives up local tv so that is fine.
    I need to watch my AMC, TLC. Bravo, TBS, TNT etc.. We use other ways to watch movies like Vudu and have a subscription to Netflix. My main concern is what exactly do I need to buy? How does this all work? And will my shows be up to date shows just the day after.
    So Confused.

    • Sling TV will cover a lot of your programming. It has TNT, TBS, and AMC. A lot of hit Bravo and TLC shows end up on Hulu, but it's after the season airs. I recommend figuring out your must watch shows on those networks and buying them direct from Amazon or iTunes. For instance, if those 2 networks have a total of 5 shows you want to watch, it will only cost you about $125 for the year to buy those shows. You can then watch them 1 day after airing. Combine that with Sling TV and you are paying about 30 dollars a month to watch TV with no contract. We did this and found a lot of TV we watch really isn't worth paying for. We found we only watched certain shows because they were on. Now that cables gone, we don't miss them. But if I wanted to watch I could at the click of a button. The best thing to do is just drop cable and see if you can make it work. It's not like they won't take you back if you're not happy without it.

  • Is it possible to stream sling outside the USA. I need to purchase the service. If not could you please recommend a service other than Netflex which I now enjoy..

    • Are there any shows in particular that are must watch on Nat Geo. They don't offer a non-cable subscription, but they have a lit of free content online. You can always simply purchase the must watch shows from Amazon.

      • There is a Nat Geo channel on Roku. I'm not sure how much content is available. But there is a lot I believe with a subscription.

        • Hi Rob, there are a few freebies, but they require a cable provider log in for full access.

  • Excellent article I have a couple of questions if you will
    out of market NFL fan , the game pass won't do it for me do you know the details of NFL sunday ticket without a direct tv subscription......I just canceled my Direct tv account.
    Big discovery channel fan hooked on a bunch of there shows so buying a season seems costly ,what would be my best option a basic cable subscription .........

    • Playstation Vue and Sling TV are the closest to cable over the internet. As for the NFL NFL Sunday Ticket is being made available to those without direct TV, but it's only available if you fit certain criteria. Now that AT&T owns Direct TV they have been trying to expand that criteria. Check here closer to the season. You should be able to input your address and see if you are eligible.

  • I am a fan of AHC and Military Channel... Are they available for streaming?

  • Hi.
    I have 2 smart tvs and 2 that are not, one of which (non-smart) has a WI and Xbox.
    What do I need for each TV? Do I need a sling for each one?
    Thanks

    • Ok I get it... The wii and Xbox go thru the Internet, as does the smart tv. And I can get Netflix or Amazon prime on them. So the non smart tv is what I would want to watch stuff on too... Cable news networks Fox and cnn. I guess I need something just for that tv but I don't know what exactly. Someone locally is selling a jail broken Kodi Amazon Fire stick. Should I get that and what would that do? Thanks again.

      • Here is the lowdown on Kodi. If the TV in question has an HDMI port than any streaming device will make it "smart." I recommend looking at this guide on alternatives to cable for more details. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    • It depends on which services you want to watch. Wii and xBox can stream most major streaming services, so you may not need to purchase any device. Which services are you looking to obtain?

  • Hello, I am seriously considering cutting cable. I watch, Own, Hbo, Starz and basic t.v. Wondering which services I need to get and if you need a smart t.v. for sling tv?

    • Here is the info on all the devices for Sling TV. Both HBO and Starz are available as stand alone services. However, if you want to watch OWN, I'd go with PlayStation VUE. It's the only service I know of that carries that network.

  • Anyway to get the Discovery Channel through Roku without a cable subscription? Or a way to order individual shows that air on Discovery, i.e., Deadliest Catch, Dual Survival, etc..?
    Thanks.

  • We watch sports one on ESPN U. I do not see this in the listings.am I right? Also what a/b hallmark and HGTV?

    • Hi Amy,

      Sling TV Orange allows you to get the sports Extra pack which has ESPN U. It also has HGTV, but not hallmark. However, a good replacement for Hallmark is a service called Feeln.

  • Gosh am I ever happy to have found you and all your wonderful suggestions and insight!!! I am very LOW tech (all of this actually causes me stress just to think about what it's going to take me to work through this) and have fought the technology till now. Since Verizon FiOS sold out its customer base to HORRIBLE Frontier Communications here in Florida -- It was enough to help me make the decision to finally CUT THE CORD and stop the hemmoraging! I've read a lot of your linked information to help get me started and I do own an HD Smart TV as well as a Wii. Like many others, I only watch a handful of stations/shows - mostly on network TV, but a few on cable. After reading all of the comments, no one else has mentioned my two main cable stations: the Escape Channel and the Justice Network (I am a true crime fanatic!). I would greatly appreciate your help in guiding me on how I can cut the cord and still get these channels. ... From a low-tech gal who mirrors the classic Seinfeld show: SERENITY NOW!! Thank you SO SO much and Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks Maria! Escape Channel and the Justice Network are over the air channels. A TV antenna should work if they are in your area. I know they broadcast to most major cities in Florida. Check out my post on TV antennas for more info. Merry Christmas!

  • Dennis - you have some terrific content on this site.

    Will you be doing a post on the new DirecTV Now streaming service. They certainly seem to have a lot of content. More so than SlingTV and PS Vue.

  • I just started using sling. I'm heard that SNY will start streaming games and pre and post games - will I be able to watch SNY?

  • Hey Dennis - this is great content, thanks ! So I have a cottage in a fairly remote part of NC. I have internet and I am interested in viewing live abc,cbs,NBC, fox, etc. A digital antenna does not work - to far out in the boonies - is there any streaming service that provides live access to the major networks ? Thanks again for the great content

    • They all provide a bit of a mix of local channels based on which market you are considered within. I recommend taking a look at this guide on local channels.

  • Dennis, How do I get WCAX WPTZ, WFFF, Golf channel, TBS in my area code 05819 using Roku 2 device with only a internet connection No cable or satellite dish? Thanks Keith

  • Dennis
    I LOVE reading your articles! Very informative. If I have 3 TVs, Do I need a Roku device for each TV? Am I reading that correctly that I could move from one TV to another with just one?
    Thanks for all the info! U R DA BEST!

    • Yes, you can move the devices around easily. Thank you for reading the blog!

  • I live in area code 21532. My husband wants ALL pittsburgh sports. I have a roku, both sling packages, direct tv now, netflix and amazon. I can not seem to get his games even though we have access to cbs, fox, espn etc. antennas are not an option (I believe) as we live in the woods with lots of tall trees. What am I doing wrong? Hubbie is threatening to get back DISH if I cant get this figured out. Thank you for any insight!!!

  • I like setvnow streaming service's channel line up and that they allow streaming to 3 devices simultaneously. However, I just noticed they don't have an app for Roku Premiere+, which I just purchased! Don't know how I missed that in my hours of extensive research! Their website says I can stream through their web browser version. OK, I'm new at this...will streaming that way degrade the quality? Thanks for your website and for sharing your knowledge. It's very helpful.

  • Can you speak to the quality of programs provided by OTA, Cable and Streaming - I have been led to believe that OTA is the best because it is not compressed and that some streaming services do not match the quality of Cable -

    • Live streaming services are on par with cable. OTA is typically better than cable. An NFL game over the air looks fantastic.

  • Dennis - Throughout your posts there is an emphasis on the best and least expensive alternatives to cable - bravo. Yet one of the most important considerations is the user interface. Given the many folks (including me) that are easily frustrated or perturbed at having to navigate through several handhelds and multiple input choices and content selections - it would be very interesting to get your thoughts on the various devices that provide the best user interface. Great blog! Thanks.

    • Al, that's a great idea. Thank you for the topic. It may take some time as I like to be thorough, but will definitely put a post together.

  • Is it necessary to add a VPN servicemen when using a streaming device .. have heard yes and no.
    Please add me to your mailing list. Can I find you on you tube? Thanks for your site...it's very informative.

    • Our podcast is on YouTube. You can subscribe to the mailing list using the link at the bottom of the page.

  • Hi Dennis

    Great site with unusual useful and practical information

    What about AirTV?
    It is part of Sling

    Would like your reaction to their equipment and local OTA reception

    Thank you
    Lee

  • Hi Dennis, thanks for all the useful info. I'm looking for a lower cost option for my mom. She watches a lot of news. What services steam real time news? And I know she records certain shows with her DVR too... Thanks for your help!

  • Hi I just read that there's a new streaming service called Philo.com that offers 36 channels w/out sports channels for $16 or upgrade to $20 for 46 channels but currently needs Roku device.

    Have you heard anything about whether it's good or better then Hulu or other streaming devices for cable cutters. I'm really interested in getting it but am trying to learn more since it just debuted this month

    • Yep. I'm going to do a write up in the next day or two, and I'm going to go over it a bit on the podcast this week.

  • Do you have to buy new TV. Can I get star encore , cartoon Network , cimimax , lmn and such what would it cost? Is this really the best way to go? Can you add or take away channels when you want ?So to get the Robu I'll have to buy sling also?They work together and really good. How long to hook up them. ? Who you call to get the channels? Internet on it to. What about the weather if it's bad?
    A lot of questions but want to make the vary best choice. Cable is out of hand. Your bill is what the claim the first month then it seems to rocket.
    Please get back to me ASAP. Thank you

  • Hi, excellent content!

    I have heard good things about Set Tv, but of course would love to hear your unbiased opinion. Will you be doing a review on this service?

    • Hi Joseph. I try to stay away from IPTV services like Set TV. The problem is they're in a legal grey area. Many of these services are being ran in areas outside the reach of U.S. copyright law. While it's not explicitly illegal for you to watch these shows, all it will take is a judge to interpret the law a certain way to make it illegal. In other words, I think at some point a big company is going to hall a bunch of folks into court and the law will make an example out of them. I don't want me or my readers to be that example. So while it isn't illegal, it's only de facto "legal." It will only take a company willing to take someone to court to change it. My stance is similar to what I laid out in my article on Jailbroken Fire TV sticks.