What you need to cut the cord without missing a beat
Paying for cable TV is typically the highest monthly expense in a family's home utility budget. The rising cost has become so prohibitive that it has forced consumers to actively seek alternative ways to access entertainment.
Opponents of cord-cutting will argue that you can spend just as much, if not more, for à la carte streaming services. If you aren't careful, this can be true. If you start subscribing to every channel and streaming service available, the cost is going to dwarf your cable TV bill.
The secret is to be smart and shop for streaming devices and services the same way you would for any other product you are considering purchasing. If you do, then you may find yourself with several hundred extra dollars in your pocket every single month.
Here are some of the top choices for devices and services so you can learn precisely what options are available to you before you make a decision.
A streaming device is your doorway to content. It connects your TV to the Internet so that you have access to more media than you could watch in a lifetime. Some of that content is free while other content requires a subscription. The top three streaming devices are Apple TV, Roku, and Fire TV.
Apple TV: $179 at Amazon
Apple TV offers an elegant interface that is easy to navigate. It allows you to enjoy 4K HDR and Siri voice control for a variety of tasks. Apple TV doesn't have the depth of content that the other two top options possess, but it does aggressively seek original content from some of Hollywood's biggest actors and filmmakers, meaning there are shows on Apple TV that you simply cannot get anyplace else. Also, Apple TV has a wide variety of à la carte subscriptions available. If you purchase a new Apple device, Apple TV+ (Apple's streaming service) is included free for a year. The biggest downside to Apple TV is that the hardware is considerably more expensive than Roku or Fire TV.
Roku Ultra: $69.90 at Amazon (was $99.99)
Roku invented the original streaming device. It's designed with the sole purpose of giving you access to as much content as you desire without favoring any specific streaming service. With a Roku streaming device, you get flexibility, affordability, and access to over 500,000 movies and TV episodes. The remote can be voice-controlled and some models offer a headphone jack for private listening. Perhaps the biggest downside to Roku is, in some instances, it can lag a little behind on tech advances, meaning if there's something new and innovative, you might have to wait a little bit for Roku to incorporate the technology into its devices.
Fire TV: $49.99 at Amazon
Fire TV, like Roku, is affordable and offers more content than you could ever hope to view. If you are already comfortable with Alexa, then this device will virtually have no learning curve, just plug it in, let it do its thing, and start using it when it's all set up. Navigation is easy, but it can be a little confusing until you are comfortable with how to access your apps and regularly watched programs. Fire TV is the most affordable streaming device option currently available, offering over 500,000 movies and TV episodes. The one aspect that can become frustrating to some users is that it is (understandably) Amazon-focused -- if you aren't already a Prime member, you may soon find yourself subscribing, just to get some relief from the advertisements.
Before venturing into streaming services, it is important to note that you can purchase a smart TV that will give you access to the Internet and serve as your streaming device. There are many wonderful options such as Samsung's 49-inch Class Q60R QLED Smart 4K UHD TV ($699.99) or 65-inch Class Q90R QLED Smart 4K UHD TV ($2,599.99). However, the navigation, versatility, and speed may be somewhat limiting on these devices when compared to what you can get by using a dedicated streaming device.
Once you're connected to the Internet via a streaming device, you'll need to find a service that can deliver the type of entertainment you are craving. Having a streaming device but no streaming service would be comparable to having a mailbox but no postal carrier.
Prime Video: $199/year
At $199 per year, the most expensive service on our shortlist is Prime Video (which is included with a Prime membership). However, this fee includes a number of perks such as free shipping, unlimited reading, free music, original content, and more. If you're just looking for shows to watch, Prime Video might not be your best option, but if Amazon's other benefits interest you, this could be the ideal service for you.
Netflix: $107.88 - $191.88/year
Netflix has an abundance of content, plus it offers groundbreaking blockbuster movies with top Hollywood talent. The lowest tier is priced slightly less than Prime Video, and although the content library isn't as vast, it does feature some of the most popular movies and series currently available.
Disney+: $83.88/year or 1 year free from Verizon
Disney+ caters to a very specific audience: fans of Disney. Luckily, that is a huge, huge fanbase. The original content available on Disney+ includes new series from some of the world's most popular franchises including Marvel and Star Wars. At just $6.99 per month, the service is extremely affordable, but if you want an even better deal, when you sign up for Verizon Unlimited or you switch to 5G Home, Disney+ is free for a year.
Hulu: starting at $71.88/year
Currently, the most affordable service is Hulu. If you can tolerate advertising, the cost is a mere $5.99 per month. If you prefer ad-free, the cost then rivals Prime Video. One of the benefits of Hulu, besides the original content, is the selective free content from networks such as FOX, ABC, NBC, AMC, and more.
Live streaming services
There are times, such as breaking news and sporting events, when you'll want live access so you know what's happening in the moment. Additionally, you may want to watch some TV programs live. For example, some of the magic is lost when you watch Saturday Night Live on Sunday afternoon.
Sling TV: $335 - $560/year
Sling TV can be the most affordable option for live TV. It starts as low as $30 per month and allows you to not only pick which channels you'd like, but it offers extras such as premium channels and DVR. It's available on all the top streaming devices, but the overall channel selection is a bit limited and the lowest-priced option only allows you to stream on one screen at a time.
YouTube TV: $599.88/year
YouTube TV is modeled on convenience, one price with no hidden fees: $49.99/month for one membership with up to six accounts. You get national and local programing (over 70 channels), no HD fees, no cancellation fees, and unlimited DVR that holds shows for up to nine months. About the only downside to YouTube TV is that you don't get to pick and choose your channels. With a few premium exceptions, everyone gets the same package.
Hulu + Live TV: $659.88/year
The benefit of getting Hulu + Live TV is you also get access to all of Hulu's original content and the service's comprehensive library. If you're solely looking at the service for its live streaming, it is comparable to YouTube TV, only with a few fewer channels and a slightly higher price. Additionally, the cloud storage is limited to 50 hours and you only can watch two screens at the same time. If you'd like to upgrade your service, it is possible, but that also increases the price.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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