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Streaming TV showdown: which service is best?

Comparing streaming plans for cable cord cutters
Posted: 3:04 PM, Feb 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-19 21:04:36Z

Emily Wilder is the mother of a 1-year-old daughter. With so many things to pay for, the soaring price of her cable TV package was too much.

"Cable was just getting so expensive," she said. "It was $150 a month, and I didn't really need it."

Like a growing number of cable customers, Wilder cut the cord, leaving just her internet connection and Hulu for streaming shows.

That $150 a month cable bill?

"It's now down to just $55," she said.

Rocco Newby also dropped his cable package a few months ago.

"They started increasing the price to $130-140," he said. "And when it got to $170, it was ridiculous to pay that much for cable service when you are just watching a couple of channels."

He uses an Amazon Fire Stick, two streaming services and an antenna to pick up local channels.

"I'm saving almost $1,000 a year," he said.

That's real money, and is the reason why millions of people are now dropping their cable packages.

So which service is best for you? No one size fits all. It depends if you are a fan of news, sports or lifestyle programming because each service has its own specialty.

How to cut the cord

So let's get started.

if you are thinking of making the move, you'll need high-speed internet, which will run about $30 to $60 a month for cable or phone company fiber or DSL. Then you'll need a streaming device, such as a smart TV with built-in streaming, a Roku, Apple TV or an inexpensive Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick. (You can get the latter for as little as $20 on sale.)

If the service does not include local channels, a $30 antenna from Amazon or Best Buy will get you about 15 local channels, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS.

Now, you're ready to stream.

But which service is right for you?

Alex Haslam is with CutCableToday.com , a Utah-based comparison service, which has looked at the five biggest players: DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu Live and PlayStation VUE. Here's how they stack up.

A quick note that these services mirror (somewhat) your old cable package, in that you can stream live TV with them. Others, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, offer more on-demand type content (though some of the services below also offer on-demand content in addition to live streaming).

  • Sling TV is cheapest at $20 a month, but has a limited channel lineup and a DVR costs extra. (The others include either a limited or full feature DVR.)
  • DirecTV Now is $35 a month. With 60 channels, it's the most like your old cable package, Haslam said.
  • PlayStation VUE is $40 a month and includes local channels in many cities. The most important thing to know about it, Haslam explained, is that "VUE does not need you to have a PlayStation, which many people don't realize."
  • Hulu Live, also $40 a month, has the most sports channels, she says.
  • YouTube TV, the newest service, is just $35 a month, with lots of channels and DVR, but is available only in major cities right now.

You also have other options: Amazon Prime is just starting up a live TV service, but it is still primarily for watching individual shows, and is not yet a full-service streaming option. However, the company is already integrating Alexa into the service, so in the next year it could become a major player.

Then there are niche services, like Fubo, Crackle, Vevo and Twitch, which each serve a specialized user (such as movie lovers, sports fanatics, or gamers).

However, it's important to know they all have drawbacks. Many people are paying for multiple streaming services at once.

"There's not one streaming service that captures every single quality of a cable subscription," Haslam said.

She added the key is to know which channels you want. Some services have all the ESPN channels and Fox Sports; some don't. Some have Comedy Central; while some have HGTV. News junkies will want to make sure they can get CNN and Fox News.

The websites TomsGuide.com has also compared all the major services, and offers its own opinions on which are best.

Rocco Newby said streaming may not be as convenient as the old cable remote, but once you get used to it, "you can watch anything."

So do your homework first and don't waste your money.

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