The cable is too expensive. Providers like Cox, Xfinity, and Optimum offer basic packages for between $50 to $70 per month, but those prices can climb with hidden fees.
And while it’s easier than ever to replace the cable, many streaming services with live TV got more expensive in 2019, while one went completely kaput. With the world firmly entrenched in an era of social distancing, we’re breaking down how cable alternatives have changed and which might be right for you.
It’s not like you have anywhere to be anytime soon, so you might as well find something to watch.
Sling has arguably been the best deal in the online cable sector for a while now. It’s a little cheaper than the others by offering Blue and Orange service tiers with different channel selections. They both have plenty to like, but you won’t get everything you want with just one, especially if you’re a sports fan.
Unfortunately, it’s not as cheap as it used to be. Sling closed out 2019 by announcing a $5 per month price hike to all service tiers. That means Blue and Orange separately are $30 per month apiece, while the combined Blue+Orange option is now $45 per month. The price hike did add 10 hours of cloud DVR, to be fair.
That’s still a decent deal relative to some of the others on this list, but it’s creeping into cable pricing territory.
Still, Blue+Orange comes with a solid selection of big-name TV networks. News freaks can get their fixes with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, while sports fans will be delighted by the presence of ESPN, FS1, NFL Network, and more. The only problem is that local affiliates like CBS, Fox, NBC, and ABC are limited to “select markets” on Sling if they’re available at all.
You can always get those with a cheap antenna, but still.
For those who are stuck inside due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sling has some good news. The “Stay in & SLING!” promotion has unlocked a bundle of free content that doesn’t require a paid Sling account. Just log into the Sling app or website and you can watch the 24-hour ABC News Live broadcast, old episodes of game shows like Family Feud, or children’s programming like Teen Titans Go!
Hulu with Live TV
If you’re willing to pay a little more, Hulu with Live TV might be an enticing package. You get 60 channels (including local affiliates), along with Hulu’s substantial streaming library, which includes older shows such as Frasier and King of the Hill.
Here’s the sad part: Hulu with Live TV also jacked up its price last year. It’s now $55 per month with no premium add-ons like HBO and Showtime, which are anywhere from $9 to $15 per month on top of the $55 you pay for the basic service. If you subscribed to every premium channel, your monthly bill would be $100.
At that point, you might want to check out what local cable companies are offering because that’s pretty expensive. Still, 60 live TV channels with access to Hulu, Showtime, HBO, Starz, and Cinemax are certainly a lot of content to chew on.
In case you were wondering, Hulu’s live TV component doesn’t appear to have changed much during the coronavirus outbreak. That said, anyone who subscribes to Hulu in any fashion (live TV or not) now has access to the same 24/7 ABC News Live stream that Sling is offering.
Of course, Google has its fingers in the cable alternative pie. At the start of 2020, YouTube TV sits at the perfect intersection of pricing, content, and features. It’s not the cheapest or most expensive option, but you get decent value for what you pay.
The kicker is you have to pay more than you did a year ago. YouTube TV leaped from a monthly fee of $40 to $50 last year, making it a little less appealing. You still get more than 70 channels, including local networks and nearly every sports channel you could want, as well as unlimited DVR storage.
At $40, that would be a steal. At $50, it’s merely a pretty good value. The nice part is that’s the only plan; you can add on a few premium networks like Starz or Showtime for extra money, but for the most part, $50 gets you everything you need. One last note: It doesn’t look like HBO loops into YouTube TV at all, so you’ll need another way to watch that if you go down this road.