First, let me apologize for not producing a column last week. My current website hosting provider was not performing to my expectations. My site was unreachable a lot of the time or just very, very slow to respond. Since my site is where I keep the live or clickable links referenced in my columns, it meant that you needed to type in the short link and, to my mind, that was unacceptable. So I undertook a move to a new hosting provider.
Normally that’s not a bit deal but for some reason it’s taking much longer than expected. Rather than delay my column another week, I’ve decided to go ahead with this week’s column and hope my old provider remains up and stable.
Let’s review what we’ve covered so far in cutting the paid TV cord. While I didn’t relate it specifically to cutting the paid TV cord, IPTV in the first column certainly applies. The next column discussed how to watch those channels on your TV as opposed to your computer/phone/tablet. The column on June 9 listed a few options for streaming video to other devices (Amazon Echo and Google Displays). The July 7 column is where we really started digging in to cutting the paid TV cord, discussing totally free services and a few services that are paid services with free tiers (often with reduced content or advertising or both) along with ways to listen without bothering your partner. The July 14 column addressed Over-The-Air TV — broadcast TV that can be picked up with an antenna. And it’s not just your local channels. Many stations also broadcast other content alongside their primary station.
In this column we’ll explore some paid services. Why? Well, honestly, I feel that some of these services provide good value for money. Many have the ability to record shows for later viewing, even setting up recurring recordings so you don’t have to remember to record “Jeopardy”.
There are paid services that specialize in live content. They often provide you local broadcast channels along with other channels that are typically considered cable only (i.e. not broadcast over the air but delivered by your cable provider). A few examples are ESPN and its associated networks, The Food Network, Nickelodeon and The Weather Channel.
There are paid services that tend to specialize in movies and older broadcast TV. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are two examples. They have some original content and some offer TV series from other countries (which I often find very interesting).
Then there are services that are owned by “stations” or “channels” like HBO. They tend to feature movies that are only available on that service (Game of Thrones on HBO Max, for instance). Some other examples are Peacock TV (NBC), Disney+ (Disney).
So, what should you sign up for? Of course, it’s up to you but I recommend evaluating your favorite TV and movies and going with a selection of services that covers your interests. If you’re a fan of Marvel and Star Wars then consider Disney+. If you’re a sports fan maybe consider a service that includes ESPN. And always remember you can cancel and restart services so you’re not locked into a whole year of a service because you only like one or two shows.
OK, let’s dig in to a few services. One that’s popular is Sling TV (https://go.ttot.link/SlingTV). It has three packages, two which include a few different channels (ESPN, for example) and a third package that includes all the channels. And all packages come with 50 hours of DVR storage so you can record your favorites to watch later. It does not include local broadcast channels except (some markets include Fox and NBC) so you’ll need an antenna or some other method to watch your local news shows. If you want to add Showtime, it’ll cost you an additional $10/month. And, as I said earlier, they have a totally free tier so you can sample their quality. For a good review and rundown of Sling’s services, check out https://go.ttot.link/SlingReview. That article has links to good reviews of some other services, too.
Another popular, but more expensive service is YoutubeTV (review at https://go.ttot.link/YoutubeTVReview). At $65/month with unlimited DVR it’s probably what I would choose with Sling a strong second. But they don’t have AXS TV (https://www.axs.tv/), a channel that broadcasts concerts and music-related shows which I watch a lot, so if I went with Youtube TV I’d have to find a way to add that channel using yet another service.
The last one I’m going to cover this week is Hulu with Live TV (good review at https://go.ttot.link/HuluLiveTVReview). At nearly $70/month it’s more expensive than Youtube TV but comes with Disney+ and ESPN Plus, but it includes commercials ($5/month removes them). Two hundred hours of DVR storage is included and the recorded shows won’t disappear for nine months.
Are these all of the cable replacement options available? Heavens no! They’re three of the most popular. There are plenty more and I encourage you to revisit that first link in this column (https://go.ttot.link/SlingReview) and read some of the other reviews and comparisons.
Next week I’ll again continue “cutting the paid TV cord” and discuss a few non-live services like Netflix and HBO Max and talk about how to keep all these shows from all these different services straight.
That’s it for this week. Note that my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.
Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at [email protected] and don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L. It should be updated shortly after this column appears online. My links tell me that I’m getting some international readers — France, Belgium and Germany in particular. If you’re an international reader, drop me a quick note and say hi.
Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.