The true costs of cutting the cord: Streaming services, higher monthly Internet charges, antenna and a
DVR will actually cost as much if not more than cable. But it’s a way better TV viewing experience. We explain why. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
The arrival of the new fall TV season used to be a big thing.
However, with more viewers cutting and shaving the pay-TV cord – and some simply bypassing traditional pay TV for broadband-delivered content – the major networks have seen their hold on audiences diminished.
These days, new TV shows arrive and returning series hit throughout the year on a growing variety of channels. For instance, Season 2 of Netflix’s “Ozark” landed two weeks ago, the same day Amazon Prime Video launched “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” And Hulu just fired off its newest series “The First” with Sean Penn.
“A lot of the luster of the fall lineup has basically gone,” said Rob Silvershein, a former TV executive with Plano, Texas, research firm The Diffusion Group.
As viewers have gone from digital video recorders to streaming video on Netflix and Amazon, “the excitement of the fall season is disappearing,” he said. “It’s really more about the program. It’s not about the networks.”
Still, to see the latest episodes of returning fall series – such as “The Big Bang Theory (CBS),” “Empire (Fox),” “This Is Us (NBC)” and “The Good Doctor (ABC)” – you will want a subscription streaming service that offers broadcast networks and popular cable channels.
Here’s a look at your best streaming TV options to catch up and keep up with your shows:
• Hulu has options whether you want to watch live TV or on-demand episodes. Hulu with Live TV ($39.99 monthly, seven-day free trial) includes more than 50 channels such as CNN, Disney Channel, Fox News, ESPN, NBC Sports and TBS and local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels in much of the U.S. In a deal announced Wednesday, Hulu also added Discovery Channel.
You also access to more than 30 apps with your subscription and store up to 50 hours of programming in the cloud DVR. Need more space? You can upgrade to 200 hours for an additional $14.99 monthly. Need more than two simultaneous video streams? Get unlimited at home streams plus three on the go for $14.99 (upgrade to both the larger DVR and more streams for $20).
Live TV subscribers also get Hulu’s on-demand subscription streaming service, which bought separately costs $7.99 monthly for limited commercials or $11.99 for no ads. It has new episodes of shows such as “The Voice,” “Black-ish,” “911” and “The Good Doctor” available the day after they air and older episodes, including full past seasons of current shows such as “This is Us” and “The Gifted.” Also available exclusively are Hulu originals such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Castle Rock.” There are also full seasons of classic series such as “Glee,” “ER,” “Rick & Morty” and “Seinfeld.” Available movies include “Allied” and “Star Trek: Beyond.”
Hulu subscribers can also add Showtime ($8.99 monthly), HBO ($14.99) or Cinemax ($9.99) – and you can bundle HBO and Cinemax together for $19.98.
• YouTube TV ($40 monthly, seven-day free trial) has more than 50 channels including local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in much of the U.S. You can also use your subscription credentials to log into a long list of network apps including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. In addition to an unlimited cloud DVR, YouTube TV has plenty of on-demand programming, too, including recent episodes of shows such as “Fear the Walking Dead.” Three simultaneous streams allowed.
• PlayStation Vue (starts at $44.99, five-day free trial) has 50-plus channels including local networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) in much of the country in its lowest-priced package. Also included in the lowest-priced tier are AMC, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, FX, TBS, TNT and USA. PS Vue, which does not require a PlayStation video game console, has a cloud DVR, too, and five simultaneous video streams. Depending on your subscription level, you can access as many as 60 apps when you can log into with your PS Vue credentials. On-demand shows include “How I Met Your Mother” and “Better Call Saul.” The Ultra tier ($79.99 monthly) has more than 85 channels including EPIX, HBO and Showtime.
• DirecTV Now. The AT&T-owned service (prices starting at $40 monthly; seven-day free trial) has local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels, and can give all four major networks to about 70 percent of the U.S. – about 90 percent get at least one (just input your zip code to see what networks you can get). Subscribers can also get on-demand content from those networks such as “Queen Sugar” and “Yellowstone.” A subscription to DirecTV Now also gets you access to more than 40 apps, based on what networks are in your plan.
You get a 20-hour cloud DVR, which you can expand to 100 hours for $10 more each month. You can also add a third simultaneous video stream for $5 monthly, and add HBO or Cinemax for $5 monthly or Showtime or Starz for $8 monthly.
• FuboTV (starts at $44.99, seven-day free trial) has more than 75 channels including CBS, Fox and NBC in much of the nation (fuboTV does not have ABC), and it recently added Turner networks including CNN, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies. The $49.99-priced fubo Extra package has 85-plus channels including the Cooking Channel and Hallmark Drama. Both packages include 30 hours of cloud DVR storage (upgrade to 500 hours for $9.99 monthly). A fuboTV subscriber can use their subscription to access about 30 network apps including those from CBS, Fox and NBC. Add a third simultaneous stream for $5.99 monthly.
• Sling TV (prices start at $25 monthly, seven-day free trial) three years ago became the first streaming TV service to deliver a package of live-streamed channels such as CNN, ESPN and TNT. Its Sling Orange package now has 30 channels also including AMC and Comedy Central. Subscribers can also add the Sling Blue programming package for $40 monthly for both packages. Available separately for $25, Sling Blue has Fox and NBC affiliates (more than 40 percent of the U.S. can get one or both; Sling TV does not have ABC or CBS affiliates), as well as Bravo, FX, FS1, National Geographic and Syfy. Sling typically has shows available on demand the day after they air. With Sling Blue, subscribers can log onto Fox and NBC apps for on-demand shows; other apps Sling lets sign into include Bravo and USA. Sling Orange subscribers get one stream, while Blue subscribers get three; subscribe to both and get four.
• Amazon Channels. If you are an Amazon Prime member ($119 annually), you can stream original series such as “Forever,” a new comedy starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, Emmy-nominated “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and the aforementioned “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” There’s also seasons of series such as “The Americans.” (You also get free two-day shipping, music streaming and other Prime Video movies and TV shows with your Prime membership.)
Additionally, you can subscribe to “channels” such as HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access and Acorn TV through Amazon and those channels will be incorporated into your Prime Video menu when you log in.
• Netflix. In addition to its own original series such as “BoJack Horseman,” “Iron Fist” and “Ozark,” the streaming service has TV shows such as “NCIS,” “Luther” and “Broadchurch.” Monthly subscription starts at $7.99 (one-month free trial); get four simultaneous streams and 4K Ultra HD video for $13.99 monthly.