Ten years ago, cable tv was something you just had to bite the bullet and pay for if you wanted to watch anything other than “The Price is Right”, “Judge Judy”, or local news. Today, you have many more options for streaming content but many people are still nervous about being early adopters.
I recently opened my Comcast bill and ACTUALLY LOOKED at what they were charging me for. The fees they were tacking on were insane! The actual channels accounted for half the bill and the rest were fee, after fee, after fee. I was paying $50/month just for renting cable boxes. Yes, those hideous black boxes you try to hide but also need to have to actually watch the channels… They charge the crap out of you for those every month.
Fed up and feeling like one of those “there HAS to be a better way!” infomercials I took to the internet to find a solution. What I found were live streaming services. These were not your typical Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime type of streaming services. These played live channels using your home internet connection and all you needed was a streaming device. Best part? They were HALF of what I was paying for cable and you could cancel anytime.
Almost all of these services have a free one week trial and, since I already had 3 Rokus and an Apple TV in my house, there would be no investment needed. That’s right folks, no need to attached a huge black box to your TV and then have the cable company charge you an arm and a leg for it every month.
Disclaimer: One thing you will want to check before you get too far is your internet speed and bandwidth. If you have anything less than 20 Mbps and/or more than 10 devices sharing the internet, this could slow down your internet and could cause buffering issues on these (and any) streaming services.
My first trial was Directv Now and I canceled this before the free week was even up. I don’t want to rip on them too much because they had just released their app at the time, but it was a nightmare. The menu and guide set-up were actually quite nice but the content would almost never play correctly. Many freezes, buffering issues, resolution issues, and skipping issues. If it went more than 20 minutes without an issue it was a miracle. Needless to say, not the best first experience using a live streaming service but, it may be better now with updates.
My second attempt was with PS Vue. Now, if you ask me, this is a horrible name for the service because when I first heard about it I thought it was a gaming service or you needed a Playstation to use it. “Sony Vue” would be better IMO… I digress. At the time, the Roku app for PS Vue was extremely bare bones but the content played very well. There were almost no issues with playback and it had free unlimited DVR built in that Directv Now didn’t have.
They updated their app on Roku and Apple TV a few months back and now it is really nice. The guide is very easy to navigate, they have content playing in the background as you search for a new channel, they have multiple options to get to your content, etc (see video). My only issue is that they started removing channels from their lineup (comedy central, local FOX channel, and more) and then also decided to raise rates for fewer channels.
Another problem I have been having lately is some channels simply not working. For instance, during the Super Bowl, the entire app crashed and we missed the beginning of the game. Boo Who, right? Well, when you have people over and your TV service decides not to work during the most watched game event on earth… its a little embarrassing. Other channels will experience buffering issues and skipping issues from time to time as well.
When I saw YouTube TV come out it was intriguing because it was $5 less per month than PS Vue, had a better local channel selection, and had unlimited free DVR like PS Vue. I decided to give it a shot and… wow, I was impressed! Their pp for streaming devices is new but it is much more simple to understand and navigate than PS Vue. Don’t get me wrong, once you get the hang of PS Vue, its like second nature. But, I literally opened the YouTube TV app and, in maybe 2 minutes, I knew how to get everywhere I wanted to go. (see video)
So far, I have had zero streaming issues. No buffering, skipping, crashes… nothing (knock on wood). That is honestly what is most important to me, personally. I can learn how to navigate any guide but if the content isn’t playing correctly it drives me NUTS!
The DVR works really well too and I am happy they give you unlimited storage. My only wish is that they would make their guide like they do on their mobile app. On the mobile app, when you scroll the guide it will play the live content on that channel in a little preview box. It is a cool little feature to quickly view where the show or movie is at or a quick score of a game.
Sling TV and Hulu Live
I tried Sling TV for a week and, while I did like the price, I didn’t like the channel selection and it also had streaming issues. Hulu is very new to the game just like YouTube TV. I downloaded their app and it seemed like the learning curve for navigation was very high. They have A LOT of content on their app to navigate because, along with the live channels, they give you access to the Hulu content and DVR. Again, while I am sure I could figure out how to navigate it after playing around for a while, I simply didn’t to try.
In my opinion, Youtube TV and PS Vue are the two best options for streaming live channels. There may be other apps out there that are less popular from smaller companies but I like the backing of a big company (makes me feel all warm and cozy inside). If I had to choose one over the other, I have to say that I gravitate to YouTube TV more simply because of the stream quality. While YouTube TV has worked 100% of the time for me, PS Vue works around 95% of the time.
Like most things, it boils down to your personal preference. Do you like a lot of features in your guide? I would say PS Vue is for you. Do you like simplicity? YouTube TV is about as simple as it gets. Do you want a great app experience on your phone or tablet? Again, I would give the nod to YouTube TV.
Hopefully this review and video helps you if you are thinking of cutting the cord. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I will get to them.