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How to Cut the Cord: A Guide

Calling all future cord-cutters

First take: Do you really save money cutting the cord?

Most people look into cutting the cord because they’re sick of money streaming out of their bank accounts to cable or satellite companies. So, we have to think: Does it really save you money?

The short answer is yes. More often than not, cutting the cord will save you money. To be fair, some streaming services do have more expensive packages like AT&T TV NOW’s ULTIMATE package, which costs $135 a month.

For most streaming services, however, the price hovers around $45 a month while most cable or satellite services advertise their starting price price at around $55 a month—plus later price hikes.

Satellite TV vs. cable TV vs. live TV streaming

CompanyPriceLive channelsDVR hrs./fee
DIRECTV59.99/mo.* 155+200 hrs. included
DISH$59.99/mo.***190+125 hrs. for $10/mo.

500 hrs. for $15/mo.
Xfinity$49.99/mo.‡140+150 hrs. on hard drive with 60 hrs. on cloud DVR for $9.95/mo.
Hulu + Live TV$44.99/mo.60+50 hrs. included

200 hrs. total available
AT&T WatchTV$15/mo.35+No
Sling TV$25/mo.30–40+50 hrs. for $5/mo.

*w/24-mo. Agmt. Prices higher in 2nd year. $81/mo. in 13-24 (subject to change). Additional Regional Sports Fee up to 8.49/mo.
***Additional equipment required. Additional and advanced receiver fees apply.
***w/24-mo. Agmt. with early termination fee
‡ For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

We know that $10 doesn’t seem like a huge savings, but it’s traditional services’ fine print that really hits the bank hard.

For example, while DIRECTV’s SELECT package is advertised for $59.99 a month, that rate is valid only with a two-year contract, and the price goes up by at least $30 a month in the second year.

Plus, if you love sports, you’ll have to hand over around $5 more a month to cover the Regional Sports Fee, and that doesn’t even include DVR equipment fees. The price really starts to add up quickly.

On the flip side, if you pick a streaming service like PlayStation Vue, you’ll pay $49.99 a month and get an unlimited DVR, five streams, and a decent showing of local channel affiliates—all included for the same monthly price. There’s no fine print, no confusion, and no contract.

If we have you convinced, keep reading to figure out which service is right for your lifestyle and more reasons we love cutting the cord. Hint: it’s so much more than the price.

Top live TV streaming services

Congrats on deciding to cut the cord! Now it’s time to choose a streaming service. We know it can be overwhelming to decide between all the different streaming services, so we’ve collected the most popular livestreaming services below:

Service Hulu + Live TV
Best Overall
PlayStation VueAT&T WatchTV
Cheapest
Sling TV
Best for Sports
AT&T TV NOWYouTube TV
Price$44.99/mo.$49.99$15$25$50$49.99
Live channels 60+50+35+30–40+45+70+
Cloud DVR hrs.50 hrs. included

200 hrs. total available
Unlimited

(Recordings last 28 days)
No50 hrs. for $5/mo.20 hr. included

(Recordings last 30 days)
Unlimited

(Recordings last 9 mos.)
Multiple streams2 included

Unlimited available
5 included1 included

3+ available
1 included

3+ available
2 included

3 available
3 included
Upgraded package availableYesYesNoYesYesNo
Free trial Free 7-day trialFree 5-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trial

Data effective as of 11/8/19.

So, that’s all fine and dandy, but if you’re like us, you want to know which service is actually the best. Here’s our short list:

  • Best Overall: Hulu + Live TV
  • Cheapest: AT&T WatchTV
  • Best for Sports: Sling TV

We think Hulu + Live TV takes the top spot in streaming services because of its fair price, awesome included features, and even better upgradable perks.

Hulu + Live TV includes a 500-hour DVR and 2 simultaneous streams. If you’re looking for the real premium experience, you can add unlimited streams and a 200-hour cloud DVR for $20 more a month. We know that adds up but, hey, you asked for the best of the best.

If you’re primarily interested in the best sports coverage, PlayStation Vue pulls ahead. You will find CBS Sports Network, the ESPN Network, NFL Network, and more accessible through Sling TV’s different plans and add-ons.

Next up, with the cheapest price point on the market, is AT&T WatchTV. At $15 per month, the service lets you do just that: watch TV. The service is barebones without even the option for multiple streams or a cloud DVR, but hey, it still covers your TV fix. Just check the channel selection before you sign up because it’s missing favorites like ESPN and Disney Channel.

Wondering about all the rest? We think other services are all good streaming services (under the right circumstances)—they’re just not our winners.

Top on-demand streaming services

Whether your goal is catching up with The Handmaid’s Tale or figuring out what Stranger Things is actually about, you’ll want to check out the top on-demand streaming services.

These services offer new and archived TV shows and movies at the click of a button. A special few even offer live TV along with their on-demand content.

NetflixHuluAmazon Prime Video
PriceBasic: $8.99/mo.
Standard: $12.99/mo.
Premium: $15.99/mo.
$5.99/mo.

Commercial-free: $11.99/mo.
$12.99/mo.
Max. simultaneous streamsBasic: 1
Standard: 2
Premium: 4
1 stream3 streams
Streaming quality Basic: SD
Standard: up to HD
Premium: up to 4K Ultra HD
Up to 4k Ultra HD Up to 4k Ultra HD
Free trialFree 30-day trialFree 30-day trialFree 30-day trial

Ever heard of House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black? Of course you have because Netflix originals have been everywhere the last couple years.

While Netflix might not win in overall quantity of on-demand content (hello, Amazon Prime Video), it’s the quality that makes it a great service. Plus, we love that there are never any commercials—ever! With something for everyone to watch, Netflix easily wins as the best on-demand service in our book.

With great originals and the option to upgrade to live TV, Hulu TV comes in second for us. We absolutely love Hulu’s great originals. Marvel’s Runaways, anyone?

One thing Hulu can hold over Netflix’s head is its on-demand collection of current TV. While Netflix contains only old seasons of shows, Hulu often has episodes of favorites like Modern Family or The Bachelorette available 24 hours after they air on live TV. Plus, if you’re determined to get live TV, too, Hulu has an option made just for you. Just sign up for Hulu + Live TV (creative name, right?) for $45 a month, and you’ll get both.

On the flip side, Amazon Prime sweeps the board when it comes to quantity of on-demand shows–the exact numbers are debatable, but it’s well agreed that Prime Video outdoes the competition in sheer volume. It’s not even a contest, but quantity doesn’t trump quality. Yes, we admit there are some good shows like The Man in the High Castle or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but we didn’t recognize many of the other on-demand offerings.

However, you can stream Thursday Night Football through Amazon. And if you’re a student, the service costs only $6.49 a month, so Amazon Prime is not without its perks.

Want live TV with your on-demand streaming service?

We suggest you try out an HD antenna. For as little as $40, you can buy the antenna, and it will get you access to locally broadcast channels like ABC, NBC, and FOX—for free. You can use it in addition to any of these on-demand streaming services to cover your live TV fix.

What to look for when you cut the cord:

1

Channels and shows

The first step to cutting the cord is deciding what channels and shows you can’t live without. Making this list will help you narrow down what service will work best for you.

For example, if you’re sports-obsessed and living without ESPN is a no-go, then you’ll want to steer clear of AT&T WatchTV and give Sling TV a look. Or, if your kids must have Nickelodeon, PlayStation Vue will fill your needs.

Basically, before you buy, check each service’s channel lineup for your favorites. Look, we gathered them for you.

2

Original shows and movies

How important is original content to you? Some streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime have tons of original shows for you to binge-watch while others’ original offers are a bit sparse.

If you want to watch Orange Is the New Black, snag a Netflix subscription. If you’re more interested in The Handmaid’s Tale, then sign up for Hulu. In short, decide what originals you really want or if they’re even important to you and pick your service accordingly.

3

Cloud DVR

In today’s day and age, it’s almost impossible to be at your TV when every show starts or every game kicks off—that’s where a DVR comes in. And we love that a cloud DVR allows you to stream your DVR recording anywhere with an internet connection.

When it comes to how many storage hours you need, it depends on the user. For reference, it takes 140 hours to record all of The Big Bang Theory or 60 hours for all your favorite college football team’s games this season.

If you’re just looking for the best, we suggest YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue. Both have great unlimited DVRs included in the streaming subscription price. If we absolutely had to choose, we’d probably go with YouTube TV, but simply because it lets you keep your recording for nine months instead of 28 days like PlayStation Vue.

Hulu + Live TV
Best Overall
AT&T WatchTV
Cheapest
Sling TV
Best for Sports
AT&T TV NOWYouTube TV
Cloud DVR50 hrs. included

200 hrs. total available
No50 hrs. for $5/mo.20 hrs. included


(Recordings last 30 days)
Unlimited



(Recordings last 9 mos.)
4

Multiple streams

The number of simultaneous streams you need depends on who you’re buying the service for. Think about how many people will want to watch TV at the same time.

Will there be fights about whether to watch The Bachelorette or Monday Night Football? For us, we think two streams is a must to keep everyone happy, but we’re always game for more.

Hulu + Live TV
Best Overall
AT&T WatchTV
Cheapest
Sling TV
Best for Sports
AT&T TV NOWYouTube TV
Max. simultaneous streams2 included

Unlimited available
1 included

3+ available
1 included

3+ available
2 included

3 available
3 included
5

Free trials and deals

Before officially signing up, we suggest trying out the streaming service with a free trial. Be warned: each does sign you up for the service automatically after the trial period is up, so make sure to unsubscribe.
Hulu + Live TV
Best Overall
AT&T WatchTV
Cheapest
Sling TV
Best for Sports
AT&T TV NOWYouTube TV
Free trial Free 7-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trialFree 7-day trial

Right now, Sling TV is also offering a deal of 40% off the first month on top of its free trial. Score! Currently none of the other services have any sweet deals, but we’ll let you know if any pop up.

Final take: Is cutting the cord worth it?

Absolutely! For the most part, cutting the cord will save you money, but that’s not even our favorite part about ditching cable.

We love the focused channel packages of TV we actually watch, the included DVRs, the 4K opportunities, and the on-demand libraries. Plus, there is no commitment, which means no risk. So, what do you say? Pull out your metaphorical scissors and let’s start cutting.

Cord cutting FAQ

How do I cut the cord?

The first step in cutting the cord is checking out your home internet connection. Because cord-cutting services work over the internet, you want to make sure your package speeds can support it.

Next, decide what streaming service is right for you. If you’re not sure, look above and sign up for the one that fits your needs.

Finally, call the cable company and cancel. We know canceling cable can be notoriously hard, but we have faith in you.

What’s the best alternative to cable?

We think the best alternative to cable is a live TV streaming service like Hulu + Live TV or Sling TV.

You get to enjoy the channels you actually watch for a lower monthly price. Even if money isn’t a deciding factor for you, streaming services can also have a lot of perks, like an included DVR, multiple streams, tons of on-demand content, and no commitment at all.

Do you really save money cutting the cord?

For the most part, yes. We’ll admit there are some steaming services that get as expensive as cable, but we try to avoid those. Most streaming services run you around $45 a month, while most cable packages begin at $50.

Even when the cable and streaming service are listed at the same price, the streaming service will have fewer hidden fees and a month-to-month contract with no price hikes, so it’s ultimately cheaper.

What is the best TV streaming service for 2020?

We think the best streaming service overall is Hulu + Live TV. It includes 45 must-see channels like ESPN and TBS, plus Hulu’s famous on-demand library. If that’s not enough, we love the option to add unlimited simultaneous streaming and a bigger DVR.

These extra features will cost you, but at least Hulu + Live TV allows you to customize the service to your needs.

How can I avoid cable TV?

There are so many ways to avoid using cable. From on-demand services like Netflix or Amazon Prime to live TV replacements like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV (or even an HD antenna), if you want to get rid of cable, you can.

Is streaming cheaper than cable?

Yes, in most instances, streaming is cheaper than cable. Streaming services start at $15 a month (AT&T WatchTV) and average around $45 a month. On the other hand, most cable services begin at $50 a month and require a two-year commitment and possibly include a price hike in year two.

How can I reduce my cable bill?

If you’re hoping to get rid of your expensive cable bill, cutting the cord might be the right choice for you. There are many streaming services on the market, and most cost about $45 a month. AT&T WatchTV even offers 35 channels for only $15 a month.

What’s the cheapest TV provider?

The cheapest TV service on the market is AT&T WatchTV. It’s only $15 a month. While it does deliver 35 channels, AT&T WatchTV’s service is very limited with no DVR or option for multiple streams.

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