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The Many Ways to Watch Television

You now have dozens of options, from antennas to new streaming services

By James K. Willcox

Originally posted on Consumer Reports website. See their article here.

It wasn’t too long ago that your options for catching favorite TV shows or movies at home were limited mainly to an antenna or a cable-TV package.

As you can see from the diagram below, that’s no longer the case. Today, you can watch many of the same shows and movies any number of ways, including from cable and satellite providers, various online services, and yes, even with a trusty antenna. Here’s a quick look at all the services clamoring for your attention—and dollars.

ILLUSTRATION: THE TOM AGENCY

Your Expanding Options

 

Online Cable Replacement

Services such as Sling TV and Hulu With Live TV compete directly with cable by offering live channels online for a monthly fee of around $20 to $40. But the choices can be limited. You can get a smattering of broadcast (such as ABC and NBC) and cable-type (Bravo, CNN, HGTV) channels. Premium channels (HBO, Showtime) may be on tap for an added fee. For more details, check out our article on cable-TV replacement services.

Single-Channel Websites, Apps

You can subscribe to some TV channels’ websites and apps to watch just their shows without signing up for a larger TV package. CBS, HBO, Showtime, and Starz all offer this option. Some channels have apps that let you watch their content only if you are already paying through a cable or satellite subscription.

Subscription Streaming

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other smaller players charge a subscription fee, usually around $8 to $10 per month, for unlimited viewing of all their TV content and movies, including original shows such as Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Shows are delivered over the internet, so you can watch on a computer, smart TV, or mobile device.

Pay-per-View Services

Services such as iTunes and Vudu let you rent or buy single titles—a movie, one episode of a show, or a whole season. Amazon Video—the company’s pay-per-view service—offers this option, too. (Note, Amazon Prime members: Not all of Amazon’s content is included with your subscription.)