This past summer, I gave myself a task: research and find the best TV streaming service and hardware for my home in northern Wisconsin. It needed to be reliable, robust and easy to use. I’ve had satellite TV for over 22 years, and my experience has been really good, except for the price tag of nearly $230 per month for five HD receivers and virtually every channel available.
As an internet service provider, our techs see lots of different setups in our customers’ homes. And their first bit of advice was to consider my smart TVs to be excellent TVs, but not smart enough. “The processors in those TVs are generally slow,” they said. “So don’t count on your smart TV’s processor to manage the amount of data you want to throw at it.” Okay, good advice.
So my first analysis dealt with hardware. Because there are several options available on the market, and because those options change often, I’m not going to list them here. But I selected the Roku Streaming Stick (https://amzn.to/2We2L3l). If your TV is a few rooms away from your wireless router, you may need the Roku Streaming Stick + (https://amzn.to/32NIMv0).
Keep in mind that you’re buying the hardware for a one-time purchase price. And honestly, some of it is amazingly inexpensive for what it can do. I purchased the standard Roku Streaming Stick for about $40. It came with its own remote control and was fairly easy to plug into the HDMI port on the back of my TV.
A few simple setup steps, and I was connecting to the Roku Channel (free!) and other apps that are displayed on the Roku’s Home screen. Okay, so far so good. Now, how to find the best streaming services to replace my full line-up on my satellite service?
At the time I was running this test, YouTube TV was offering a 7-day no-cost trial. As you may already know, this is owned by Google (as is YouTube), and Google doesn’t really do anything half baked. (Another terrific option is Apple TV.)
A quick rundown of the channels available on YouTube TV, and it was clear that everything we routinely watch was available, including local channels and live sports, with a couple of exceptions: PBS (really?) and premium movie channels like HBO, Starz and Showtime. None of this turned out to be a big problem. PBS has its own app.
Premium movie channels can be accessed through the Roku Channel, where you can sign up and pay monthly for the services you want.
So, what’s the bottom line on this configuration?
- Roku Streaming Stick: $40 for each TV, one-time purchase
- YouTube TV subscription: $50 per month at tv.youtube.com. This allows up to 5 devices/TVs.
- Optional premium movie channel: HBO at $14.99 per month (so far this is the only one we need at our house)
Total per month: $50 for YouTube TV and $14.99 for HBO is $64.99 (vs. that $230 I was paying for satellite service).
Here are the benefits of streaming our TV service:
- Because YouTube TV is an app, it also works great on our computers, smartphones and tablets. So we can watch TV virtually anywhere that broadband is available. This has come in really handy when we are traveling.
- There is no contract requirement for any of this. Not YouTube TV or HBO or any of the other channels/apps. So what we plan to do is cancel the premium movie apps whenever there aren’t shows being broadcast that we watch. During the off seasons, we don’t have to keep paying for a service we aren’t using.
Likewise, if you are not going to be using YouTube TV for a period of time, you can suspend that service as well.
Cable and satellite TV services always had you hog tied because you were first under a 2-year contract period, and then after that, it was too difficult to add or change any of the channel lineups from one season to the next. So we just continued to pay a lot of cash for channels we weren’t viewing. At least now I feel like I have more control over my services and costs, and that’s a big win in my book.
Keep in mind that this article does not compare hardware or streaming services. A quick web search whenever you’re ready to start looking will provide you with the current list of available products and services.
In my next article, I’ll talk more about bandwidth requirements to stream all of this great TV content. Until then, I hope I’ve helped you decide that now may be the best time to cut the cable or satellite cord and still have access to all the viewing options you want.