With so many options available for streaming television, many people are considering a move away from their cable boxes and over to affordable web-based services. But what programming will you lose? And how much money can you really save? With commercial-free watching, shows on demand at any time, and the ability to pay only for what you watch, it’s hard to hard with streaming services like AppleTV, Hulu Plus, and Roku. Results will vary based on the service (or combination or services) you move to, so it helps to do some research early on.
Up until now I’ve been strangely resistant to letting go of my cable box. The first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘What about my favorite shows?!’ (i.e. what about all of my friends I see on tv every week when I record my favorite episodes on DVR???). The main areas to consider here are live sports programming, children’s channels, premium channels like Showtime and HBO, and local channels. HD was a problem in the past, but most streaming providers now offer plenty of 1080p HD shows.
I wasn’t sold on Apple TV when they first launched back in 2007, but they have taken big strides to widen their selection by offering live sports coverage from MLB, NBA, and NHL, the entire Netflix catalog, and all Hulu Plus offerings (ABC, Fox, NBC, Comedy Central, MTV, the CW, and Univision) in addition to the growing iTunes catalog of movies and tv shows. The ability to watch tv on your other Apple devices and the integration with Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube are a nice touch also. At $99 for the device and only a monthly fee for add-ons like Netflix and Hulu Plus, your monthly bill could be less than the taxes you pay for your cable box.
The Roku player offers a larger library of networks compared to AppleTV at a price point in line with AppleTV as well. To the lineup of MLB, NBA, and NHL Roku adds a variety of sports channels like UFC TV, CBS Sports, USAC Racing, and XOS College Sports. They also have an impressive lineup for Kids with favorites like Disney, PBS Kids, and Bazillion, but no Hub or Nickelodeon. There are well over a hundred channels available on Roku, and they’ve sweetened the deal by adding Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, and HBO Go to the mix. There are multiple products available from the Roku LT at $49.99 up to the new Roku 3 (HDTVs only) which is $99.99.
The Boxee player lets you stream tv to all of your web-enabled devices (not just the Apple ones!) so that is a definite plus if you enjoy watching on multiple screens. Boxee pulls in your local broadcast channels through an HD antenna and saves everything online so you never have to worry about running out of memory for your shows. Broadcast channels include ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Univision and the apps include Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Vimeo, AOL ON, TED, WSJ Live, Accuweather, and MLB. The device, remote, and antenna are $99.
Xbox Live and The Wii
If you’re not ready to fork over $100 bucks for a new streaming tv player, you may be in luck if you already own a Wii or an Xbox. The Xbox Live Gold membership definitely wins in this category with ESPN, HBO Go, IGN, IndieFlix, CNET, Fox, Daily Motion and many others, but the Wii isn’t too far behind. No streaming device needed!
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