Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 14:23
Ready to cut the cord but want to keep live sports, news and more? Here's how.
HBO's Mare of Easttown is one of 2021's best shows.HBO
In 2021 streaming fans have more choices than ever, including NBC/Comcast's Peacock, AT&T's HBO Max, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus. While Peacock differs in that it has live news the other services lack traditional live channels -- focusing instead on back catalogs and new original programming -- but they can still eat into your entertainment budget.
Netflix: One of the first streaming TV services and it's so popular that it's become a catch-all term in the same way as "Magic Marker" or "Coke" in the South. And then, of course, there's the ever-popular "Netflix and chill." High-definition plans start at $14 a month, and the service covers thousands of TV shows and movies, including original TV series like The Queen's Gambit and Stranger Things. Then there's Netflix original movies like Army of the Dead and The Irishman.See it at Netflix
Amazon Prime Video: The "other" major streaming service, which is included as part of a $99 annual Prime Membership or $9 a month. The interface isn't as user-friendly as Netflix, but the service also offers shows not on its rival, including original content like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Expanse. Amazon Prime also has the ability to add premium channels (HBO and Showtime and more), making it a potential one-stop shop.See it at Amazon
Disney Plus' Loki premiere on June 9 was the most-watched on the streaming service.Disney Plus
Disney Plus: One of the biggest streaming services to launch in some time, Disney has gathered a mix of movies, TV shows and exclusive content, including Loki, The Mandalorian and WandaVision, for $8 a month. Read our Disney Plus review here.See it at Disney
Paramount Plus: Recently renamed from CBS All Access, Paramount Plus costs $6 a month, or ad-free for $10 a month The service offers live TV (in some cities), sports and on-demand content from CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Paramount Network, plus its Paramount Pictures movie studio. Paramount Plus also offers exclusive originals such as Star Trek: Discovery, Picard and the Good Fight.See it at Paramount Plus
Vudu/Movies Anywhere: Digital libraries (or lockers) that incorporate legacy UltraViolet content and streaming movies and TV that are only available for purchase, such as new releases.See it at Vudu
Peacock: Live now nationwide, Peacock is NBC's answer to CBS All Access. Its main claim to fame is that its basic tier, with 7,500 hours of content, is free.See it at Peacock
It's also worth investigating free, ad-supported services such as Roku Channel, IMDb TV, TuBi TV, Pluto and Crackle, which offer a wealth of content. Read CNET's roundup of free TV services here.
Is an indoor or outdoor antenna a viable option?
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over the air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10. See our comparison of indoor antennas here.
You can also add a DVR such as the Amazon Fire TV Recast or TiVo Bolt OTA if you want. Then you can record those live TV antenna channels, play them back and skip commercials, just like on a standard cable TV DVR. Here's CNET's roundup of the best OTA DVRs for cord-cutters.
A solid, lower-cost alternative to live TV streaming services is the combination of an antenna for live local channels and an on-demand service such as Netflix or Hulu. That way you'll still be able to watch live programming and also have a choice of on-demand content.
Amazon's Fire TV Recast DVR is a cord-cutting antenna user's friend.Sarah Tew/CNET
Conclusion: Try it yourself
Streaming live TV services are still in flux. Since launch, every service has increased its prices by at least $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money, or even closing in the case of T-Mobile's TVision. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, and cable the past, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and for on-the-go devices, without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of YouTube TV, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
More streaming advice
- Best DVR for cord-cutters who use an OTA antenna
- Free movies: 10 Netflix alternatives that will keep you entertained
- 38 of the best TV shows to watch on Hulu
- Best TV antennas for cord-cutters, starting at just $10
- Best TV for 2021
- 20 Google Chromecast streaming tips and tricks
- Best universal remotes for 2021
- Best 75-inch TVs for 2021
- Best streaming device in 2021: Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast and more
- Budget hack: Replace Netflix and other pricey subscriptions with these free versions
- 22 of the best TV shows to watch on Amazon Prime Video
- The 9 best TV series you can watch free on Peacock and other services
- Best cheap internet providers of 2021
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