How To Choose The Right Cord-Cutting TV Service

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Sony joined the growing number of companies that want you to ditch cable and satellite TV for Internet-based TV when the company launched PlayStation Vue this week.

The news follows that of Apple’s efforts to launch a streaming TV service and Dish Network’s recent launch of its Web-based Sling TV, which includes ESPN.

For now, Vue is available in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. It offers live and on-demand viewing as well as content from new network partners like Fox News Networks, AMC Networks and Turner Broadcasting, according to Sony’s press release.

CNN Money reports, however, that Vue’s bigger lineup comes with a bigger price:

Sony has by far the largest selection of channels available among its competitors. But you still have to pay your cable company for Internet service, after which the extra price for the equivalent number of channels from your cable provider might be around the same as the $50 Sony is charging for its Vue service.

The Associated Press‘ comparison of Vue and nine competitors found Vue is more than twice the price of the others. It starts at $50 per month, while the second-most expensive services, Sling TV and MLB.TV, start at $20 per month.

If you’re ready to cut the cord but unsure where to start, you’re in the right place.

Money Talks News has been helping readers ditch cable TV since at least 2010, when Money Talks News tech guru Dan Schointuch did it. By last year, when he wrote “You Can Stop Paying for Cable TV Now,” he was paying about $100 per year — compared to $1,800 per year for cable TV.

If you’re overwhelmed by the number of options now available, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What do you watch?

Make a list of the shows and channels you watch. No one Internet-based TV service offers everything, so you’ll need this information to determine which choice is right for you.

If you only watch broadcast channels, you don’t necessarily need to pay for any type of TV service. As Dan explained it:

You can watch HDTV with an antenna. The picture from on-air TV stations is perfectly clear, thanks to the switch to digital TV completed in 2009. You’ll either see a crisp, beautiful image or no image at all. (Static is a thing of the past.) And the best part? All your favorite programming will still be in HD.

HDTV is more expensive for local stations to produce, so it’s common to see a station broadcast in regular standard definition during the day, but switch their signal to high definition for prime time. So while the local news may not be in HD, shows like “Big Brother,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The Big Bang Theory” will be.

You just need an antenna and, if your HDTV doesn’t have a built-in HDTV tuner, a separate HDTV tuner that connects your existing HDTV to an antenna.

AntennaWeb, a site provided by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, will tell you exactly where to point your antenna for the best reception at your address, and which stations are broadcasting over the air in your area.

If you don’t want to buy an antenna or tuner but you pay for an Internet connection, check the websites of the broadcast channels you watch. Full episodes of “Gray’s Anatomy,” for example, are available for free on ABC’s website about one week after they air live.

If you watch shows that don’t air on broadcast channels, check their websites. Full episodes of “The Daily Show,” for example, are available for free on Comedy Central’s website within a couple of days.

How do you watch TV?

If you can’t find all of your favorite shows for free online, you will need a streaming TV service to ditch cable.

As with antennas, cable TV and channel websites, forgoing live programming is one of the best ways to reduce your Internet-based TV expenses.

In the AP’s comparison, the three most expensive services were the only ones that offer live programming in addition to on-demand choices. They are:

  • MLB.TV — $20 per month or $110 per year; $25 per month or $130 per year for MLB.TV premium
  • PlayStation Vue — $50 per month for Access, $60 per month for Core, $70 per month for Elite
  • Sling TV — $20 per month; additional $5 per month each for Sports Extra, Kids Extra, Hollywood Extra, World News Extra, Lifestyle Extra
  • HBO Now — $15 per month; does not offer live TV, but new episodes are available through apps about the same time they are aired live.

The cheapest services generally offer only on-demand programming. They include:

  • Netflix — $8 per month for Basic, $9 per month for Standard, $12 per month for Premium
  • Amazon Prime Instant Video — Included with $99-per-year Amazon Prime subscription
  • Hulu — $8 per month for Hulu Plus
  • iTunes — $2 to $3 per episode

Which device do you use?

If you’ve narrowed your options down to streaming TV services, consider which devices are required for which services.

Vue, for example, is only available on Sony’s PlayStation4 and PlayStation3 gaming consoles. HBO Now will initially be available only on Apple devices due to an exclusive three-month contract between the two companies.

Services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, on the other hand, can be streamed from a variety of devices, including multiple types of set-top boxes, gaming consoles and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

Have you cut the cable TV cord yet? Do you stream TV? Share your experience in comment below or on our Facebook page.

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