These days, viewers have numerous options when it comes to watching their favorite TV shows, movies, and sporting events, each more seemingly affordable and convenient than the last.
Sling TV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Prime Video, and HBO NOW, among others, all claim to offer more relevant content for less money. While several of these services do just that, you have to ask yourself, what are you sacrificing for the reduced cost? Before you choose a TV or streaming service, you should first determine what you want out of the provider with which you ultimately decide to work.
It goes without saying that the less you pay for TV service, the fewer channels you get. Many people, however, don’t mind this, as they generally prefer programming from a handful of stations. If this is the case with you, you may be able to get away with a “skinny bundle” from a streaming service such as Sling TV or Hulu With Live TV. Both these services offer streamlined bundles for between $25 and $40 a month. However, bear in mind that the more affordable bundles generally contain unpopular channels. Meanwhile, the more expensive bundles may contain popular channels, but far less of them.
If you want all the popular channels, or if you like to mix up your viewing preferences, you may want to go with more traditional TV service, such as DISH. DISH offers affordably priced bundles with between 180 and 270+ channels and in multiple languages. For instance, dishLATINO packages allow you to watch all your favorite channels in both English and Spanish, which many of the newer services don’t offer.
Features and Equipment
Different providers offer users different types of equipment and/or features. For instance, many of the newer services such as Netflix and Hulu rely strictly on an internet connection. In these cases, providers don’t offer the internet but allow streaming through it. Other providers, such as DISH, require users to install a satellite dish to their homes. In these cases, the provider does offer the equipment.
Many TV service providers these days include a DVR as part of their package offerings. Newer DVRs feature ad-skipping capabilities, which offers an experience similar to that of streaming. Some companies provide on-demand content, but typically for an increased fee.
Be sure to go with a company with features that suit your needs. For instance, if you live by yourself and are home when your favorite show starts every week, you wouldn’t get much use out of a DVR. However, if you live with multiple people and everyone’s favorite show starts at 8:30 pm, a DVR may be a worthwhile feature.
Price (and Fees)
How much you pay goes hand-in-hand with how many and what types of channels you want. That said, many traditional TV services such as DirectTV and Spectrum offer introductory rates for their most impressive packages. After the first year, if you forget to switch packages, you’ll end up paying the actual rate, which is significantly more expensive than the introductory rate.
You should also be wary of hidden fees, such as regional sports fees, installation fees, equipment fees and other monthly costs that aren’t included in the base price. Each of these fees can raise your monthly TV costs by a considerable amount.
Another fee U.S. News warns consumers about is the early cancellation fee. Many TV providers lock users into two-year contracts and allow them to walk away only after paying hundreds of dollars in early-termination fees. If you don’t plan on sticking with the same provider for long, don’t sign a long-term contract.
With all the options available these days, TV doesn’t have to be expensive. That said, be smart about choosing a provider to enjoy maximum entertainment in the most cost-effective manner.