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Cutting the Cable Cord: Where are my Shows?

Cutting the Cable Cord: Where are my Shows?
We've been talking for the past several months about the options available to those who want to cut the cable or satellite cord. It's true that there is more and more hardware available all the time, but there is still quite a bit of confusion as to what content exactly is available and for what price. In other words, people want to know if they're going to be able to get all their favorite shows. The answer to this is: mostly with a lot of qualifiers thrown in. The chart below will tell you what major networks are available and where you can get them. Three popular channels you can't get anywhere else are HBO, Showtime, and Disney. This might be a deal-breaker for those of you who can't do without your weekly dose of Breaking Bad, or for those with children addicted to Zak and Cody. It's true that Disney has recently announced a partnership with Roku, but the only shows available are short videos, music videos, behind the scenes, etc. and not their regular programming. HBO Go likewise is their mobile channel, but it is only available to those with a cable subscription to HBO (same for ESPN), thus defeating the purpose of fully disconnecting from your cable provider.
Hulu is Your First Stop
At this point the primary methods of getting television content online is through Hulu Plus (regular Hulu is free, but not as much prime-time content is available, episodes don't appear on the website as quickly, and they are only available for 5 days). Hulu also limits the programming available on mobile or set-top devices. PlayOn circumvents Hulu’s and others’ “web-only” constraints by “slinging” content to your device from a PC. Meanwhile, the networks individual websites; ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/PBS are all available over-the-air with an antenna.

How Much Does it Cost?

OTA Antenna: $20-$40
Hulu Plus: $7.99 per month
PlayOn: $4.99 per month (with PlayLater DVR capability, the cost becomes $7.99 per month)
Amazon Instant Video: $1.99-$3.99 per episode
iTunes: $1.99-$3.99 per episode

What’s Available and Where Can You Get It?

NETWORK

TIME LAG

WHERE TO FIND IT
HBO

SHOWTIME

1-2 years Seasons are typically released 1-2 years later on DVD. At such time, they can be bought and downloaded from iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Note: HBO Go is only available to people who have an HBO subscription through a cable provider.

FX

USA

COMEDY CENTRAL

A&E

HISTORY

CW

FOOD NETWORK

BRAVO

SYFY

OXYGEN

NAT GEO

USA

1 day for most shows HULU PLUS
Note: Many of these networks available on Hulu Plus are “web-only” which means they aren’t available on mobile devices or set-top boxes

PLAYON
Note: Playon uses the web versions and offers many more networks than Hulu

AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO
or
iTUNES (only compatible with Apple TV)

Note: Bravo, History, A&E, and Comedy Central have full episodes available for free on their websites.

NBC

ABC

PBS

LOCAL

No time lost with antennas

One day for most shows

Over-the-Air (OTA) Antenna

HULU PLUS

PLAYON

AMAZON INSTANT STREAMING
or
iTUNES
(only compatible with Apple TV)

FOX

CBS

No time lost with antennas

One day for most shows but they are available for a limited time, usually five days

Over-the-Air (OTA) Antenna

PLAYON

AMAZON INSTANT STREAMING
or
iTUNES
(only compatible with Apple TV)

AMC

DISCOVERY

TNT

TBS

No time lost with antennas

1 day for most shows

iTUNES

or

AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO

DISNEY
6mos - 1yr for seasons to be released on DVD n/a

Sports Without Cable Can Be A Challenge

Now let's talk about the big thing you won't be getting on connected devices: namely live sports. If you're an avid sports fan and the games that are available on Fox/CBS/NBC aren't enough for you or you can’t get your live sports over-the-air then you really shouldn't give up cable just yet, you'll be miserable. While it's true that live sports content is actually making a lot of headway - the Superbowl will be streamed live for the first time this year, and there are subscription packages from the MLB, NBA and NHL - it is very expensive, and in the context of our discussion about bringing the internet to your television, really not plausible. The NBA League Pass, MLB.TV, and NHL Gamecenter will all allow you to watch live games on your computer, but there's no easy way to get it to your television.

Playon “Slings” Lots of Programming for a Reasonable Price

The other thing you will notice in the chart is a website called Playon.tv. This is a great place for those wanting to get rid of their cable or satellite provider. It's a program that runs in the background on your Windows PC (requiring that you're computer be running while you're watching programs) and “slings” (ala Slingbox) shows over a network from your computer to various devices, including game consoles, connected set-top boxes, Smart TVs, Blu-ray players, tablets, smartphones, or basically anything that can recognize a DLNA media server. Playon will also stream media that is stored on your PC. Playon streams TV from a huge lineup of free and premium services much of which is not available on Hulu. In the former category, some notable channels include CBS, Comedy Central, Crackle, Hulu, Spike, TBS, Syfy, along with the ability to connect to your Amazon Instant Video and Netflix accounts. For an extra few dollars a month you can also get their PlayLater service, which will allow you to record shows and store them locally for playback at your convenience. You can try Playon for free for two weeks but after that you’ll have to pay $4.99 a month or a few dollars more if you want the DVR feature.

Cutting the Cord Part Two

So, are you ready to get rid of cable or satellite service? Are all of your favorite shows available online? To help you make up your mind, check out our companion article where we talk about all the many types of devices available for streaming - from Blu-ray players to gaming consoles and set-top boxes.

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