The differences between the new online cable bundles

January 12, 2016 byTali Arbel
The differences between the new online cable bundles
This Sept. 29, 2014, file photo, shows the Amazon Fire TV, a product for streaming popular video services, apps and games in high-definition, in Decatur, Ga. Moving the traditional cable bundle online, stripped down to fewer channels and freed from ugly cable boxes, is all the rage these days. Sony's PlayStation Vue started nearly a year ago. For the Vue, you need a PlayStation or Amazon Fire TV gadgets and have to live in one of seven big cities. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

Traditional cable providers are launching TV packages that don't require cable boxes—good for you because you save on monthly equipment fees and don't need a technician to come install it for you.

But there are also drawbacks. Some services are easy to add and cancel, like Netflix is. Time Warner Cable required a phone call for both. Apart from Sling, leaving your home cuts off access to a lot of video. As with traditional cable service, sometimes there are unexpected fees that end up on your bill.

A breakdown of what's good and what's not:

___

DISH'S SLING TV

What you get: About 20 cable channels, including ESPN, ABC Family, AMC and Food Network. Over-the-air channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are not available; Univision is for an additional fee. You can only watch one stream at a time, so it's not for families.

Benefits: It's the best deal for live TV, with a slim package of some of the most popular cable channels. The same shows are available at home as when you're away.

Drawbacks: There have been quality issues with streaming. You can't record shows. There are some on-demand episodes, but you can't skip commercials for most, and it's hard to figure out where the on-demand episodes are. Sling announced at CES last week that it will improve that by March.

The differences between the new online cable bundles
This June 11, 2013, file photo, shows the Comcast Corp. logo during The Cable Show 2013 convention in Washington. In the fall of 2015, the cable giant started rolling out a cable service that streams live TV in customers' homes without the need for a cable box. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

You don't get access to apps created by channels except for WatchESPN. A family with multiple TVs would probably want more than one subscription. (If you add HBO, you get three streams for that channel only.)

Where it's available: Nationwide.

Price per month: Starts at $20, plus taxes where required. Adding HBO costs $15, and add-on packages of channels with themes like sports, movies, kids and world news are $5 each.

___

SONY VUE

What you get: Major broadcast networks and popular cable channels. Those owned by Disney, including ABC and ESPN, will be added at an unspecified date, and CW isn't available. You can watch up to three simultaneous streams in a home.

Benefits: You can record shows so you can fast-forward through commercials, but they expire after 28 days, with no ability to archive them, as you can with traditional DVRs.

Drawbacks: You need a PlayStation or Amazon's Fire TV device to sign up. Price is comparable to regular cable.

Where it's available: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Price per month: Three tiers. The cheapest is $50 a month for about 50 channels, including AMC, CNN, ESPN, Fox and NBC. Tops out at $65 for 85 channels. Pricier bundles have more sports options. Showtime is another $11, and a few others are available on an a la carte basis.

___

COMCAST STREAM

What you get: Local networks, HBO and the ability to watch two simultaneous streams.

Benefits: An Internet-based DVR with 20 hours of storage that lets you fast-forward commercials and watch outside the home.

Drawbacks: Live TV works only on phones, tablets and computers in your house. For the TV, you need an antenna for live channels, though you get channel apps like HBO Go and Fox Now for on-demand video if you have a streaming gadget like Roku, Apple TV or Xbox.

Where it's available: Boston and Chicago markets for Comcast's existing Internet customers. The company plans for expand to other regions and create more channel options.

Price per month: $15, plus taxes and fees, which can add up to an additional $4.

___

TIME WARNER CABLE'S ROKU APP (WITH NO CABLE BOX)

What you get: Different tiers of service that mirror cable offerings: Local networks and a bundle with popular . Five simultaneous streams.

Benefits: You get TV and most popular streaming video services through a free (for now) Roku 3 box, which is easy to use. Channels are high-definition quality.

Drawbacks: With taxes and fees, a service advertised at $10 cost me more than $13. You need a phone call to sign up and cancel. Channels took about three seconds to load.

Where it's available: New York City; Mt. Vernon, New York; New Jersey for people who also pay for Time Warner Cable. There's no timeline beyond that.

Price per month: $10 for over-the-air channels, $20 if you add Showtime and Starz, $50 to also add several dozen cable networks including AMC, Disney, ESPN, Fox News and TNT. These are promotional prices that will rise. Local taxes and fees are additional.

___

Charter Communications has been pitching a streaming service to its Internet customers in markets including St. Louis and Madison, Wisconsin. The company wouldn't provide details, but according to its ads, the service comes with a free Roku. Local networks plus HBO or Showtime cost $13 a month, before taxes and fees; adding 16 cable networks brought it to $20 a month.

Explore further: Sony tries to make its pricy Vue TV service more popular

Related Stories

Streaming TV services: What they cost, what you get

October 12, 2015

Cable or satellite packages, excluding promotions, can easily run $70 to $100 a month. That gets you hundreds of diverse channels—ESPN for sports lovers, premium channels like HBO and Showtime, the major networks and niche ...

Review: Can you really save money by cutting the cord?

March 18, 2015

There are more ways to watch television online than ever. Even HBO and ESPN—two channels often cited as reasons people keep expensive cable or satellite TV packages—will be available for streaming on their own. All these ...

Recommended for you

Swiss unveil stratospheric solar plane

December 7, 2016

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

Solar panels repay their energy 'debt': study

December 6, 2016

The climate-friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday.

Wall-jumping robot is most vertically agile ever built

December 6, 2016

Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.