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TV Streaming: Too Many Options, Too Little Time
By Bill Jackson
Posted: 2024-02-23T18:37:00Z

One of the common discussions in our Cutting the TV Cord classes is how to pick the best services and apps, while still meeting a budget objective of lowering total TV cost to less than typically experienced with traditional satellite/cable TV options. For most folks, gaining a better understating your TV content viewing options is the single most important step in successfully cutting the TV cord. And, yes, there are a dizzying array of options competing for your eyeballs, so sorting out a line-up that works for you (and for your budget) can be a daunting task. Let's try to simplify how you can approach this content decision process.

Most cord-cutters end up with 3 types of streaming services in their "portfolio" of apps or subscriptions:

  1. A live multi-channel pay-per-month TV service with news, sports, shows, a cloud DVR capability, and a live schedule guide. Most Saddlebrookers pick a fairly comprehensive multi-channel streaming service which will replicate most of the content and user features of a typical cable or satellite TV service. YouTube TV and Hulu+Live TV are the most common choices. Others select less robust, lower cost services (fewer channels, less access to local Tucson stations, fewer sports, etc.) like Sling TV or Philo. Overall, for most folks in Saddlebrooke, YouTube TV has been the runaway first choice service in this category, with Hulu LiveTV coming in as a distant 2nd place option.
  2. Premium pay-per month video-on-demant apps such as Netflix, Max (HBO), Prime Video, AppleTV+. Although these premium apps provide the best movies, series, and documentaries, it is all too easy to see your TV streaming cost rise as you start adding more and more of these apps as you find interesting new shows to view. As discussed in a prior blog post, it's strongly recommended to consider "churning" your premium apps by limiting the number that are active at any given time, then rotating other apps in & out of your line-up every few months. Since these apps bill monthly and have no costs associated with pausing or re-staring your subscriptions (unlike those sneaky cable/satellite TV providers 🤑), this allows you to only watch the best from each service over the long-term for a more reasonable cost.
  3. Free apps which primarily include multi-channel service with unavoidable ads (e.g., Pluto, Tubi, Roku Channel, FreeVee). People who abhor commercials usually totally avoid this category of apps. But, this category also includes some very interesting no-ads options such as Kanopy (free movies & documentaries to Pima County library card holders), PBS Tucson (KUAT-TV), & Ted TV. If you also happen to be a contributor to PBS Tucson at the $60/year level or above (called "PBS Passport" status), you also gain video-on-demand access to the very best PBS content such as all the Ken Burns documentaries, which you cannot access through other apps which usually only include the PBS national live channel.

Sorting out how best to apply your viewing preferences to building your best tailored streaming portfolio of apps is a key part of what we do in the Computer Club cord-cutting classes. At a broader level, these classes also include topics like understanding how streaming works, pros & cons of streaming vs. cable/satellite TV, internet service needs & options, equipment requirements (modem, router, streaming device, smart TV), budget implications. But, most important, building a streaming content plan of apps & services that fits your personal preferences is where we can help most. Join us, regardless of whether cord-cutting is just a potential option for you, or whether you'd like to optimize your existing streaming set-up!

Comments & feedback always welcome

Bill Jackson