from $35 per month
DIRECTV NOW℠ is the new standalone streaming service from DIRECTV for Live TV and On Demand video. You can stream shows as they air – in real time. Stream to your smartphone, tablet, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. Starts at $35 per month for their basic package, including over 60 channels. The $50/month “Just Right” package includes the local SF Bay Area sports networks, with a free 7-day trial to get you started.
$35 per month
Stream live TV from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and other popular cable networks. YouTube TV works on phones, tablets and laptop browsers. Watching on an actual TV set requires Google’s Chromecast, an inexpensive streaming stick you control with your phone. Stream live sports from ESPN, Big Ten and sports networks from Fox and CBS. Share your subscription with up to five people in your household, with three simultaneous streams allowed. Freedom to cancel at anytime.
$10 per month
Netflix is the best all-around choice for streaming movies and TV shows. You’ll find original programs such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Master of None. They’ve pursued exclusive licenses for movies from several studios. Enjoy ad-free viewing and use their recommendation engine to suggest programs. Watch on 2 screens at a time in HD for $10. Pay $8 for 1 screen in SD and $12 for 4 screens and add Ultra HD.
from $8 per month
Hulu focuses on TV shows from ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW, and Comedy Central (but no CBS), along with some cable shows – both current and classic series. Episodes are available the day after they air. You’ll also find a smaller selection of movies. Hulu is building up their stable of original programming. For $12 you escape all commercials. Add SHOWTIME at a discounted rate of $9.
$9 per month/Free with Amazon Prime
If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime to get free 2-day delivery, you can also watch Amazon Prime Video for free. You’ll find original programs such as Bosch, The Last Tycoon, and Mozart in the Jungle as well as thousands of movies and TV episodes including HBO’s back catalog. All of that comes without commercials. You can also rent or buy content that isn’t available for free. Prime Video only is $9/month while full Amazon Prime is $99/year or $11/month. For additional monthly charges, you can add other cable channels, such as Starz, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, PBS Kids, Brit Box, and many more.
from $20 per month
Sling TV lets you live stream around 20 basic-cable channels including A&E, AMC, Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, HGTV, TBS, TNT, and Travel Channel. Viewer controls are somewhat limited as only some channels allow pause, rewind, or fast-forward and only some can stream on-demand and even then it may only be for a week after broadcast. Commercials are a part of Sling TV viewing. They offer add-on specialty packs of channels for additional fees. The $25/month Sling “Blue” package includes the San Francisco Bay Area sports networks.
$15 per month
With HBO NOW you can watch big premieres as they air —plus every episode of HBO’s addictive original series such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Big Little Lies as well as their sports and comedy specials, all without commercial interruptions. Though HBO NOW offers fewer movies than Netflix or Amazon, it tops them in the number of recent blockbuster movies. This standalone service that does not require a pay TV package on works on phones, tablets and laptop browsers.
$11 per month ($9 with a Hulu subscription)
SHOWTIME streams their original programs such as Homeland, Billions, Ray Donovan, and Shameless, along with sports and comedy specials. The SHOWTIME movie selection doesn’t measure up to Netflix, Amazon, or HBO.
$6 per month
CBS All Access streams on-demand episodes from current CBS series as well as from their library of CBS classics, and live streams the local CBS broadcast. This includes college sports, but NFL games are blocked from the live stream. For $10, stream commercial free as long as it’s not a live stream.
from $40 per month
PlayStation™Vue is a live streaming TV service with sports, news and premium channels. Works with PlayStation console or other supported devices such as Smart TVs, digital media players and apps – without a subscription to a cable or satellite television provider. Includes ESPN, Big Ten, SEC, and Fox Sports but not NFL channel. The $45/month “Core” package includes the SF Bay Area sports networks.
from $24 per month
MLB.tv is a subscription based audio and video service that allow users to hear and watch HD quality Major League Baseball games live via a high-speed Internet connection. Out-of-area games can be streamed live, and local games are available 90 minutes after the last pitch.
from $35 per month
fuboTV is a sports-centric Internet TV service, offering live streaming of national and regional sports networks to several popular streaming devices, mobile devices and computers. fuboTV also offers a virtual DVR to record games and shows for later viewing.
Some smart TVs, DVD/Blu-Ray players and game consoles can stream video though stand-alone streaming devices may offer more streaming features and are often easier to use. Start by taking a look at the Roku lineup of products.
The Roku Streaming Stick ($50) is great for most people. It delivers easy to use access to a huge range of streaming content. It searches across the most streaming services; search results don’t favor any service over another; and its voice search with its phone or tablet app is convenient. Their app boasts private listening via headphones to avoid disturbing anyone else. The Express ($30) is a slower, budget model while the Premiere ($80) and above add 4K Ultra HD.
The Apple TV showcases its ease of use in features such as advanced voice control via Siri, touchpad remote, and integration with Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, and iTunes. Searches cover multiple streaming services and you can play games using the remote as a controller. On the downside, the Apple TV is pricey and can’t directly stream Amazon Prime Video. Look elsewhere if you must have 4K Ultra HD support.
Amazon specifically designed their Fire TV devices to promote their own streaming content, so it’s great if you primarily watch Amazon Video. If you use any other video services, you’re better off with another device. Speak to Amazon’s Alexa for powerful voice control. The interface is responsive though you can’t customize it. Fire TV ($90) supports 4K Ultra HD, but the Fire TV Stick ($40) doesn’t, though it offers a better value.
The Google Chromecast offers a low price (though the Roku Express is lower) and will appeal to committed Android users. You use your smartphone or tablet to control it so you may miss the ease of use of a physical remote. It can search (with voice or typing) across multiple streaming services though fewer than Roku. However, it can’t directly stream Amazon Video, has sluggish performance, and no 4K Ultra HD support. If you have a bit more to spend, consider the Roku Streaming Stick.
$200 plus $15 per month
The TiVo Bolt offers a unified TV experience as both a streaming hub and a DVR (digital video recorder) for live TV from an over-the-air antenna. It streams major services but fewer than other devices. It unifies search across multiple streaming services and your TV program guide, though without voice support. It’s a powerful DVR with great ease of use. A new example is skipping past entire ad breaks with the touch of a single button. It supports 4K Ultra HD. Service is $15 per month or $150 per year.
Home Phone Service
Consider using only your cell phones and dropping your home landline entirely? Nearly half of all U.S. households have no landline. If your home phone is essential, you can switch to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service at a fraction of the monthly cost. You’ll use your existing cordless phones. Below is one option, there are others as well.
$5 – $15 per month, plus a $100 device
The Ooma box connects to your cordless phone base unit and home router to provide nearly free nationwide calling. With the basic plan, you only pay applicable taxes and fees, which costs much less than landline phone service, typically $4 to $8 per month. Ooma Premier is a bundle of premium calling features for $10 per month. Port your existing number for $40 or prepay a year of Premier ($120) to port your number for free.