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One of the most common reasons people cite for cutting the cord is to save money. Skinny bundles are the perfect replacement for cable or pay TV subscriptions because they offer a less expensive, but comparable service. Take a look at these four providers with base packages that cost less than $50/month.
Sling TV is an affordable service that also gives you access to live TV. Sling offers two base-level packages; Orange and Blue. Each package has a unique channel lineup, but they’re both $25 per month after a three-month introductory discount.
The single-stream Sling Orange service lets you watch one show at a time on about 20 channels. The Orange package includes ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, and local channels in some locations. The multi-stream Sling Blue service lets you watch three shows at once on about 48 channels. The Blue lineup includes Fox, FS1, various Fox and NBC regional sports networks, and TBS. Viewers can select both Orange + Blue for a discounted rate of $40/month. There’s no long-term contract nor are there any hidden fees.
Viewers can also add $5/month subscription add-ons called Extras for in-language programming, sports, comedy, kids, or other genres. Premium channels like HBO and Starz are available and conveniently billed within the same ecosystem. Either base package includes a cloud-based DVR which accommodates 50 hours of storage. Sling TV allows viewers to watch from streaming devices, smartphones, tablets, or even the actual TV.
Just last month YouTube TV became widely available to television markets across the country. The skinny bundle live TV streaming service just announced a significant price increase this week - the first fee hike since March 2018.
YouTube TV offers access to local networks, national networks, and an unlimited DVR. Families can set up as many as six individual profiles in one account to keep recommendations, history, and preferences unique to each viewer.
The price of service for current subscribers increases on May 13th from $39.99 to $49.99. The increase supports the addition of ten popular new channels and expanded DVR features. The $10 price increase goes into effect immediately for new subscribers. Users who subscribe through Apple will see their prices increase to $54.99.
YouTube TV now includes 70 channels and provides local ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS in 90% of U.S. markets. News channels include CNBC, Fox News, and MSNBC, and sports covers ESPN, Fox Sports, Big Ten, and CBS Sports. Adding Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, and HGTV content should justify the price increase for the majority of subscribers.
Last year’s price hike also included new channel additions, but that one only applied to new subscribers, while previous ones grandfathered into the $35 per month price. Before the announcement of the 20% change, the service passed one million subscribers in early 2019.
As one of the world’s top ten direct-to-consumer entertainment brands, Hulu’s skinny bundle live TV service surpassed 2 million US subscribers at the end of 2018. Viewers can watch sports, news, and more and get unlimited access to Hulu’s extensive on-demand library for $44.99/month.
The service includes more channels than any other low-priced skinny bundle streaming service. Viewers get access to A&E, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS Sports Network, CNBC, CNN, Disney, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, FreeForm, FX, Golf, HGTV, HLN, Lifetime, and more. The user interface seamlessly blends the live and on-demand content to make the delivery method transparent so that consumers can watch a show without dividing content by source. It boasts an easy-to-use traditional timeline to show viewers what’s available to watch.
Hulu + Live TV works with all of the most common streaming devices, like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. Viewers can download shows and movies to watch without an internet connection and also have access to a cloud-based DVR with 50 hours of storage.
Philo streams multichannel live TV over the Internet like Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV. What makes this live TV streaming solution unique is the price point and channel lineup. Philo is the most affordable multichannel live TV streaming service on the market, coming in at only $16/month for the base package of 43 channels. The top tier adds MTV Live, American Heroes Channel, Cooking Channel and more for $20/month.
Philo doesn’t carry sports, news, or local broadcast channels like most of the bigger streamers, but it includes channels not found on many other services, like Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and VH1. Subscribers can opt to supplement the service with an HD Antenna to get local channels without any additional cost.
The budget-conscious service includes TV Everywhere authentication which allows consumers to watch their content on any device, anywhere. It’s a significant value-add to the service that doesn’t cost subscribers anything.
Subscribers can watch different shows or channels (or the same show or channel) on three devices at the same time, even when streaming in HD. Viewers can pause live channels, start shows from the beginning when in progress, and watch programs that have aired in the last 72 hours. The unlimited DVR enables fast forward and rewind capabilities where licensing agreements allow, but only keeps recordings for 30 days. On top of all of the live content, there is an on-demand library of more than 1,000 hours of primetime content available.
Philo works with the most common devices, like all current Roku models, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. There’s an app for iOS, and Android users can watch via Chrome on their devices.
Philo’s free trial makes it ridiculously easy to try the service. To start your seven-day free trial, you don’t need a credit card; only a mobile phone number, a broadband internet connection, and a supported device. Providing your phone number unlocks 48 hours of free trial without inputting billing information or making any further commitment. The free trial extends if you enter billing information. Subscriptions are month to month and automatically renew unless you cancel.
|Sling TV||Philo||Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV|
($15 introductory for 3 months)
(in entry-level package)
|20-48||40+||60+||51 + YouTube Originals|
|DVR||50 hours||unlimited||50 hours||unlimited|
|Simultaneous Streams||Orange - 1
Blue - 3
|FREE TRIAL||FREE TRIAL||FREE TRIAL||SIGN UP|
When I hear from friends or neighbors who are considering cutting the cord, they almost always ask me what the “best” service is. It’s hard to give a succinct answer to that question because there are so many factors to consider. It’s a balance of convenience, cost, hardware, and what content is important to you.
Sling’s low introductory $15 price undercuts even Philo’s $16 bargain price point but is still a bargain at full price compared to Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV. The lower price point results in a limited channel lineup, but both offer a hefty number of DVR hours.
You get a few more channels on some services than others, but it comes down to what channels you watch, not how many are included. I think Sling TV is a better choice for the average viewer because Philo is lifestyle programming without sports or local. Philo viewers could invest in a simple HD antenna to pick up local channels, but will still experience programming holes for national news and sports.
Prices on most services have risen drastically in the last year as providers race to add more channels, but Philo has remained steadfast at their initial price point.
Sling TV already has the most subscribers in the skinny bundle world, and the aggressive introductory pricing supports their continued dominance.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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