If you love paying through the nose for hundreds of cable TV channels you never watch this post isn't for you. But if you're sick of Comcast and its rivals, here's some good news: In the last couple of months there have been announcements of at least four significant new streaming options and services.
The latest come from Verizon, which will allow its broadband customers to access HBO's premium programming without a cable package. At the moment, there's a free, 30-day trial. I say "at the moment" because these free trials have a way of coming and going.
The regular rate is $14.95 a month, and you'll be able to steam the programming to your PC or the mobile device of your choice. And of course, you can always connect one of those devices to an HD TV, sit back on the couch, and enjoy it.
Before I go over some of the new options, I want to emphasize two important points. While none of the streaming options I know of cost as much as a typical pay TV contract, if you choose enough a la carte services, you could wind up paying as much or even more. That might be just fine, since you'll only be paying for channels you really want instead of the hundreds you don't. But keep it in mind.
And before you cut the cord, you want to be clear on what programming you'll have, and perhaps more importantly, what programming you won't have. I make no secret of my love for sports, particularly the San Francisco Giants. If I decide to say goodbye to my pay TV provider, there's no streaming option I've come across that will let me watch my team's home games. (Away games are on MLB TV.) What I may do is find the cheapest cable tier that includes the games I want to watch.
Here are more new developments on the cord-cutting front:
- In mid-July HBO released its HBO Now app for Android and Amazon handheld devices. Previously the app, which allows subscribers to watch HBO shows on demand without a cable subscription, was only available for Apple devices. It costs $14.99 a month. You can download HBO Now for Android from Google Play and for Fire OS from Amazon's Appstore.
- Hulu Plus subscribers can now sign up for Showtime's premium programming. Adding Showtime to Hulu Plus costs $8.99 per month on top of the $7.99 a month for Hulu Plus itself, for a total of $17 a month.
- Comcast announced Stream, a streaming TV service that it's starting to offer to its broadband customers. It doesn't require a set-top box and costs $15 a month. Stream is initially available in Boston, but Comcast plans to offer it to all of its subscribers by early next year. There are a lot of restrictions (you can only watch at home) and some questions about what you can and cannot do with this service, not to mention the limited rollout. So for now it's not an option worth considering but maybe it will be better next year.