The Indiana Pacers preseason starts in tomorrow night, and games will be carried on Fox Sports Indiana. If your content provider does not carry FS Indiana, you will not see Pacers games.
That caused me a problem that I corrected Wednesday. I was a subscriber to Disney-owned Hulu Live TV, but the agreement they had with Fox Sports lapsed, which means no FS Indiana. So I switched to AT&T TV – a similar non-cable option.
Last summer I flipped from YouTube TV to Hulu because Hulu carried Cubs baseball on the Marquee Network. My decision to punt Hulu was also helped along by their decision to jack their price to $64.95 per month. Getting less programming for more cash is a curious business model to which I will not be a party.
So, over this period, I have become a bit of an expert on TV programming services – especially those delivered via wireless internet. If you are trying to decide whether to pull the plug or not, I’ll compare and contrast the three primary wireless services below.
Before we get their though, I’ll answer why you should go from traditional cable to app delivered TV.
The nice thing about wireless services is that you don’t need a bunch of cables strung all over your house, and installation is as easy as buying an app. The downside? There really isn’t one as long as your modem or wireless connection doesn’t get funky. You will also need download speeds of 200 mbps of faster for a seamless experience. Don’t skimp to save a few bucks. The result will be buffering – an unpleasant freezing of the video while the TV struggles to download the next images. It can be quite frustrating. The cost is between $50 – $80 per month, but if you need high speed anyway, it’s not really part of the price of TV.
If you have a smart TV, accessibility is very simple and requires no external box or gadget hooked to your TV – like an Apple TV unit, a Firestick, or Roku dongle. I have Apple TV boxes because a couple of years ago, smart TVs weren’t as smart as they are now. The programming is received through an app, just as it is with a smart phone.
The clarity of the picture is impossible for me to distinguish from cable to wireless. One of the best aspects of the wireless option is the lack of installation by a cable guy. Download the app, subscribe to the service, watch TV. It’s that simple, and if you are going to get Fox Sports Indiana by tomorrow, you need simple!
The comparison between the leading wireless providers is a little more complicated. I have never subscribed to Sling or Fubo, so you will have to seek guidance elsewhere for those. I can tell you that Fubo is sports-centric and Sling is a budget version for those who don’t watch a lot of TV.
Here they are in alphabetical order – and coincidentally in the order of highest quality to lowest in my opinion:
AT&T TV –
- More networks – like FS-Indiana and Marquee – although no CBS Sports Network, which I enjoy – especially for the occasional Butler game that is accessed there.
- Also more networks that cater to a more feminine demographic, but I have very few readers who enjoy OWN and WE, so let’s skip that.
- Better picture. Not sure why, but Dolby Video looks better on my TV with AT&T TV – a 65-inch Sony X950H, which is either the highest low-end LED screen or the lowest high-end TV on the market.
- More on-demand content. At least it seems like more on-demand stuff is available. Maybe it’s the same, but it’s easier to find. Who wants to search for a movie like a fisherman looks for a record breaking trout?
- Better interface. This is a bit of a subjective evaluation depending upon your taste, but I navigate AT&T’s guide more easily than Hulu. YouTube TV’s programmable guide is cool. guide
- A bunch of free trials – HBO MAX (one year) and Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, EPIX for three months (set an appointment on your smart phone to cancel before the fees are automatically charged).
- No buffering. Haven’t had video back up 15-seconds, chatter, or do anything to interrupt my viewing enjoyment. In the middle of a sporting event, buffering is especially problematic.
- Three TVs can use the service simultaneously, unless you pay an upcharge.
- Fox Sports & Marquee are on top of the $64.95 monthly fee. The exact amount of the RSN charge is $8.49/month.
- Two-year commitment, and after the first year the monthly cost jumps from $64.95 to $110 for the Choice package. We have all been down this road. If your account remains in good standing, most providers are willing to extend the promotional price. The penalty for breaking the contract is $15 per month.
- $100 Visa Gift Card. I will use the card to offset more than half the cost of cancellation if AT&T doesn’t play ball in extending the promotional price.
- Not accessible through PlayStation, but AT&T will ship a receiver at no charge for a TV without the software needed to receive its product. For more boxes, more money is charged.
- DVR capacity is 500 hours – or Caddyshack 306.122 times!
Hulu Live TV –
- Price being bumped from $54.95 to $64.95 per month on December 19th without the addition of any networks.
- The picture is quite good, although the interface is clunky.
- There is a recently watched tab that allows you to save a little time to select networks you watch often, but changing the network is still unnecessarily complex.
- The on-demand content is reasonably deep.
- Only two TVs can use Hulu simultaneously on two screens unless you pay an upcharge.
- The price includes a subscription to Hulu, if you like Handmade’s Tale.
- The commitment is month to month – no contract.
- If they had not ended their deal with the Fox RSNs and Marquee, I would never have searched for a better option. Even if they have made FS Indiana and Marquee available ala carte, I would have paid and stayed.
- 50 hours of DVR without paying extra. That’s not a lot, but I tend to view recorded programs as responsibilities instead of a convenience, so that wasn’t a big deal for me.
YouTube TV –
- Lost me when the price went up from $49.95 per month to $64.95 per month because of the addition of CBS networks like MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central – all of which I have lived without quite nicely since 1997.
- It did not offer Marquee, which meant when baseball resumed, I would not be able to watch the Cubs. It also ended the deal it had with Fox Sports RSNs.
- The picture is not as clear, bright, and crisp as either AT&T TV or Hulu.
- One thing I liked very much was the user interface which allowed me to delete from the guide networks I had no interest in watching.
- Three TVs can view YouTube TV at the same time.
- Recording shows is unlimited, but all content is saved a maximum of nine months.
There you have it. Easy beezy! Just as when we eliminated our landline phone, the concept of watching TV without a cable seemed odd. We have since had cable pulled from our house and the drywall repaired.