Updated March 15, 2021

Best Internet TV Provider

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More than 30 million people cut the cord on cable last year, and they aren't missing their favorite shows. Internet TV has made its debut and has proven to be a tough competitor when it comes to pay TV.

As long as you have a decent internet connection in your home and you have a device capable of streaming television, you too can cut the cord on cable. But which provider is the best for you? Keep reading to see how they stack up against one another.

Who Should Use Internet TV?

Internet TV seems like the answer for everyone, but there are some people who may not benefit. Keep reading to see who may be ready to cut the cord on their cable.

You Have Powerful Enough Internet
Where you stream your internet TV will determine the necessary internet speed. If you will stream strictly on a portable device, such as a phone or tablet, an internet speed of 3 Mbps may suffice. If you plan to stream on a television, though, you'll want an internet speed of at least 5 Mbps to 8 Mbps.

Do you have multiple people in your household who will stream at the same time? You'll want an internet speed of at least 25 Mbps.

You Have Or Will Install An HD Antenna
Why pay for regular channels when you can get them free of charge? With a decent HD antenna, you should be able to get your local channels and possibly even as many as 10 - 20 other channels, like PBS and the CW. Having an antenna can help you save on internet usage should you watch "regular channels."

You Have A Large Data Cap On Your Internet Usage
Get to know your internet's monthly data cap to determine if it's large enough to stream TV. Some of the largest internet packages that ISPs offer have a 1 TB maximum data cap.

That is plenty for most families to do everything they want on the internet, including streaming TV without going over the limit. Smaller packages, however, often have much lower data caps. If you know you will stream TV quite often throughout the month, you may want to consider increasing your internet data package accordingly.

You Have A Streaming Device Or Smart TV
While your Blu-ray player may promise to stream the apps you want, such as YouTube TV, it probably won't be the experience you desire.

At the very least, you need a streaming device, such as the Roku or Fire TV Stick, but you're even better off if you have a Smart TV with streaming capabilities built into it.

What to Look for in Internet TV

Once you know you are ready to cut the cord, it's time to understand what you should look for in Internet TV. Up until recently, you only had a couple of options, so it was easy to make a choice. Today, you have numerous options, each with their own quirks. Here's what you should consider when shopping for internet TV.

  • Free Trials
  • Cost
  • Consider What It Includes
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams
  • DVR Service

Free Trials
Many of the top streaming services offer a short trial period. Use it. This way, you can tell if the service works well in your home and if it has the channels that you watch the most. Don't assume that every service carries the channels you watch. They each have contracts with different networks. It would be frustrating to find out the hard way that the channel you watch the most isn't available.

The idea behind "cutting the cord" is to save money. Don't just assume your bill will be cheaper with internet TV. Look at the cost of each package and determine what you will use. It doesn't make sense to take the highest package if you won't watch the programs offered in it.

Some people pay for the basic package to get the common channels and then subscribe to specific apps, such as HBO NOW, to get their movie channel. Many companies offer an introductory price for the first few months, but then increase the price after that.

Look at the future price to make sure you will still save money by cutting the cord.

Consider What It Includes
Aside from making sure you'll have access to your favorite channels, consider other benefits of the service. For example, some streaming services offer free on-demand services. This may include access to movies and exclusive television programs that you may enjoy.

The Number of Simultaneous Streams Allowed
If you have a large family that might stream on separate devices at one time, you'll need a powerful enough plan to handle it. Many of the streaming programs allow up to 2 streams at once. If that's not enough, you may need a bigger plan.

DVR Service Isn't Always Included
If you are used to recording your favorite shows and watching them on your own time, you'll need a service that offers DVR capabilities. Some come with a small amount of cloud storage included in the service, while others make it an add-on service.

The Best Internet TV Providers

Each provider has their strengths and weaknesses. Here we break down the best providers based on specific needs. Those are:

The Best Internet TV Provider with Local Channels

YouTube TV
If local channels are of utmost importance to you and you don't want to invest in an HD antenna, YouTube TV is your best bet. Don't expect a lot of bells and whistles or even packages to choose from, though. YouTube TV has one package—that's it.

In exchange for its simplicity, though, you get access to the four major networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. You also get access to an unlimited cloud DVR, which honestly, is hard to come by with many other internet TV services.

YouTube offers access to more than 60 networks, and allows up to six accounts per household. You can stream up to 3 devices at one time and the DVR will store your recordings for up to 9 months.

The downside about the DVR, though, is if your recorded show becomes available on their on-demand service, your recording disappears. While it's not a big deal, you'll lose the ability to fast forward through commercials if you watch the on-demand version. If local channels are your biggest concern, though, sitting through commercials probably won't be a deal-breaker for you.

The Best Internet TV Provider for Live TV

DirecTV Now
If you like a variety of live channels, you'll like DirecTV Now. The only channel that they don't offer is NFL Red Zone. Unlike many other providers, you can get access to channels like Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, the History Channel, and Lifetime, just to name a few that other providers don't include.

DirecTV Now has four packages to choose from, starting at $40/month. They also have a Spanish lineup. Their smallest package, "Live a Little," offers access to 65+ channels, and their largest package offers access to 125+ channels. If you prefer movie channels, they offer the add-on for less than $10/month per channel/app.

DirecTV offers 20 hours of cloud storage included with each package. Your recordings do expire after 30 days, though, so make sure you watch your shows before they expire. You can stream up to 2 devices at one time with each package.

If you need more, you can pay a small monthly fee for more simultaneous streaming options.

If you like having access to on-demand titles, DirecTV offers access to more than 40,000 programs on-demand. They also give you access to your local networks, which can be good if you don't have an HD antenna.

A Close Runner-Up: Hulu offers access to more than 60 channels as well as their extensive on-demand library for a low monthly fee. You get 50 hours of cloud storage and the ability to personalize your profiles. Hulu allows you to stream on 2 devices at once.

Hulu does offer a one-week free trial so that you can see if the service is right for you. If you want to add on premium movie channels, they offer that option, but the cost is a little steep.

The Best Internet TV Provider for Sports

PlayStation Vue
If you spend your weekends on the couch watching sports, you'll want PlayStation Vue. Their "Core Package,' which is one step up from their basic offering and only a few dollars more each month, offers the largest access to live sporting events.

This includes the NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, and regional sports networks in your area. If you want access to NFL Red Zone or other specialty sports networks, though, you'll need to pay a small monthly fee for an add-on.

PlayStation offers access to a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. You can stream on as many as five devices at one time and you don't need a PlayStation to stream the service, although if you want to use their slick split-screen capabilities, you'll need a PlayStation.

While you have unlimited storage, your episodes only remain recorded for 28 days before they are deleted.

You can set up to 10 profiles with this service, and it will even provide you with personal recommendations based on the shows that you record.

PlayStation Vue has fewer channel options than some of the other services listed above, but if your main focus is on sports, you'll find the largest selection at one convenient price with PlayStation Vue.

The Best Low Cost Internet TV Provider

Sling TV
If you want the least expensive internet TV provider, Sling TV may be the answer for you. Their smallest package is the cheapest on the market. It cuts right to the chase, bringing you access to the most sought-after channels and none of the excessive channels that bring the cost of the monthly service up too high.

In fact, they offer two packages at the same low price, allowing you to choose between ESPN and Disney-type channels or FS1, FX, and Bravo-type channels.

If you want the best of both worlds, you can choose their "Best Value" package, which combines both Sling Orange and Sling Blue at a discounted price.

One downside to consider, though, is if you prefer to record your shows because Sling only includes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage. If you want more hours, you'll pay an extra fee each month. The good news, though, is that recordings never expire so you can keep them for as long as you choose up to storage capacity.

If you subscribe to Sling Orange, you can only stream on one device at a time. If you subscribe to Sling Blue (for the same price), you can stream on up to three devices, and if you combine the two options, you can stream on up to four devices at once.

Other Options to Consider

If you only want the basic channels and you don't need access to sport channels or kid channels (like Disney), you may save money each month with Philo. Their basic package includes 44 channels and their bonus package offers access to 57 channels. You get access to unlimited recordings and you can stream on up to three devices at once.

If you don't care about standard cable channels, but can't be without your movies, check out HBO Now. You get access to all of the HBO movies and network series. You can subscribe to the service a la carte or you can add it to many of the streaming packages above.

If live TV isn't your thing, but you love to binge watch shows like Orange is the New Black, Netflix may be just what you need. Netflix has continually increased their content through the years, making it a binge-worthy subscription to add to your household if you are tired of the traditional TV networks.

If sports are important to you, fuboTV may be an alternative. Their standard TV channels are subpar, but they offer a large selection of sporting events, especially soccer. You get 30 hours of cloud DVR included with your package and you can even replay games that you missed up to 3 days after it aired, even if you didn't record it. If you want to add simultaneous streaming, though, you'll pay an extra charge.

Bottom Line

Streaming internet TV is available to many households today, as most of the options above stream on smart TVs, mobile devices, and streaming devices, such as the Fire Stick and Roku. If you are looking for a television provider that doesn't require you to sign what feels like a lifelong contract and you want the freedom to pick and choose your channels, internet streaming TV could be the way to go.

Write to Kim P at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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