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Monday, 24 October 2016 13:15

Saying good-bye to cable television

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Consider what’s faced by people who want to end their TV subscriptions — what’s known as cutting the cable cord. There are multiple streaming services and bills to juggle. And there are numerous streaming gadgets to choose from.

cableSo to make moving away from cable cords easier, we teamed up with the Wirecutter, the product recommendations website, to compile the definitive guide to cord-cutting. The Wirecutter tested services, streaming devices and antennas to come up with cord-cutter bundles for different types of people in 2016: movie buffs, sports addicts, fans of premium TV shows, binge watchers and families with children.

For movie buffsFor movie buffs, plenty of cord-cutting options will make any transition painless. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu all have large film libraries for streaming — Amazon’s alone holds 18,400 titles, though the selection regularly changes because of agreements with content providers.

Netflix’s library has shrunk over time; the company is no longer trying to offer the glut of back-catalogue movies that every service seems to have. But Netflix has tried to compensate by focusing on movies it has exclusive licenses to, including those from Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Lucas film.

Amazon focuses more on quantity, but without the exclusive titles the other services offer. Amazon, iTunes, the Google Play store and Vudu usually get digital versions of recent movies that can be purchased for $15 (Rs 1,001) to $20 (Rs 1,334), or rented for about $5 (Rs 333), even before they’re available on disc.

For most people, Netflix will offer the best selection of new movies and original programming — and Google, Amazon or Apple will offer the best selection for rentals or purchases. n Best Service: Netflix plus a la carte rentals/purchases ($8 or Rs 533 to $12 or Rs 800/month)n Best Hardware: Roku Streaming Stick ($50 or Rs 3,336)n Most Affordable: Roku Streaming Stickn Also Works With: Apple TV ($149 or Rs 9,943), other Roku models

For sports addictsA subscription to either PlayStation Vue or Sling TV gets you ESPN and Fox Sports 1, depending on the package. And each system offers additional sports channels, depending on your interests.

You may also want to watch over-the-air broadcast channels, especially for NFL games. Most televisions have a built-in over-the-air tuner that brings in local major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) using your TV hardware and an inexpensive antenna, such as the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse ($40 or 2,669).

n Best Service: PlayStation Vue ($30 or Rs 2,002 to $45 or Rs 3,003/month)n Best Hardware: Fire TV ($40 or 2,669 to $100 or Rs 6,673) or Google Chromecast ($35 or Rs 2,335)n Most Affordable: Google Chromecastn Also Works With: Apple TV ($149 or Rs 9,943), Roku ($50 or Rs 3,336)

Premium network showsNo problem. HBO, Showtime and Starz can all be viewed on a phone, tablet or streaming device with a direct subscription — no cable or satellite subscription or long-term contract required. That allows access to each network’s original programming and the movies each is showing, and you can watch from anywhere.

n Best Hardware: Roku Streaming Stick ($50 or Rs 3,336)n Most Affordable: Roku Streaming Stick or Google Chromecast ($35 or Rs 2,335)n Also Works With: Apple TV ($149 or Rs 9,943), other Roku models

For TV binge watchersNetflix and Amazon Instant Video are your best bets to binge-watch television shows. Each offers award-winning original content, including “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Master of None,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Making a Murderer” on Netflix; and on Amazon, “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

All episodes are released online at once. Each service also carries recent TV series, like “Better Call Saul” and “Mr Robot,” shortly after the DVD release date. If you don’t want to wait, you can usually purchase a “season pass” for current TV shows through iTunes, Amazon or Google Play at a cost of $20 or Rs 1,334 to $30 or Rs 2,002 per season usually. Google Play is generally the least expensive, offering savings of around 15 to 25 percent — and watch new episodes the day they’re aired on TV. Hulu Plus focuses on current TV seasons, letting you watch them right after they air instead of when the season has ended. But it lacks many current popular shows.

n Best Service: Netflix ($8 or Rs 533 to $12 or Rs 800/month) or Amazon ($99 or Rs 6,606/year), or a la carte seasonsn Best Hardware: Roku Streaming Stick ($50 or Rs 3,336)n Most Affordable: Roku Streaming Stick

Also Works With: Fire TV ($40 or 2,669 to $100 or Rs 6,673), other Roku Models, Apple TV ($149 — Google and Amazon require an iOS or macOS device)

For children and familiesNetflix offers a wide selection of content, both educational and entertaining, along with original children’s programming like the recent “Voltron” reboot. It also offers the option to create a children’s profile that lets you limit viewing to particular ratings or age levels. In addition, Netflix has a new partnership with Disney that will make more Disney films available for streaming.

PBS Kids Now lets you stream recent episodes of PBS shows, and the selection is updated every week with the latest episodes of most shows. Amazon Instant Video also has children’s content and its own custom children’s programming, as well as FreeTime Unlimited, a selection of curated shows, apps and games for children for a monthly fee ($3 or Rs 200 for Amazon Prime members, $5 or Rs 333 for non members). However, FreeTime Unlimited is available only on Amazon’s own hardware.

Sling TV also offers a children’s package for those who want to stream Nick Jr., Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Cartoon Network and more.

n Best Service: Netflix ($8 or Rs 533 to $12 or Rs 800/month)n Best Hardware: Roku Streaming Stick ($50 or Rs 3,336)n Most Affordable: Roku Streaming Stick (except for FreeTime Unlimited), Amazon Fire TV ($40 or 2,669 to $100 or Rs 6,673)n Also Works With: Apple TV ($149 or Rs 9,943), other Roku models

Why it still isn’t perfectThere are still downsides to cord-cutting. JD Power & Associates, a research firm that collects feedback on brands and products from consumers, said two factors made cord cutters less satisfied: customer care and value, according to J D Power.For customer care, cord cutters may run into problems more often than traditional TV subscribers, said Kirk Parsons, a senior director of telecommunications research at J D Power. The streaming content provider may be experiencing issues. Your Wi-Fi connection might be spotty, or your internet provider may be experiencing issues. It’s tough to tell.

For value, cutting the cord isn’t very cheap if you then subscribe to multiple services to gain access to a diverse set of content. For cable subscribers, paying one bill is less of a hassle than juggling multiple bills. And even after you subscribe to multiple streaming services, there is still some content that you may miss out on because it is available only via cable or satellite.


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