Cord cutting 101: What you need to know

Cutting the confusion of streaming television options

By Vic Micolucci - Reporter, anchor, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If reading this story could save you hundreds of dollars a year, would you read it?

With the average cable TV bill more than $100 a month, many consumers are cutting the cord. It’s easier to do now, thanks to new technology.

Whether you’re a binge watcher or a sports fanatic, a movie buff or a newshound, it’s all at your fingertips nowadays on streaming devices that offer just about everything with the click of a button. All you need is a strong internet connection.

News4Jax put these new alternatives to the test, breaking down which device is best for you and your family and how much money you can save.

Many cable and satellite bills are similar in cost to car payments, often totaling hundreds of dollars per month. There’s that fine print: installation fees, equipment rentals and contracts.

It leaves many asking if there’s a better way to get television. News4Jax gathered a group of TV viewers from different backgrounds. Some were married, some had children and some were single. Four out of six said they still had cable TV in some form.

They noted that more people are dropping the big-name TV providers, such as Comcast, AT&T and DirecTV.

Paige Fridkis, a teacher, said she cut the cable years ago. She uses her smartphone as an Internet hot spot and is able to stream Netflix, HBO and more.

“I don’t miss anything,” Fridkis said.

“I cut the cable year ago,” said T.C. Roberts, a married attorney. “My wife and I. Am I saving money? Yes. Are there limitations? Yes.”

Everyone in the test group had some sort of streaming device, but its limitations were keeping some people to stay with traditional TV.

“We keep cable mostly for sports,” attorney Sam Ranard said. “I like how we got all the football, NFL Red Zone and then all the games.”

Ryan Essegian, a married father of one, said, “The TV channels and the features keep bringing us back to (Comcast’s) Xfinity.”

Mark McCrary, a married father of five and co-owner of TitanUp Fitness, is also staying with the cable.

“If there were a couple more apps and channels that were available, we’d have no problem cutting cable," McCrary said.

For those who cut the cord, there are plenty of options, including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, smart TVs and gaming consoles. They range from $25 to several hundred dollars. For most part, they are plug and play, if you have a good Internet connection.

“It has definitely taken off a lot,” said David Torres of Best Buy in Regency.

The retailer agreed to show us some of their top sellers, in no particular order.

“The Roku Ultra is going to give you the 4K capabilities on streaming,” Torres said.

Roku is your all-around, budget-friendly device, on which you can watch just about anything.

The Apple TV is geared toward iPhone and Mac users.

"With your Apple TV, this is going to give you the capabilities your iPhone would give you, give you the ability to put it up on the TV," Torres said.

Torres said Google’s Chromecast “is going to be very friendly with your Android users."

Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire Stick are ideal “if you have Amazon Prime. That’s gonna be a good way to get your content. With your prime membership, there is a lot of free content.”

Many game consoles, like the Xbox and PlayStation, also allow for streaming, and lots of new smart TVs come with streaming technology builtin.

All these devices work with popular a la carte apps. The downloads are free, but the subscriptions that include major programming and hit movies, are not.

Monthly subscription fees

Netflix and Hulu start at $8.
Amazon's streaming options start around $9.
HBO GO costs $15.

You can also pay for a plan that bundles channels together.

Sling TV offers up to 40 popular cable channels, including A&E, Food Network, TBS, even ESPN, for $20 to $40 per month. If you pay an extra $35, you can get a premium sports package with lots of NFL and NBA games. For $20 to $40 a month, you can watch NHL and college options.

For $35 a month, YouTube TV will get you 45 channels, including Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic and USA. Some sporting events are included as well.

Hulu TV’s $40 service gets you live TV on a number of networks, plus cable channels and a lot of sports, totaling 55 channels.

Satellite giant DirecTV is trying to keep up with streaming, launching DirecTV, which costs between $45 and $70. Viewers can get up to 120 channels, including movies and sports, without a dish.

These plans all come without traditional contracts and huge fees.

Comparing apples to apples

Comcast’s Xfinity cable, with HD cable channels, sports and HBO, costs $105 per month for the first year. Taxes and fees are extra, bringing it closer to $150 total. Many rates go up after the first or second year. 

DirecTV’s satellite content also costs around $105 per month, with taxes and fees raising the cost to around $150.

As far as streaming, Sling TV offers HD cable channels, sports and HBO for $65 plus tax, for a total of around $75.

You can get a similar package on a streaming device for about half the price of any of those cable or satellite TV plans. The cost savings could be around $900 a year.

And remember, you can get WJXT-4, WCWJ-17 and other local broadcasts free with an antenna. News4Jax newscasts and other local programming is streamed freed on News4Jax.com and on free apps that work on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick and, soon, on Samsung smart TVs.

For more details, check out Consumer Reports reviews of streaming devices.

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