Streaming content is not the only option when it comes to getting your favorite movies and shows digitally. Several services offer you the option of renting specific titles (like the old cable company Pay-Per-View model) or actually purchasing your digital media content outright. In some cases, you even have the option to subscribe to season-passes for your favorite shows (usually at a discount) which allows you to keep up with new episodes as they are released. These services are ideal for cord cutters who miss a particular show. Instead of subscribing to a monthly service, you can the full season and watch it at your convenience.
One important thing to mention is that while it may seem like you are purchasing a digital video (similarly to how you would purchase physical media like a DVD or Blu-Ray), you are, in fact, leasing it from a service. In most cases, there is little guarantee that the access you purchased will be available in perpetuity. For these reasons, it is important to choose your digital video providers carefully as well as backup any videos you download offline if you have the option to do so.
There are several major players in the digital content marketplace and they all tend to carry a comparable content library (of course there will always be exceptions). That being said, it is still important to carefully consider which digital ecosystem makes the most sense for you. Depending on where you purchase your content from, you might not be able to download or, in some cases, even watch your content on some of your screens.
The Apple iTunes Store
If you are an “Apple person” with a wide array of Mac and iOS devices, the iTunes Store is a convenient option with a wide variety of content. Most videos are available in high-definition and can be either streamed or downloaded on iOS devices and both Mac and Windows PCs. As with the majority of the video services that allow you to download content, there are digital rights management (DRM) protections in place to help prevent piracy.
However, if you plan on using any other type of device besides an Apple product or PC (Roku, Android, Kindle, game console, etc.), you typically aren’t going to have access to your content at all without some fancy (read: illegal) file-manipulating magic. If this describes your situation, there are better, legal options at your disposal.
Let’s face it, Amazon is willing to sell you just about anything these days; digital video is no exception. However, much like with Apple’s iTunes Store, there are limitations on how you can watch content you “purchase” from Amazon’s service.
One of the benefits of opting for the Amazon Video ecosystem is, unlike iTunes, there is a wide array of devices that are compatible with streaming and downloading content from the service. In most cases, simply downloading the Amazon Video app and signing in will put your entire “purchased” and/or rented library at your fingertips. Be aware, Amazon, like Apple protects their downloads with DRM which means the files you “own” still require an Amazon app to be played.
Google Play Movies & TV
For most users’ needs, Google Play’s video store lies somewhere in between Amazon and Apple’s offerings. Like the other two, there is a wide variety of available content to “purchase” or rent. Like Amazon, there are plenty of options for accessing that purchased or rented Google Video content on the devices you own. Be aware, while you can download purchased or rented content to a mobile device or Chromebook, you cannot download it to a computer.
Vudu is the WalMart’s contribution to the digital video marketplace arena. Like all of the other services mentioned above, there is a large catalog of TV and movie content for users to rent or “purchase” a la carte or in season packs. There is even a rotating collection of free content available as a part of Vudu’s “Movies On Us” program.
One of the more unique features of Vudu is how it integrates with your existing DVD and Blu-Ray collection. If you have purchased a physical copy of a movie or show that came with a code for an “UltraViolet” digital copy, Vudu gives you the option to redeem said code, instantly adding a streaming copy of the video to your Vudu library. For discs in your collection that don’t come packed with an “UltraViolet” code, you can get a digital copy of most DVDs or Blu-Rays for a nominal fee on a per disc basis.
Device compatibility is fairly comparable to other services in this space, but iOS users should be wary of the Vudu app’s lackluster performance reviews on iPhones and iPads.
Unlike the previously mentioned services, videos are only available to stream from a user’s “My Vudu” library (unless they come from discs you converted using Vudu’s conversion service). This means if you are looking to take some videos on the road to watch without an internet connection, your Vudu videos aren’t coming with you.
Sports for Cord-Cutters!
For many, sports represent the last thread keeping them tied to their cable provider. As a result, sports networks have increased their fees to cable companies because they know they are providing such a high value. In addition, as more people ditch cable and satellite TV, ESPN loses subscribers, which means they raise their price per subscriber to maintain revenue.
ESPN now charges $7.21 per subscriber per month.
Yep. Seriously. You read that right.
If you subscribe to a pay-TV package which includes ESPN, at least $7.21 is built into your bill regardless of whether you watch the channel or not. Kind of crazy when you figure you can get loads of diverse content from Hulu for just $7.99 per month. Again, just another reason why your cable bill keeps going up. One of the great benefits of streaming services creating original content is it increases options and supply in the marketplace, lowering costs for the consumer.
Get Sports Without Paying Through the Nose
If sports are a crucial part of your TV diet, your options become more expensive the more sports you wish to consume and the more out-of-market teams you want to watch. Here is a tiered look at how you can effectively cut the cord and still cheer on your favorite teams:
Games are shown on Thursday, Sunday and Monday. If your team is playing anytime on Sunday, you can catch the games for free on local broadcast TV on CBS, FOX and NBC. Monday night games are always shown on ESPN. Some of the Thursday night games are shown on NFL Network (others are on CBS).
Here are your best options to get ESPN and NFL Network at a good price:
- Sling TV
- Just ESPN: Orange package at $20/month (includes 30 channels)
- ESPN & NFL Network: Orange + Blue package bundle at $40/month (includes 50 channels)
- Playstation Vue
- ESPN & NFL Network: Core Slim at $34.99-44.99/month depending on your location (includes 60+ channels)
Basketball gets a little trickier because unlike the NFL, NBA games are broadcasted on a large variety of networks depending on the team you want to watch. So here is a good overview of the sports networks that show NBA games, by streaming service:
|Streaming Service||ABC||CSN||ESPN||FS1||FS2||NBA TV||NBCSN||TNT|
Most golf tournaments are aired on CBS, NBC and The Golf Channel. Get The Golf Channel by subscribing to:
- DirecTV Now: Go Big package at $60/month (includes 100+ channels)
- Playstation Vue: Core Slim package at $34.99-44.99/month depending on your location (includes 60+ channels)
- FuboTV: Fubo Premier package at $34.99/month
Can I Still Use My DVR?
Digital video recorders (DVRs) have revolutionized the way many people watch television. The ability to pause, rewind, and record television means that viewers are no longer confined by network schedules or forced to slog through annoying commercial breaks. Cutting the cord doesn’t mean you need to give up this luxury.
There are several options available to viewers looking to maintain DVR functionality in their new cord cutting lifestyle, depending on the type of content you want to record and watch later. We cover your DVR options in part 3 of the ultimate cord-cutting guide.
If you don’t mind waiting until the next day to watch your program, Hulu is a great option. At just $7.99/month it’s a great deal. Not only can you watch current seasons, but you can often go back and watch previous full seasons. Personally, I’d throw in the extra 4 bucks per month and get it without commercials.
Sling TV or Playstation Vue
Both Sling and PS Vue offer a cloud DVR service. Cutting the cord doesn’t mean you have to give up DVR. You can get some of your favorite channels and the ability to record them at a low monthly rate.