Traditional cable TV isn’t by any means dead. But it’s certainly enjoying its last gasps of air before it inevitably shuffles off this mortal coil. According to a report from eMarketer, 50 million Americans will be streaming television via an Internet connection by 2021. It’s no surprise why: Given the high cost of a monthly cable subscription (the average household shells out anywhere from $85 per month on cable, which adds up to more than $1,000 annually) and the glut of streaming services available, more people are choosing to take a buffet-style approach to their viewing. A little bit of Netflix here, a little bit of HBO Go there, a few in-demand channels. Done and done.
From a savings perspective, cutting the cord makes a lot of sense over traditional TV. Streaming services don’t have weird contracts or surprise fees. It’s easy to cancel a service if you don’t want it. And, perhaps best of all, you don’t have to deal with frustrating installation windows or barter with cable providers over the phone. You pay $45 a month for a high-speed Internet connection (okay, fine, there are some weird installation windows) and then pick and choose your preferred streaming package. Yes, there are some additional fees for other add-ons — you’ll probably want to get a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or similar product to have smoother streaming — but if you think about it, you’ll still save about $30-$50 a month. In the long run: smart.
The big question is, as new streaming services keep popping up (looking at you, Disney + and Apple TV+) what combination best fits your family’s needs? What’s the best batch of streaming services to, say, watch football, stream movies, and have a few in-demand cable channels to flip through? What if you want local channels? Sure, you can shop around and cancel if you’re not content with services. But it’s a confusing landscape.
Modern problems, however, have modern solutions and there are a number of apps and services that serve as streaming guides. They each offer a hub on which you can compare and contrast different TV package and streaming options, helping you pick the best services based on the stuff you enjoy. If you want to become a cord cutter — or are just looking for a simple way to find the best package that works for your already-cordless TV lifestyle — they provide the direction you need. Here are three of our favorites.
While it’s a cleverly disguised product shill (it was created by HD antenna company to make the case to use one of their HD antennas to snag cable stations without a subscription) Untangle.tv offers a pretty solid solution for finding your streaming needs. Enter some data (zip code, television bill, and whatever streaming services you already use), answer a few questions (how do you prefer to watch shows?), and list your favorite things to watch (do you watch The Walking Dead? What about live sports? The Oscars? Election coverage?) Then, as you watcha wheel spin for a few minutes, Untangle wades through the streaming swamp with a recommended bundle that it thinks would serve you well. Yes, inevitably, they recommend their antenna (which is solid, but a bit on the pricey side) alongside their other recommendations. But their algorithm does a good job picking out the services that fits your needs with a cost-conscious approach and little-to-no headache.
If Untangle isn’t neurotic enough for you, then give Suppose a try. Similar in function, the comparison tool lets you take a deeper dive into your preferences. You select specific channels that are must haves, apply specific filters to narrow choices, pick what your priorities are (savings or selection), and it will crunch the data and present you with a package that best fits your needs, including fine print about restrictions so you don’t get screwed. Suppose doesn’t actually include streaming services. It does, however, offer a rather neat selection system to find a cable or in-demand package that is cheaper and more tailored to your household. It’s a pretty nifty way to find a cost-effective setup.
A bit different than Untangle and Suppose, but equally useful, Yidio is a streaming search engine and app that lets you easily track what’s streaming and where. Its algorithm is constantly tracking where shows and movies are available to stream and allows you to search for content by season. Once you search for a show, a list of services carrying it appear alongside the price and availability. It searches pretty much every platform, including Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Fubo, Apple, Roku, Vudu, and FX Now and lets you create a watch list so you can decide on what package of channels is best for you. While it doesn’t search DirectTV, Sling, or other streaming bundles, it is a useful way to see a big-picture view of everything your family must watch and make a more informed decision.