USA Today called the Internet “nearly everyone’s favorite TV station.” Last year, 92 million people streamed their TV content after cutting the cable cord; as a result, in 2018, exciting things are happening in the world of streaming. There are more opportunities to get a streaming package whose channels are perfectly matched to what you actually watch and more! To make it easier, we’ve chosen three TV content streaming services that can match—or top—what traditional cable TV provides. We’ll also give insight into the top three streaming boxes and outline what 2018 will bring to streaming.
FairlawnGig’s Top Three Streaming Service Picks in 2017
#1: DirecTV Now: our choice for the streaming service that looks most like cable TV, from its guide and interface to its channel offerings.
In the first quarter of this year, you’ll see a new and improved version of the DirecTV Now App. Expect a simpler user interface, the ability to add pay-per-view events and watch multiple video streams at the same time with recorded programs. More live and local content is being added as well.
The big news with the new edition of DirecTV Now is the vastly improved DVR. It’s comprehensive: all content is recordable, and automatically stored in the cloud in your library. No need for a bulky DVR box! Fast forward or rewind your recorded programs and skip the commercials. There are four DirecTV Now packages, ranging from $35/month to $70/month. Read more about DirecTV Now here on our website.
#2: Hulu: last year, Hulu dove headfirst into developing its own content, with impressive results. Live TV also raised its standings in the streaming universe.
The Handmaid’s Tale won big with eight awards at the Emmy’s in 2017 at the 2018 Golden Globes.
Hulu also began offering live TV sports and news in an upgraded package, with national channels that include ESPN and MSNBC. Local channels you can watch live include: ABC (local channel 5), FOX (local channel 8), FOX Sports Ohio, NBC (local channel 3) and WOIO (local channel 19). This package is in beta; there are sometimes buffering issues with Hulu’s live TV, which should be worked out while it’s in beta testing. It has also added more channels usually seen only on traditional cable.
What might come to Hulu in 2018 can be equally game-changing as Disney has purchased a 50% stake, which will likely bring Disney content to Hulu. Disney also bought FOX’s entertainment division (20th Century Fox) and this content could be coming to Hulu as well. Fox news channels will remain in the hands of FOX. Read more about Hulu here on our website.
The loss of Disney content doesn’t seem to bother Netflix as it committed $15.7 billion to streaming content deals only available on Netflix. $6 billion of that will come in 2018 alone. This includes content development with Shonda Rhimes (creator of Greys’ Anatomy, and Scandal, to name a few) and the Coen Brothers (directors, writers and producers of films including Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men). Netflix’s original content series, documentaries and movies are highly-rated and award-winning but the tack away from movies from sources other than Netflix could be a drawback for some viewers. Learn more about Netflix here on our website.
FairlawnGig’s 2017 Streaming Hardware Picks
Smart TVs: plug them in and start streaming. No need for a streaming box, but many boxes offer features like faster streaming, free channels and portability. So read on…
Streaming Boxes: FairlawnGig can’t rate one better than another, as this really comes down to personal preference and how you watch TV. But there were three standouts last year:
What it has going for it: portability. Just plug-and-play on your TV or mobile device. Take the stick anywhere and start streaming. Read more here on our website.
Roku: from portable sticks to HD-capable boxes, Roku was a streaming box pioneer and keeps developing well-made products with the most choices of any streaming company.
They’ve even added their own channel for Roku users that offers free content. Find out more here on our website.
Apple TV 4K: Apple’s new version may be pricey but for the devoted Apple fan, it makes jumping from your phone to tablet to home theater easy.
No one makes a more beautiful interface. We have more here on our website.
Streaming Refinement in 2018: Think Lean & Mean
Arguably the biggest streaming news of 2017 involved Disney. The buyout of Hulu and 20th Century Fox was just one part of the deal. There will be an app coming in 2019 just for Disney content.
Owned by Disney, ESPN will have a new app debuting this quarter with baseball, hockey, tennis and college sports. Viewers will access the service through an enhanced version of ESPN’s current app (which features news, game highlights and scores). People who stream ESPN through a streaming service like Sling TV or DirecTV Now will have access to standard ESPN programming through the same app.
A bargain at $16/month, this new entertainment-focused streaming service has dozens of channels which include: A&E, AMC, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, HGTV and OWN. What is missing is news and sports. If you’re focused mainly on entertainment and lifestyle content, then Philo is for you. It’s a new direction for streaming that gave birth to the term “skinny bundle.” You get a great price for a lot of channels—but not everything—as these are geared to a very specific market.
Five major content providers— A+E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps and Viacom—have invested $25 million in Philo. This is reflected in the available content, that comes from these five. The inclusion of Viacom channels is key, making Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon available to cable cord-cutting streamers that has not been available on all streaming services. Pay $4/month additional to add nine channels: American Heroes, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family and Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live and Nicktoons.
An unlimited cloud DVR will save recored programs for 30 days. You can then watch video on up to three devices at the same time.
Watch on Roku streaming boxes, with more streaming products being supported soon. You can also watch on computers through web browsers, on Apple mobile devices, with Android mobile support coming soon. Philo has a free seven-day trial, so check it out if you can live without national sports and news channels. See the Philo website for more details.
What Else to Look for in 2018
Moving from beta to availability in more cities—including Fairlawn—look for this streaming service to add more channels and add apps to watch on devices such as Roku and Apple TV. YouTube TV could give other streaming services fierce competition with live viewing, negating the need for an antenna to watch local, live programming.
It remains to be seen how this service will look and what it will offer, but top brass are stating that their service will disrupt traditional cable and satellite TV (most existing streaming services have already achieved this). But it also boasts that it will be better than just about every streaming service currently available, which may be debatable once it debuts.
One thing to look for from T-Mobile TV is more “skinny bundles” like Philo. They promise a cloud DVR. There could be an integrated bundle that includes content from Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. They are also planning on a huge social media factor, with options to see what your friends are watching and a messaging icon to converse with your social media friends through the interface.
If you’re a T-Mobile cellular customer, you could be the first allowed to try the streaming service. Right now, there’s a lot of hype from the company and not a lot of specifics, but this is one to watch in 2018.
Following in the steps of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, more companies are putting big bucks behind their own content creation. Facebook and YouTube are each promising to spend $3 million per episode for dramas and Apple has more than $1 billion to spend creating original content.
YouTube will offer their content as paid channels. Facebook plans to pay for their content with advertising, offering it for free to its users. Apple is not yet revealing how—or where—content will be available, or how much it will cost to view.