After trying out Hulu last week, I was less inclined to move from cable to streaming. The biggest reason was that, contrary to my expectations, the cost savings for me was not significant, perhaps about 15%. The second reason was that the service I tried, Hulu, was uninviting and cumbersome to use.
But this week I tried YouTube TV and came away with a much more positive opinion. That’s because YouTube TV has a better user interface, making it more intuitive to use. It’s easy to find programs to set for later viewing and you can find many of your favorites available on demand immediately.
Notably, their “DVR in the cloud” – where you can “save: your favorite programs to view on your schedule – is unlimited and entirely free. Hulu’s plan limits the number of hours you can record and then charges for going over. It brought back those horrible memories of monitoring my cellphone use. The cost of YouTube TV service is $50 per month, $5 less than Hulu with limited recording. Both charge $15/mo for HBO.
After using YouTube TV for the 5-day trial I found it somewhat enticing. The most powerful feature was how easy it is to use, both on a TV, iPad, and computer. There were so many current programs available on demand, it reminded me of a music streaming service where you just type in an event and you’re experiencing it a few seconds later. You can also search by program type, such as BBQ, and get shows across all networks and movies.
When you sign up for YouTube you’re taken through a tour which makes learning its features simple. Again, there’s a less compelling reason to switch from cable just for the savings, but I’m coming to see some advantages over cable TV. One is the search capability that’s much faster and simpler than cable. The second are the suggestions offered up to view related programs.
Unlike cable, these all of these streaming services provide a gateway into an expanding array of services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and special sports subscriptions, and they can be turned on and off easily, although I think you’ll need to pay for a one month minimum on most. And the expectation is you will be adding more services as they become available.
One reader pointed out that with some services, including YouTube TV, Hulu and others, you can share a subscription with others to reduce the cost, although only three uses are permitted simultaneously.
Usability and figuring out all of its features is something that needs to be tried for more than a few days. I’m encouraged enough by my short trial that I plan to subscribe for a month and have my wife and I try it, while keeping cable for now. In fact that’s the advice I’d offer all of you. Invest $50 for YouTube TV or one of the other services (see below) plus the cost of a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick for $30 if you don’t have it on your TV, and try it for yourself, while keeping your cable. With Amazon’s liberal return policy, your out of pocket costs will be $50.
This week I heard from a JoeSentMe member, Lyn, who wrote about her experience:
“I’ll tell you what I did to drop the cable company entirely.
First, sign up for internet from someone else. I was lucky to have fiber in my neighborhood with 100 Mbps for $75/month. This is 100 Mbps up and down.
Second, get a Roku Ultra. It was on sale for $49.99 and I snatched it up. Works great with Netflix, Amazon Prime, everything. Has a great app you can put on your phone to look like the remote.
Finally, sign up for DirecTV Now. Don’t bother with Hulu Live, Sling TV, or anything else. Customer service with DirecTV Now is great, you can change you plan with your phone. All standard cable channels. Basic is $55/month, I have Plus for $65/month which includes HBO. You can add other premium channels like Cinemax or Starz either with them or thru Roku.
My cable bill was $150/month, and I dropped it to essentially $65/month using DirecTV Now. You could argue the total cost is $140/month, however, if I would have included internet with my cable that would have been roughly the same as $75/month for the fiber with asynchronous connection speeds.
DirecTV Now lets you try it and then cancel painlessly if you don’t like it. That’s the beauty of using the Roku, you can add or remove sources at will.”
Lyn’s experience confirms my findings in that there’s not a huge cost savings, and that’s not a reason alone to switch. It’s the flexibility, convenience and the ability to watch in so many ways.
If you do a Google search you can find many articles comparing all of the services. I’ve read many of them, including, this, this, and this. But like those credit card sites, they’re all trying to get referral fees. I didn’t find they really shed much light on which to choose; it seems to be a matter of your programming choice. But it’s clear there’s a big movement in this direction. So it’s time to experiment!