Tuesday, August 10, 2021

My streaming channel lineup (no sports edition)

It's nearly college football season, and that's when I expand my streaming lineup. But it's not college football season yet. I've been a cord cutter since January 2011 when I dropped cable. In those early days, we didn't have as many options as we have today. In a way, that was a good thing. Let me explain.

I learned the hard way how to handle, adapt, and overcome with the limited options we had. I learned how to look at options I hadn't previously considered, and think outside the box (if you'll pardon the buzzwords). I found out that I really had more options that I hadn't considered, if I was willing to work for it. I was, and I saved money. I figured out what I could do without, and decide what things were worth it to me.

When live streaming services came along, I didn't go all in year round. I already knew I had plenty of options to watch what I wanted apart from sports. And I didn't want to pay for sports year-round, only during college football season. I realize this isn't necessarily how you'd want to do it, but the point is you can find a way to do it like you want to also.

Right now, here are my streaming services.

Paid Services

Hulu

Hulu ($6/month) is my "cable company." I was used to recording shows on TiVo for years before cutting the cord, so watching stuff later was normal for me. Hulu lets me watch current seasons of many shows. Yes, it has commercials, but so did cable, and so did the recordings from cable. It's not a big deal. Heck, I might even see something I want.

Paramount+

Paramount+ ($10/month for you, $6/month for me) is the old CBS All Access. I had CBS All Access, so my pricing is under the old tier. I'm listing the current pricing for the service I have. Mine included the local CBS affiliate, but had commercials. That combination isn't available now. To get local CBS you have to have the no-commercial plan. For that reason, I'm listing the no-commercial plan for you.

The service gets me live CBS (which I only used during football season) and a shipload of other content.  Last time I counted, the service had 2,730 movies in its library. Some were great. Some were lame. Just like any movie service. Paramount+ and Hulu covered most of the current TV I wanted to watch.

Peacock TV

Peacock TV ($5/month, free to Xfinity Internet users) is the one I might not have if I wasn't an Xfinity Internet subscriber. For $5/month, it's a good service, but I don't use it that much. Of course, right now, I'm not using Hulu that much right now. Still, I do have it, and I do watch it on occasion. The movie library isn't as large as you might think, considering the overall Universal Studios catalog. Peacock TV had 1,182 movies the last time I counted. It's worth considering, at least as a rotating service, if not full time.

Oh, and since I am an Xfinity subscriber and this service is free, it would still be on the list, but in the Free Services section.

Frndly.TV

Frndly.TV ($6/month) has been something I've subscribed to for some time. It started when family members wanted to watch Hallmark Channel content. I wrote more about it a while back. I found Frndly.TV to be a good little service. I'm not a huge fan of the interface, but it works well enough. The on-demand library isn't as large as other services, but it's good family content.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video ($10/month based on $119/year) is in the list because I do have it. I don't actually use it that much. I've had Amazon Prime since before there was a Prime Video service. I didn't subscribe to watch the content, but I do watch it on occasion, so I'm listing it here. While I don't watch it much, it is a good service. I don't like the app's interface, and it's not easy to find, mostly because it includes content you have to pay extra for. Weeding through that to find stuff that's included with Prime or that I own makes it a pain. The other services make it easier to find something to watch, and I'd rather spend time watching than hunting for something to watch. That's why if it was only Prime Video and no other benefits, I wouldn't have the service. But I do, so I'm counting it.

PBS

PBS ($5/month for you, $10/month for me) is technically free, but to get the full library, you must be a Passport member, meaning a donation of at least $5/month. I donate to PBS anyway -- more on that here -- so I pay more that you might. I'm not paying for the purpose of watching the shows; I'd only pay the $5/month if that was the case. But, since I am paying, I do use PBS Passport.

Even without PBS Passport, there is a decent amount of content on the PBS app, and I'd have it anyway, only under the Free Services section.

Tablo

Tablo ($5/month, or free) is a great DVR system for your antenna. It's technically free, because you don't need a Tablo subscription to use the service. If a 24-hour guide is okay with you, you don't need the subscription. But it does give you 14-day channel guide. I have the lifetime subscription, so it was one payment and I was done. If you use the service three years, it's better to get the lifetime subscription. I plan to use it three year. Well, more, really. That's why I'm including it in the Paid Services section.

Note: If you use Tablo, you don't really need Sling TV for Air TV. And, if you have Sling TV for Air TV, you don't need Tablo. I have both. But I'm weird.

Free Services

Sling TV (Air TV)

Sling TV (free) is free. It's not the full Sling TV Orange or Blue package. It's a free streaming package that's included with the app. I really only use it because it also integrates Air TV into the interface, and that's a service I use. I can watch TV from my antenna through the Sling TV app, as well as watch some free live streaming services, and some on-demand content. This is one worth having.

Yes, a full Sling TV live streaming package is $35/month, but I'm not talking about that. Maybe in the future.

Note: If you use Tablo, you don't really need Sling TV for Air TV. And, if you have Sling TV for Air TV, you don't need Tablo. I have both. But I'm weird.

Pluto TV

Why didn't I list Pluto TV first? I should have, I suppose, except that I wanted to keep Tablo and Sling TV (for Air TV) together. I use Pluto TV on an almost daily basis. It has a shipload of free content. It's my go-to service for live TV. Unless somebody really wants to watch something on Frndly.TV of course.

The Roku Channel

I'm counting this even though I don't use it a lot. But, as I mentioned recently, I am giving it a more in-depth look, and so far I think I may use it more than I previously had.

Plex

I got Plex to stream my local content to my streaming devices. I still use it primarily for that, but since they've added live and on-demand streaming content, the app is useful even without a local library.

Pub-D-Hub

This little secret has a ton of interesting stuff. I probably should list this in the Paid Services section since I do subscribe, but the $4/year price is so low, that I felt silly putting a service that averaged under 34¢/month. It's never my first choice for watching content. Well, rarely. But, I can always find something to watch.

Others

I don't watch Crackle, Vudu, Tubi, IMDB.TV, or Stirr that much, but I do have them. There's nothing wrong with them. They're good free apps. I just don't use them that much.

Where Are These?

Netflix

I've not subscribed to Netflix in years. Well, mostly. With all the other services, I realized years ago that I rarely watched Netflix. I was paying a lot of money for not a lot of viewing. So, I dropped it. And I haven't missed it. Well, almost.

Netflix did pick up the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and when the two seasons were released, I subscribed long enough to watch the shows, then dropped it again. To me, it's not worth it.

Apple TV+

Okay, I do have Apple TV+, but that's because I have an iPhone, and service came with the device. When the free service is up, will I keep it? No. There's not enough to justify the expense to me. When there is enough of a library built up to justify it, I'll subscribe, watch the stuff, then drop the service. Like with Netflix.

Disney+

I have subscribed to Disney+, but I found I did not use the service. Like with Netflix and Apple TV+, I may subscribe if enough builds up to watch, then cancel when I'm done binging.

Discovery+

This doesn't even rise to the level of Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+. I don't see myself subscribing to Discovery+ again. I tried the service. Not just the free trial, but I paid for a month. Didn't watch it enough to justify it. And, here's the thing, Discovery+ is right up my alley. I actually thought I would watch it a lot more than I did. But I didn't. So, I canceled and may not subscribe again.

Paid Live Streaming (Cable Replacement)

I don't use them year-round. It's that simple. The stuff to which I subscribe, plus the free content, means that if I were to subscribe to a service (besides Frndly.TV) I wouldn't watch it that much. Certainly not enough to justify a $65/month price tag that most services have. Looking at you Hulu+Live TV, YouTube TV, and Fubo. Even the cheaper services, such as Vidgo ($45/month) or Sling TV ($35/month) wouldn't be worth it.

The closest, apart from Frndly.TV, which I do have, would be Philo. It's only $25/month. Even then, I wouldn't watch it enough to justify keeping it. That's not a guess, I've actually subscribed. I don't watch it.

If -- note that I'm saying "if" -- I were to subscribe year-round to a service, it would be Philo. It has a lot of the Discovery content, as I've mentioned before. And even then, I'd replace it with a service that carried sports during college football season. Apart from football, Philo would be my choice. But, it's not. I choose to not have a year-round service. I don't need one. I have plenty to watch without it, and I'm not gong to waste the money.

Summary

After seeing this list, I'm not wondering if I'll keep all of these services. I'll probably keep Frndly.TV, but may drop the yearly subscription and go to monthly during part of the year.

Hulu and Paramount+ may get dropped, and only picked up during part of the year. Tablo is already paid for (lifetime subscription) and I'll keep giving to PBS. Peacock is free to me as an Xfinity Internet user. Otherwise, it would go into the Hulu/Paramount+ rotation.

I'll review Amazon Prime service between now and renewal, and decide if to keep the service. If so, I'll also keep Prime Video, since that's included. But if it was only Prime Video? No, I'd drop it now.

My total cost for streaming is $18. That $6 for Hulu, $6 for Paramount+, and $6 for Frndly.TV. The others are services I have anyway. I donate to PBS anyway, and the Passport service is a bonus.

And, if I start swapping out Hulu and Paramount+, my cost will drop to $12/month for streaming. I am enjoying the low cost associated with my Streaming Life.

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