My big project for last year was figuring out how I would cut the wire and I think my results can help you kill cable in 2022.
I was tired of the boundaries of the cable box for a long time – the best cable TV alternatives let you take your DVR with you everywhere – I had a foot out the door for a while. On top of that, the high price of the cable – $ 127 split between roommates should be a good night on the town, not a monthly bill – just too much.
So I tested every major live TV service and found myself (somewhat predictably) embarking on one of Tom’s Guide’s choices for the best streaming service. In fact, I had also opted for the same wiring cutter service that my colleague Kelly Woo chose.
But because I love a good story, I do not want to ruin the ending in advance. Because it’s less about the service that’s right for me, and more about what you can learn from what I found out. And that includes the very messy year for one of my best choices.
I almost cut the cord with YouTube TV
YouTube TV is amazing, it’s so amazing – from its clean and smart interface to its unlimited DVR cap – that I’m really annoyed that I have good reasons not to pay for it. At one point, my biggest personal reason was the lack of a channel I wanted. It’s Vice. But the program I watch on Vice is between seasons, so I do not have that excuse.
The biggest reason I do not choose YouTube TV is its price. At $ 65, it’s $ 30 more than Sling TV a month, and that’s too much of a price bug for a better experience. Sure, its optional 4K streaming and offline downloads are good perks, but they also cost more money. But that’s not the only thing that’s made me doubt YouTube TV lately.
Last April, YouTube TV was pulled from the Roku Channel Store due to a steak between Roku and YouTube. So all new subscribers would then have to use the YouTube app, after YouTube buried its live TV functionality in the regular YouTube app the following May. This, of course, did not resolve the internal dispute.
Then YouTube TV and Roku set a deadline of December 9 to solve all these problems, which they happily did. All of this, however, was the kind of year-long headache we have enough of all other places right now.
YouTube TV’s complicated year of contractual disputes with networks did not end there either. In September, YouTube and NBCUniversal broke the news that their negotiations were in danger of not working within their own deadline. Luckily, their conversations got extended and no one lost Sunday Night Football or SNL.
The same can not be said about the recent YouTube TV and Disney debacle. While the interruption lasted only one day and change, YouTube TV lost ESPN and ABC, plus other Disney-owned channels, after the two sides failed to negotiate a contract. And if these channels meant anything to those days, there was no alternative to their absence – which probably sent people subscribing to a competitor (Sling if TNT matters, fubo if ABC matters).
When I was at a family party recently, a relative asked if they should also cut the cable, not knowing that was just my question. When they told me their needs, I ended up recommending a service that would have issues less than a month later. During the ESPN and ABC outages, though, I had to text them to warn them about the drama.
All of the above is not the situation anyone wants and I hope YouTube TV has learned its lesson. Because while YouTube TV (more than 85 channels for $ 65 per month) is worth more than Sling TV (more than 30 channels for $ 35 per month) on paper, reliability is just as valuable. For yes, reader: I chose Sling TV.
Why I cut the cord with Sling TV
Three months after my Sling TV subscription service, I have only found one real flaw: local area networks can vary while on the go. Frustratingly, I chose Sling TV not because of any affinity for the service – its apps and design are just OK, its quality and speeds are the same – but because it works well enough and has all the channels I want.
And when I tested Sling TV, I found that “good enough” is what I’ll have to settle for. I was able to add FXX to also watch It’s Always Sunny’s latest season as I saw Sling’s customization options as valuable perks so I could keep a low starting price and even raise it if I wanted to.
And it’s much better than the services I could easily refuse.
Take, for example, Hulu with Live TV. When I tested the Hulus live TV offer for myself, I found that it was buffered a little too often and it was a no-no. Not even cable buffers, and I do not replace cable with anything that is a worse experience. Sure, the interface is OK and the channel selection has what I need, but this was about upgrades, not downgrades.
Then there is fubo TV. It’s primarily for international sports, but it’s marketed as a sports fan’s streaming service. Therefore, I was surprised to see that they do not offer TNT, a must for the NBA postseason. When I tested the fubo TV, I found it perfectly OK. It even has a really cool multi-channel viewing mode. But the lack of TNT is a dealbreaker for me, so I passed.
Finally, there are two candidates to know about that I pretty quickly knew I did not like. DirecTV Stream is at best the sub-pair, setting its exclusive regional sports channels at high price levels, and Philo just does not have enough channels.
Takeaways for aspiring cord cutters
The biggest thing I learned is that finding the right way to cut the cord is not about who has the most beautiful app or most features. If that were true, I would pay more for YouTube TV or fubos split-view mode.
The two things that matter most are 1) getting all the channels you want (which Sling does, for me) at a price you like (which YouTube TV does not) and 2) being able to watch these channels without problems (Hulu’s biggest mistake in my test).
Of course, channel availability varies depending on your personal preferences. To watch The Bachelor season 26, you need a service from ABC. That’s why I wrote our Sling vs YouTube TV vs Hulu vs Fubo vs DirecTV channels, which compares the services to who has more of the 100 most popular services. I also wrote our guide to where to livestream the NFL, NBA, MLB and more that takes these annoying regional sports networks into account.
With all of the above testing experience, I’m sure you will find it easier to cut the cord than I did.