Streaming Plan for Swartz Family

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Internet

The first thing you’ll need to stream TV is a fast and reliable internet connection. Your cable/internet bill should list the speed of your internet. Make sure it is at least 25 Mbps.

I always recommend that people start on the lower side of internet speed, you really don’t need as much as you think you will! It’s always easier to go up in speed than to go down.

There are 3 internet companies that I am aware of in your area: Comcast, AT&T and WOW. WOW isn’t as widely available, but it is available in some parts of Glenview (it is not available in my area so I have no personal experience with them). I prefer Comcast internet over AT&T but I’ve heard lots of reports saying the opposite. So I think there is no best answer, only who is going to give you the lowest price!

Here are the prices from a recent search I did:

Comcast: 25 Mbps – $30 per month for 12 months

AT&T: 100 Mbps – $50 per month for 12 months

WOW: 100 Mbps – $35 per month for 2 years

Eventually, you will want to buy your own modem and router instead of renting from your internet company. But for now, let’s just get you streaming!

Streaming Devices or Streaming Players

You said that you already bought 2 Roku Streaming Sticks, that’s great! For your house, I think the Streaming Stick would suffice. The only other one I would possible recommend is the Roku Ultra. Here are the main differences:

Roku Ultra offers everything that the Streaming Stick has, in addition:

  • Roku says it has the “best wireless”
  • Ethernet port (optional to use, and not something you need)
  • TV remote has mute button (Streaming Stick only has TV power and volume)
  • Personal listening option on remote, you can plug headphones into your remote and it will mute the TV volume.
  • Programmable shortcut buttons on the remote
  • Remote finder (push button on the Roku box and it will ring the remote)
  • Comes with headphones
  • USB and microSD for storage expansion (doubtful that you would need this)

All in all, the only reason I think you would want to go with the Ultra over the Streaming Stick is if you plan on using the Personal listening option (my daughter does this on Saturday mornings when she doesn’t want to wake anyone) or the remote finder. Otherwise, I think the Streaming Stick is your best option!

If any of your TVs are 4K, you will want the Streaming Stick+

Streaming Services

The next choice is what streaming service (or services) you want to subscribe to. There will be a live TV guide (like cable). You can watch TV live (as it airs) or On Demand or on the DVR, if you record it.

This is the most complicated part, but also the easiest to change. Most streaming services have a one week free trial. After that, they are billed monthly. So even if you end up not liking a certain service, you can change it after a month (just make sure to cancel before that month is up to avoid being charged for another month!).

WGN is not available for streaming. You will need an antenna to get it (more on that later).

Based on the channels and shows you watch, you have 2 options.

Option 1 – YouTubeTV and Sling TV

YouTubeTV – $50/month

You can check out their full list of channels here. YouTubeTV has all of the channels that you requested, except:

  • Comedy Central
  • NFL RedZone
  • NFL Network

YouTubeTV has a cloud DVR and also OnDemand content. This is what my family has used for the past year or so. We are very happy with it!

Sling TV (Sling Blue + Sports Package + DVR) $40/month

Sling TV. can supplement YouTubeTV to add the channels that you don’t get.

  • Sling Blue package ($25 per month, first month is $15) has Comedy Central and NFL Network
  • Sports package ($10 per month, must have Sling Orange or Blue) has NFL Redzone
  • Cloud DVR ($5 per month)

This may seem expensive, (which it is when you add it with YouTubeTV), but it looks like you may only need it for football season! After football season, you can cancel Sling and go with only YouTubeTV.

Pros: Get all the channels you want with live local channels. This option is my overall recommendation.

Cons: Expensive combination of streaming companies and complicated to cancel Sling after football season.

Option 2: Sling TV and Hulu

Sling TV (Sling Blue + Sports Package + DVR) $40/month

This is the same Sling setup as Option 1. Sling TV does not have any local channels, so no ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX. It also does not have the Big Ten Network.

Hulu – $6/month with commercials, $12/month for no commercials, $13/month bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+

Hulu offers many prime time TV shows the day after they air. If you are ok with not having access to Live versions of your local channels but still being able to watch your favorite shows, this may be a good option.

You can still use your antenna to watch Live local channels.

Hulu has a 30 day free trial.

Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ bundle – If you end up subscribing to Hulu, then this is a good option. If you end up going with YouTubeTV, then a lot of the Hulu content will be redundant. We did a month of ESPN+, it has some original content and some (smaller) football games that weren’t available elsewhere but overall did not feel like keeping it even for $5/month. However, I encourage you to check it out for yourself. It does have a 1 week free trial, and is only $5 if you need longer to decide. **Note: this is only for Hulu with commercials, no option to upgrade the bundle to no commercials

Pros: much less expensive than Option 1. Doesn’t depend on starting and stopping service. Possibility to bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+

Cons: No Big Ten Network. No Live local channels, only select shows. Have to watch sports using antenna on local channels.

Other Apps

HBO Now: $15/month

Disney+

Netflix

Amazon Prime

Antenna

The only way to watch WGN without cable is with an antenna. There are currently no streaming services that offer WGN. Using an indoor HD antenna is very easy! It mounts inside your home on a wall or window and plugs directly into your TV. If you are able to put it on a south facing wall, that may give you the best reception.

You do need an antenna for each TV that you want to use to watch WGN. We only have one on our main TV, as we only use it for watch Cubs games and the WGN news.

I recommend the ClearStream Eclipse Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna

Without additional equipment, you cannot record off an antenna. If this is something you’re interested in, I can point you in the right direction.

Modem/Router

As long as you’re cancelling cable, might as well stop renting a modem and router from Comcast too! Here is the one I recommend:

ARRIS SURFboard SBG7580AC

This is the updated version of the modem/router that I have. It is compatible with Xfinity/Comcast. Since it is a modem and router combination, you don’t need any other equipment, this will give you wifi as well.

Cancelling Cable

The beauty of streaming is that you can ease into it. If you want to try out streaming services before cancelling your cable, go ahead!

Honestly, actually cancelling cable is the hardest part in all of this. You can go about cancelling your cable in one of two ways:

Call and ask to cancel the cable portion of your account. They will want to give you the run around. Of course they want you to keep cable! One tactic that Comcast used on me was to offer me their lowest cable package of $20/month. It was “basically free” because otherwise they’d make my internet bill higher. However, with that $20, came $20 in fees! Just be very aware of what they are offering you.

The second option you have is to completely cancel your account. You can either go with a different company (for example, switch from Comcast to WOW or AT&T). We cancelled our account (in my name) and then signed up for a new account using my husband’s name.

Whichever route you end up going, I find that going to the physical store to return equipment (like cable boxes and modems) is much easier. It is hard to find the time in our busy lives to run an errand like that but their representatives are easier to talk to in person. Also, they will give you a receipt for returned equipment. I have heard horror stories of people needing to pay to replace equipment they returned by mail because Comcast “never received it” (then again, many people have also done it successfully).

Summary

Cancel that Cable!!