For more than a year, I’ve argued with myself about the money I ante up to the cable company every month to keep my favorite sports on my TV. The cost seems too much; but, I don’t want to give up my NHL hockey, British Premier League soccer, college football or most all, the Reds. Each month, I’ve moaned and groaned but paid to keep watching.
Several months ago, I became aware of emerging video content streaming services — called Over The Top services — which offer the full range of channels carried by cable and satellite TV providers, including the sports channels, for a fraction of the cost. Like Netflix or Hulu, these content sources come into a home via the internet and ride the home’s wireless network to a streaming device (think miniature cable box) which is connected to a TV or actually built into the TV. Another major difference between OTT content sources and traditional cable/satellite is that they are pay by the month as you go. If a person subscribed to such a provider just to watch the Reds, when the baseball season ended, they could stop the subscription then resume it the following spring.
I was interested but not quite motivated to action. Then a month ago, spurred on by recent billing and service issues with my cable company I decided to sign up for the free trial period offered by two OTT providers, Sling (7 days) and PlayStation Vue (5 days). I chose these two because they are both supported by the Roku streaming device already attached to my TV; and most importantly, my research indicated that both offered packages which included the Fox Sports regional networks.
Signing up was very straightforward. In less than 10 minutes, I created an account, chose the content package I wanted to try and activated the trial period. Payment information is required to start the trial. If the trial is not cancelled before the end of the free period, a month of service will be charged. However, cancelling on the provider website is as easy as signing up was (another big difference from cable).
Initially I had been skeptical about using these providers for sports programing. I didn’t trust the technology to consistently deliver live rapid motion content in 1080 HD. I also doubted deals were in place to carry the entire range of ESPN, Fox, and NBCSN content I wanted at a price significantly lower than the traditional providers.
The free trial experience relieved me of my skepticism. All the sports content I wanted, including the Reds over Fox Sports Ohio/Cincinnati is available from both PS Vue and Sling. At my location over my internet connection and home network the video quality of both is comparable to my cable signal. However, anyone contemplating a switch to an OTT provider should take advantage of the free trial period to be sure the same is true for them. Firing up the TV stream as life goes on all around the house is probably both the best and simplest way to determine if your internet connection and home network are up to the task.
After 3 days of the side-by-side trial, I decided to cut the cable but keep my sports content. In the process, I gained significant savings. How significant? The amount I am paying the streaming provider I chose plus the amount I am paying for my internet connection, which ironically is still from the cable company, is 35% lower than what I was previously paying the cable company for a bundled TV/ internet deal. Viewed another way, the savings alone will buy more than 3 months over a year at the new rate.
Perhaps you are wondering if I severely cut corners to achieve my savings; the answer is no. To see the video package I am getting for $35 a month, check out the Core Slim package (note that prices may vary by locality) on the PS Vue website. It includes all the sports channels and networks I’ve previously mentioned here plus MLB Network, and B1G Network. It also includes major news and business channels, TBS, TNT and an array of entertainment channels. What it does not include is local channels. This is not a concern to me since I can receive them reliably over the air. One other thing PS Vue does not include, at least not via my Roku device, is the gridded programming guide most of us are used to. The guide, such as it is, consists of a scrollable screen of channel logos. I have to select a channel to view and then select programing from the channel. Since I tend to watch a limited number of channels and know what I want to watch and its time, this is not a big deal to me. For others, it may be.
For anyone who does not have access to the Reds on TV now but has a broadband internet connection, I recommend taking a look at the Sling Blue package (45 channels) which for $25 a month includes the regional Fox Sports networks. Be sure to check that the Fox regional network offered in your area carries the Reds. If you don’t have a streaming device yet, you can download an application via Sling which will allow you to stream the content to a PC or tablet and thus test your internet connection using the free trial offer. If you decide to subscribe, this current offer for a Roku streaming device is unbeatable.
A week into my cableless era, I’m very satisfied with my decision. Anyone interested in giving OTT streaming a try should start with the free trial period. That’s the best way to find out if it will work for you on both the technical and content side; but, don’t forget to cancel the service before the end of the trial if you don’t want to keep it. As best I can, I’ll answer any questions left in the comments section below. Keep in mind what I say will be my opinion and not the opinion of RN.