TV On Your Tech: Every Which Way to Watch TV Without Cable, Compared

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We’ve written about watching the Olympics without cable before, but what about everything else? All the shows we recap here, for instance? The sportsball that aren’t the Olympics, like every time the USWNT plays? Or your problematic fave that you know is bad but can’t stop watching? One thing’s for certain—cable seems excessive. But what saves you money WHILE ALSO getting what you want? This was the question I got from Heather Hogan this week when YouTube launched their new TV service. I personally did not know the answer, so I went looking. Let’s start with what we’re comparing everything to:

Regular Plain Ole Cable

Cost: An average of $103 per month. Obviously, this is going to vary based on your location. But be careful when looking it up with cable providers in your area — the prices listed are introductory offers and will go up after the first year. Cable can also be hard to cancel, so it costs you something in time you’ll never get back while on the phone with a cable company as well.

What does it get you? The most robust offering of live TV channels of anything we’re looking at here. I looked up how many channels per month I would get — it’s 125. It also gets you access to on demand the ability to pause and rewind. It doesn’t automatically get you premium channels like HBO or Showtime — getting those seems to cost about $20 more per month in my area.

How gay is this? Ultimately, the gayest. For a butt-ton of money a month, you get the sports, you get most of the shows we talk about that run on a broadcast network, and for a bit more, you can get premium channels. But! There’s a lot of white noise, so to speak. A lot of bullshit and shitty, misogynistic shows. And no amount of cable will buy you Netflix and/or Hulu Originals.

Verdict: While cable gets you a lot of what you could want to watch, it’s overwhelming and expensive. Let’s see if we can do better.


YouTube TV

Cost: $35 per month, includes a complimentary Chromecast.

What does it get you? An array of 40 channels and the ability to watch them live AND DVR them with no storage limit. You can watch on your TV if you’ve got a Chromecast, and you can watch on iOS, Android and all y’all’s computers. For that price, you get six entire accounts, each one with its own DVR library. And, unlike cable, you can cancel anytime you wish. There’s a 30-day free trial so you can see if it’s right for you.

How gay is this? It almost doesn’t matter how many gay things you get, YouTube’s gay score is severely impacted by the fact that it still censors LGBT content. However. Many shows we talk about on Autostraddle are included, with the exception of those on AMC, BBC, Cartoon Network and Starz, and those Netflix and Hulu originals. And, with ESPN, ESPN 2, Fox Sports and a number of other sportsy-sounding channels, you also get the sportsball, which I understand is fairly gay according to my sportier compatriots.

Verdict: If you can stomach paying a service that explicitly caters to those who think gay people are inappropriate for children, this is very cheap and somewhat gay, and the idea of six accounts is perfect for your chosen family. I cannot personally get over it, however, and I watch a lot of YouTube. But until they rectify and apologize, I won’t be giving them my money from my bank account.


Hulu

Cost: $7.99 per month for limited commercials, $11.99 per month for no commercials. Showtime is available for an extra $8.99 per month either way.

What does it get you? A lot of hours of television shows (thousands, they say), both current and previously aired, across a bunch of networks. Whether or not it’s on Hulu depends on the show. It also gets you Hulu originals, which aren’t tremendously gay, but The Handmaid’s Tale is coming this month and, to be honest, it looks like it’s worth the entire subscription price by itself.

How gay is this? When I filled out my profile, the first thing Hulu showed me was Steven Universe, which is, in my opinion, the gayest thing on television. So pretty dang gay! But! You’re gonna be gay and also behind everyone else, and sometimes curtailed to clips. Hulu has never been the best at offering things as they air.

Verdict: If you want to play catch up on stuff and watch Hulu originals, then go for it. Otherwise, you might want to consider—


Netflix

Cost: Multiple tiers, but the most popular plan is $9.99 per month.

What does it get you? 125 million hours of movies and TV shows, available on an ever-rotating basis. All plans are completely ad free, which is a breath of fresh air, frankly. You also gain access to Netflix originals, and we all know they’re KILLING it right now.

How gay is this? That varies based on what’s on Netflix at the moment, but it seems like every show with queer characters heads to Netflix eventually. Among the Netflix Originals, you’ve got Orange is the New Black, One Day at a Time and The Get Down. And these are VERY gay shows that you can’t get anywhere else. One Day at a Time is delightful, let me tell you. My wife and I watched it over tea each morning the week it came out. So their original content is VERY GAY, is what I’m saying. But for other shows, you have to wait for stuff to hit Netflix, and sometimes it doesn’t stay forever — like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was removed from the streaming service this month.

Verdict: Netflix is making itself into a service that one almost has to have in order to talk about the state of television. If you like television as a medium and are interested in some of the best our golden age has to offer, then Netflix. If the idea is the most gay for your buck, Netflix is all about original content with believable queer characters across all sorts of genres.


Playstation Vue

Cost: The most expensive plan is $74.99 per month. Their core plan is $44.99 per month.

What does it get you? The most expensive plan gets you 90 channels plus a couple premiums, like HBO and Showtime. You also can stream on five devices at once and you’ve got a cloud DVR, though it does not appear to be unlimited (you can save them for 28 days after they air). You can watch on a bunch of different devices (browser, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast and some iOS and Android devices) and do not need a Playstation to do so. You can cancel anytime. The core plan gets you 60 channels.

How gay is this? Not shitting you, this plan gets you every broadcast show we talk about here except Black Sails. That includes Doctor Who on BBC America and Steven Universe on Cartoon Network. Plus, with even more sportsy-sports channels like ESPN and other things where people play sports (seriously, I feel like a dog walking on her hind legs when I talk about sports), y’all sports queers can also enjoy this. In fact, if you don’t care about premium and movie channels, you can go with the core plan! You still get sports! The only things Playstation Vue doesn’t get you, regardless of plan choice, are Netflix and Hulu originals.

Verdict: If Netflix and Hulu originals aren’t important to you, this is the one. I have no idea why this service isn’t already slaughtering cable, actually.


Sling

Cost: The most expensive plan is $40 per month.

What does it get you? The ability to watch 51 channels live on a variety of devices. That’s it. No DVR, no bells and whistles.

How gay is this? Not super gay — we’re missing some pretty big ones, like Grey’s Anatomy and The Real O’Neals, Supergirl, and Rachel Maddow. It does have some sportsy stuff, but anything without Maddow… yeah, that gay score is hit pretty hard when you don’t have Maddow. Plus it seems like you can only be gay on broadcast television’s schedule; Sling does not seem to be advertising any DVR capability.

Verdict: Eh. For the money, go for YouTube.


Conclusion

Okay, so let’s say you are a Heather Hogan and you want to get everything we talk about on Autostraddle AND some of that sweet, sweet sportsball. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Subscribing to Playstation Vue, Netflix and Hulu will do that with only one exception: Black Sails. And I’m pretty sure they just killed the queer character on that anyhow. Going with the most expensive Vue, that is still ten dollars cheaper than the average cable bill AND all those services are easier to use and cancel should you need to. If you needed to pick one, the most gay for your buck is Playstation Vue. If you could go for two, Playstation Vue’s core plan and Netflix will run you $65 per month. So what about you? Do you disagree? Do you think I should’ve talked about Amazon? Please let me know in the comments below.

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.

47 Comments

  1. One big negative point about PlayStation Vue is that it only works on the internet connection you sign up with. So if you sign up on your ho,e connection, you won’t be able to watch on your phone while at work, or while traveling.

  2. Love this list. If I had the money for any cable plan at all I would go for that Playstation thing.

    For the record, one super-gay Hulu original is Difficult People. I adore it to pieces, though the audience for it is probably kinda niche.

  3. Do you really need any of these if you’re not into sports though? I mean, most stuff is available online the next day via the individual networks (the CW, Starz, NBC have everything available, for example). Confession: I’ve never had cable and I am still alive and healthy and can keep up with tv shows just fine.

    Yes I think Amazon should’ve been included, but it’s not a big deal it isn’t I guess.
    BUT HERE’S MY RANT ABOUT IT ANYWAY (feel free to disregard, I’m sure you’ve considered all this at Autostraddle HQ a million times anyway): Transparent has more queer characters and input behind the camera than most other shows combined. If that’s not gay enough when, as much as I love it, Supergirl is then I feel the priorities have gotten pretty messed up somewhere. Transparent has a hiring policy providing actual important opportunities in the real world for trans and queer people behind the camera. That makes a real difference, that build up our actual non-fictional community. When compared to shows where featuring two real life straight white conventionally attractive women playing gay side characters written by straight writers represents the sole queer output of a show I think it’s uh… telling to only include the latter as ‘gay show’. END RANT. Just had to get it out there, sorry.

    • I agree, Transparent has done a great job here, and Amazon for letting the show happen(which it paid off for them). Amazon also has One Mississippi, staring the really gay and funny Tig Notaro.

  4. You forgot Amazon. With Amazon Prime, you get most of what’s on Netflix that isn’t a Netflix original, but you can also buy current (or past) TV series by the episode or by the season.

    Buying by the season or show a big deal because none of the other services include every channel you might want. If there’s one or two shows on a channel you don’t get (for us it’s Top Chef on Bravo), it’s usually cheaper to buy the season on Amazon than it is to upgrade to a service or tier that has it.

    They also let you subscribe to Starz or any of the pay channels and their prices are usually better than the local cable company. The picture’s better too–our local Comcast has HBO and Starz at only 720p.

  5. looks around and whispers

    Am i the only one who watches watchseries and solarmovie? There are even international tv shows on watchseries and because of solarmovie I haven’t been to a movie theater in three years…….

  6. Sling has a big selling point for me which is the fact that you can buy international packages and Watch TV from other countries. I have to research to see if PlayStation has that.
    And I think Amazon should’ve been included, they are very gay. Home of transparent

  7. You can get Rachel Maddow on Sling if you add on the news channels. It was too expense for me, though. I stick with Hulu and using my sister’s Netflix account. And I occasionally get Hbo Now but only for Game of Thrones.

  8. I’m not a sports gal, so I feel very much like a dog standing on its two legs. Lol.

    I use a combo of Netflix, YouTube, and my local library**. Netflix for some shows I do like to watch (I’m sharing the account with a family member), YouTube* for the occasional movie review or tech review (been into old 1980’s tech for some reason at the moment), the library for any new/old movies or television shows.

    * Is YouTube’s blocking thing only on the site? Because I use an Apple TV streaming box to get my stuff and I haven’t seen anything blocked. Yet…
    ** I also work at the library so I don’t have to worry about late fees, but ya know, I do feel morally obligated to return my stuff on time.

  9. I just started Playstation Vue about a month ago and am really enjoying it. Going to give it a couple more months to see if I use it enough to justify the price. My only complaint is that the UI is a little clunky, but I’m hoping they’ll continue to improve.

    I also pay for Amazon Prime, which doesn’t necessarily need to be on this list since they don’t offer livestreaming, but it does offer Transparent, Legend of Korra, and Orphan Black, if you’re looking for gay things. I think overall their free-with-Prime options are pretty limited, but for a few extra bucks you can rent or buy just about anything you want. I could see myself building a digital movie library through them, maybe save some money and space.

    And honestly I feel like Netflix is a must-have at this point if you’re a pop culture junkie, so I’m just grateful there was enough room for me on the family plan.

  10. Hulu has Buffy and if you get the Showtime add-on you also get The L Word-though without the commentary for the cruise ship episode, so is it really worth it? (Jk, it is)

  11. I have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Fire, and cable. Still can’t find anything to watch. The sole reason I still have cable is because my dad lives with us and likes to watch the Braves every day.

  12. Yes, Amazon Prime should be included, for Transparent and One Mississippi. As well as the convenience of spur of th moment rentals and season passes to current shows– including Suicide Kale, The Handmaiden and Wynonna Earp (months before it was available on Netflix).

    I also subscribed to Seeso via Amazon for Take My Wife

  13. This is awesome! Thank you so much for doing it.

    I also think it would have been great to know how many of these options are also accepted in the various apps used by networks for OTT devices. Almost all of them require a subscription (cable or otherwise) and if I got YouTube TV (hypothetically of course), would MSNBC still let me watch maddow on demand? Does that vary depending on service.

    Also, wifi can be pretty expensive so, even if You get PS vue with Hulu and Netflix, by the time you add wifi, it’s nearly comparable or comparable to a cable/wifi bundle depending on where a human lives. And with some companies installing data caps, I wonder how long streaming can be viable as a standalone option.

  14. also Amazon Prime offers options to have subscriptions to premium cable networks like Showtime, HBO and Starz, and you can do that even if you don’t have cable on your TV, which is a huge bonus. It also offers access to Seeso, which has Take My Wife on it. I probably use my Amazon Prime subscription to watch TV way more than I do Hulu.

  15. if you move back in with your parents over the summer you can get premium cable with 700 channels for the low, low price of absolutely free.
    cost: shared control of the remote
    what does it get you? a truly insane amount of channels, on-demand, dad’s grumbling and irascible Male Commentary about “that snarky pundit woman you like.”
    how gay is this? sports, maddow, HGTV. you do the math.
    verdict: i still need to figure out how to watch the teevee box when i’m not crashing at home and this was very helpful thank you

    • Good point. I have an ancient PS3, bought about 10 or more years ago. I can add all these video services, like an app on the iPhone. I’ve added a dropped a few over the years— and have been cable free for more than 5 years.

      I’m not that tech savvy, but it’s pretty easy.

      You also have to pay for internet and with all that streaming, you’re gonna want broadband. It’s not cheap.

      The math is complicated, for sure. With so many factors, maybe an info graphic would help

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