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The Verge Cord Cutter’s Guide: hardware, software, and services

Leave your cable bill behind — if you haven’t already

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Illustration by Aaron Robinson for The Verge

Cutting the cord isn’t a new concept to anyone in 2019. Millions of people have left traditional cable behind in favor of paying only for broadband internet and streaming services. An increasing number have never had a cable box in their home from the get-go. We’ve all got our Netflix and our Prime Video subscriptions; I don’t need to sell you on those.

But maybe you don’t know which streaming TV service best fits your tastes. Perhaps it’s been a couple years since you bought a streaming stick and you’re wondering what’s the best option out there today. And as more of us confront subscription overload and try to weed out the entertainment we can live without, it’s helpful to have a reference for how much these things cost — not just by month, but also added up over a year.

Below you’ll find The Verge’s new cord cutter’s guide. We’ll be updating everything as new products are released, as streaming services inevitably up their prices and adjust programming, and as consumers continue to splinter away from traditional cable. Cord cutting can be about saving money if you find the right internet package and don’t need every subscription service at your fingertips. But it doesn’t have to be; maybe you want the freedom to watch TV wherever you want or just don’t like putting money in Comcast’s pockets. Whatever the reason, hopefully our tips below will make things less confusing.

But let’s TL;DR this a bit. Below is a combination of some of our recommended streaming services. If you need a streaming device, add $40 on top for a Roku Premiere, one of the best and cheapest 4K-ready options.

Netflix 4K plan $15.99 / month 191.88
YouTube TV $40 / month 480
Amazon Prime $119 / year

Total subscription cost per year (before taxes / fees): $790.88
Average pay TV bill in the US: $107 / month ($1,284 per year)



Streaming services can often provide more than enough content to watch, but if you are a fan of live events, such as sports, a digital antenna is a cheap way to keep those around. At bare minimum, plugging an HD antenna into your TV will give you live access to dozens of local channels — including the big four networks of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in many areas. You’ll be covered for the primetime hits, live sports (NFL, MLB, etc.), and events like the Oscars.

If your entertainment needs aren’t very demanding, an antenna hooked into your TV plus Netflix or Prime Video might be enough to keep you going — and save you a lot of money.

Recommended antennas:

Mohu Leaf Metro Indoor HDTV Antenna Best Buy
Mohu Arc Indoor Curved HDTV Antenna Best Buy
Mohu ReLeaf HDTV Antenna Amazon (made from recycled materials)
AmazonBasics Ultra-thin HDTV Antenna Amazon


Fire TV Recast | $189.99 (500GB, two tuners)  $229.99 (1TB, four tuners)

Amazon’s Fire TV Recast is a network-connected hard drive in a black box that you hook up to an antenna. You put the Recast wherever the antenna signal in your house is strongest; it doesn’t have to go near your TV. (Amazon’s Fire TV app will help you find the ideal position.) The Recast pulls in all of the channels available in your area, so most folks will get ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and a dozen or more other random channels.

An Amazon Fire TV recast pictured on a couch.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

You can stream that live programming on a TV with any of the company’s Fire TV streaming devices plugged in. Amazon seamlessly integrates the Recast’s channels into the main menu. When away from home, you can also watch live OTA content using the Fire TV app on a smartphone or tablet. Technically you don’t need a Fire TV streaming device to use the Recast; you can watch live TV on your mobile devices without one, but you won’t be able to schedule DVR recordings unless you go the Fire TV route.

What’s especially nice about the Fire TV Recast is that it’s one flat fee for the device with no added subscriptions or monthly charges. At nearly $200, the Recast might feel a bit expensive for what it is. But if you buy one, you’ll get live TV from the major networks from anywhere you are and be done with it.

Amazon also sells the 500GB Recast, a Fire TV Stick 4K, and an antenna as a package deal for $244.

HDHomeRun Connect Duo | $79 | Amazon, Best Buy

SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Connect Duo includes two tuners for OTA programming. The strategy for using it is the same: pair it with an antenna wherever you get the best signal in your home. You can use the HDHomeRun app — on both smart TVs and mobile devices — to stream live programming. For users with their own NAS setup, the company also offers a $35-per-year DVR service; you get two free months to try it with a purchase of the hardware.

HDHomeRun definitely takes a bit more on the user’s part to get up and running.

TiVo Bolt OTA | $249 (1TB, four tuners) | Amazon

Shedding cable doesn’t have to mean losing out on your beloved TiVo. Many of us have moved on from the TiVo CableCard days, but there’s still a contingent of people who prefer sticking with the company’s familiar, easy-to-use interface and recording options. For them, the TiVo Bolt OTA is a good solution. It includes four tuners — so you can record up to four shows at once — and it stores up to 120 hours of DVR’d content.

Photo: TiVo

The Bolt is also part set-top box and includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, and other apps, and can stream some of those services in 4K. TiVo’s OneSearch feature can search across multiple services for the content you’re trying to find, and the Bolt OTA is compatible with Alexa.

You can watch live TV and your recordings from anywhere. But TiVo’s monthly $6.99 subscription is a real ding on the Bolt OTA’s long-term value; you’ll end up paying significantly more than the base cost of the hardware itself.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Streaming devices

You can’t go wrong with any of today’s streaming sticks or set-top boxes. Picking one comes down to what ecosystem you’re most familiar and comfortable with — Amazon? Apple? — ease of use (where Roku stands out), and ensuring you’ll have all the apps you need. I’m not just talking about Netflix and Prime Video, but also things like Plex if you want to stream your personal movie collection from a PC or NAS on your network.


The Verge recommends the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube.

Amazon’s streaming devices come cheap, but they pack a lot of living room power. They come with Alexa integration from the start, offering a superior voice experience compared to Apple or Roku. Amazon has most of the popular apps you want, but there are exceptions. Vudu is completely absent, and Amazon’s continued spat with Google means you’ve got to load YouTube in a web browser — and there’s no YouTube TV app period.

But if you’re a big Prime Video watcher — or if you’re interested in the Fire TV Recast discussed earlier — the only real decision you’ve got to make is between Amazon’s two latest streamers.

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Why go with Amazon?

  • You get the full capabilities of Alexa as your built-in voice assistant, and Alexa is better and more useful than Siri or Roku’s voice commands in the living room.
  • Deep integration with Amazon’s ecosystem.
  • The Fire TV Stick 4K offers 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos for far less money than an Apple TV 4K.

Reasons to pick something else:

  • Amazon heavily advertises its own content on the home screen.
  • There’s no Vudu app, so you’re left without a big source of 4K Dolby Vision movies.
  • YouTube must be used through a web browser.
  • No YouTube TV app.
  • You’re concerned about Alexa listening to you.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge


The Verge recommends the Apple TV 4K.

Apple was late in releasing a 4K streaming box, and even then it didn’t come without some stumbles, but the Apple TV 4K has improved significantly since launch. It now does Dolby Atmos audio in addition to Dolby Vision HDR. It acts as a hub for your HomeKit-powered smart home.

Why go with Apple TV 4K?

  • Powerful hardware that hits all the specs (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Atmos) to get the most out of your TV and home theater gear.
  • If you’ve already got a long trail of movie purchases from iTunes, free 4K upgrades can be very compelling.
  • Only Apple TV includes apps such as Apple Music, iTunes, Apple Photos, and so on. If you’re an iPhone user and deep in Apple’s ecosystem and iCloud, it’s a natural fit.
  • It can act as a hub for Apple’s HomeKit platform, allowing you to remotely control smart home devices when you’re away.
  • Privacy. Apple shares less of your data and viewing habits with partners and is more stringent about anonymizing it and preserving your privacy.

Reasons to pick something else:

  • It’s far more expensive than competing products from Amazon and Roku.
  • YouTube doesn’t play at 4K resolution.
  • Apple tends to offer fewer 4K HDR movies than Roku (e.g.: Disney).
  • Less hackable and customizable than Fire TV or something like an Nvidia Shield.
An image of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, the best streaming device for ease of use, plugged into a TV.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge


The Verge recommends the Roku Premiere+, Premiere, Streaming Stick+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku’s streaming devices remain our top choice for a few reasons. The home screen and menus are easy to navigate and simple to understand. You’ve got a seemingly endless selection of TV apps. When you search for content, Roku is neutral about the results, favoring your current subscriptions or other ways of watching something for free instead of having you pay to rent or buy it.

Why go with Roku?

  • Unrivaled ease of use.
  • Large selection of apps and a wealth of 4K HDR content.
  • Generally fast performance.

Reasons to pick something else:

  • You find Roku’s signature grid-of-apps home screen boring and stale.
  • Roku shares a whole lot of your viewing data with partners and advertisers. Some might be uncomfortable with that.
  • Weakest voice controls and search of the three, though Roku recently added basic support for Google Assistant.

Nvidia Shield

I can’t write a cord cutter’s guide without mentioning the Nvidia Shield, which has proven to be a favorite among enthusiasts because of its powerful specs, Android TV’s flexibility (read: sideloaded apps), and its ability to act as a Plex server — not just a player. You can save your movies and TV shows directly onto the Shield instead of running an NAS or keeping a PC running 24/7. And if you need more storage for that purpose, you can plug in a USB drive and enable Android’s adoptable storage feature to have the Shield view everything as one internal storage volume.

Image: Nvidia
Image: Nvidia

It can run game emulators to scratch your nostalgia itch. Since it’s powered by Android TV, you’ve got full access to Google Assistant. See? The thing is nerdy and great, but I just don’t think it’s for everyone. If you consider yourself an expert, well, you probably know the Shield is for you, and you probably already have one.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge


Live TV streaming services

The Verge previously had a cord cutter’s tool that let you choose your must-have channels to find the ideal streaming service or combination of them. But I’m going to level with you: these programming lineups and bundles are changing too frequently to make that very practical. I am but one man.

It’s much easier to list which popular TV channels a service lacks than those it carries. So below, you’ll find the missing channels for each service that might fall into deal-breaker territory for some people.

With the exception of YouTube TV, which offers all four major broadcast networks in every market where it has launched, availability of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC on the other services is more spotty and will depend on what city you’re in. This is another big reason for buying an antenna and getting your live TV fix over the air.

DirecTV Now

$40 / month for Live A Little with 65+ channels ($480 per year)
$55 / month for Just Right with 85+ channels ($660 per year)
$65 / month for Go Big with 105+ channels ($780 per year)
$75 / month for Gotta Have It with 125+ channels ($900 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku, web
Doesn’t have: No major holes in channel lineup. Click here for the full cable channel lineup. To see if DirecTV Now offers your local broadcast networks and regional sports networks, enter your zip code at this link.
DVR: 20 hours of storage, recordings expire after 30 days
Simultaneous streams: Two, add a third for $5
Individual user profiles: No
Parental controls: Yes
60 fps playback: Yes
Surround sound: Yes (Dolby Digital 5.1 on Apple TV and Fire TV)

AT&T’s DirecTV Now has perhaps the best channel lineup among all competitors. Almost  everything is accounted for, and the base $65 package should be enough to satisfy plenty of people. Sports fans will want to step up to higher tiers (with MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, etc.), but a lot of folks will be totally fine sticking to the cheapest option.

DirecTV Now’s downsides include a lack of user profiles, lackluster app performance on some platforms (though this has gotten much better in recent weeks), and a DVR that only keeps your recordings around for 30 days. The service also has a tendency to lose track of your favorite channels. And lastly, the company has strongly suggested that a price increase is on the way and some channels might be getting cut in an effort to help DirecTV Now reach profitability. The service might look different in 2019.

Hulu with Live TV

$44.99 / month ($539.88 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Roku, web, Xbox
Doesn’t have: AMC, BBC America, Viacom networks (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.) Click here to see Hulu’s channel list in your area.
DVR: 50 hours of storage, no fast-forwarding through commercials. Can be upgraded to 200 hours with $10 add-on (also unlocks fast forward).
Individual user profiles: Yes. You can create up to six profiles.
Parental controls: Yes, with Kids Mode profiles.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Hulu’s live TV service was negatively impacted by the company’s major design overhaul back when it first launched. Hulu took a lot of criticism for its menus and navigation, which favored pretty visuals over usability and convenience. But it has spent more than a year trying to get the balance back to where it should be.

At $44.99 per month, Hulu’s lack of Viacom channels and even AMC is disappointing. The main appeal of Hulu with Live TV is that you also get the regular Hulu video-on-demand service alongside it. So you’ll have access to Casual and The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s other originals, and a huge back catalog of content from many networks — including some exclusives like Seinfeld. Hulu also puts a lot of work into its recommendation algorithms and suggestions for new shows to watch or record. And it’s the only streaming TV service currently available on the Nintendo Switch, if that’s worth anything to you.

Hulu’s DVR situation is frustrating, however. The base live TV package allows for 50 hours of recording time, but you’re unable to fast forward through commercials. If you want to do that, it requires paying $10 extra every month for the “enhanced” DVR with 200 hours of cloud storage. This also unlocks the option to fast forward.

PlayStation Vue

$44.99 / month for Access ($539.88 per year)
$49.99 / month for Core ($599.88 per year)
$59.99 / month for Elite ($719.88 per year)
$79.99 / month for Ultra ($959.88 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, PlayStation, Roku, web
Doesn’t have: A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, Viacom networks (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.) Click here to view the channel list for each tier in your area.
DVR: unlimited storage, recordings expire after 28 days
Individual user profiles: Yes. You can create up to 10 profiles.
Parental controls: No
60 fps playback: Yes
Surround sound: No

PlayStation Vue was an early favorite because of its intuitive interface, unlimited DVR space, and a robust channel selection with multiple tiers. It’s still a good choice because of the first two, but Sony’s TV service has lost some appeal as its channel selection has been trimmed a bit, despite keeping the most expensive base subscription price of all competitors at $45. Sports fans will want to move up to the pricier $50 plan to gain regional sports networks (RSNs).

But Vue has other factors in its favor: you can create up to 10 individual user profiles, which trounces the rest of the field. Share away with those roommates of yours. And Sony’s is the only service that allows five streams at the same time on different devices outside the home. And on some devices, like the Fire TV and Sony’s own PlayStation 4, you can watch multiple shows simultaneously on the same screen. Vue also delivers excellent video quality at 60 fps on all channels, whereas other services only offer that frame rate on some.

Sling TV

$25 / month for Sling Orange ($300 per year)
$25 / month for Sling Blue ($300 per year)
$40 / month for both ($480 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku, web, Windows 10, Xbox
Doesn’t have: Orange: CBS, Fox, FX, USA  Blue: ABC, CBS, ESPN, The Disney Channel Click here to pick your preferred channels and see which Sling TV subscription might work for you.
DVR: $5 paid add-on includes 50 hours of storage. (Disney and ESPN cannot be recorded.)
Simultaneous streams: Sling Orange: Just one. Sling Blue: Three.
Individual user profiles: No
Parental controls: Yes
60 fps playback: Yes

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Sling TV remains the bargain option among the five most prominent streaming TV services. It starts at just $25 monthly for either the Orange or Blue channel package, and you can add numerous $5 channel bundles onto your base subscription.

Sling Orange has ABC, Disney, and ESPN. Choose Sling Blue instead if networks like Fox, FX, and USA are more to your taste. Both bundles include AMC, HGTV, the Viacom stations that some more expensive competitors lack, and more. Sling’s main weaknesses are that it lacks CBS entirely, and local channel coverage for the other three networks is very spotty.

In terms of its user experience, Sling TV still offers a relatively bare-bones app and doesn’t offer individual user profiles like Hulu, PlayStation Vue, or YouTube TV. But the Dish-owned company has regularly been putting work into refining its software. There’s now a traditional, easy-to-navigate grid programming guide.

Unfortunately, Sling TV’s Cloud DVR feature costs an extra $5 per month, and you’re blocked from recording certain channels like Disney and ESPN.

YouTube TV

$40 / month ($480 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Xbox One
Doesn’t have: Viacom networks (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.) and HBO
DVR: No storage restrictions, recordings saved for nine months
Simultaneous streams: Three concurrent streams
Individual user profiles: Yes. You can create up to six profiles.
Parental controls: No
60 fps playback: Yes (some channels)
Surround sound: No

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

YouTube TV is our favorite TV service because of its elegant, simple interface and best-in-class DVR. You can set up six user profiles, and each gets its own DVR with unlimited storage. Recordings are saved for nine months, which is fairly generous compared to other services. With YouTube TV, you also get the option to always watch the recorded version of a show so you can skip commercials. Many services like Hulu flip over to a video-on-demand version (often with unskippable ads) soon after a show has aired unless you pay extra.

That said, YouTube TV isn’t without issues. The list of devices it supports is shorter than the competition (namely, if you have one of Amazon’s Fire TV products, you’re out of luck). You also miss out on Viacom networks, and YouTube doesn’t offer any way to subscribe to HBO, which is something that most of its rivals provide. You’ll have to subscribe to HBO Now separately.

Other TV options


$44.99 / month ($539.88 per year)

Availability: Nationwide
Works on: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku
Doesn’t have: ABC, Discovery Channel, Disney, ESPN, Viacom networks (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.)
DVR: 30 hours of recording time; “3-day replay” for sports games from the last three days. Recordings kept indefinitely. Storage can be upgraded to 500 hours for extra $9.99 each month.
Simultaneous streams: Two. Add a third for $5.99 / month.
Individual user profiles: No
Parental controls: No
60 fps playback: Yes (some channels)
Surround sound: No

Fubo advertises itself as a sports-focused OTT TV service that also mixes in plenty of entertainment. For $39.99, you’re getting a channel package that’s quite similar to the main five services. With Fubo’s DVR, you’re given 30 hours of recording time and those recordings are saved indefinitely until you delete them. A $9.99 Cloud DVR Plus add-on expands recording time to 500 hours. Fubo offers numerous add-ons for extra sports channels and even shows some events in 4K on select devices. A sports-centric service without ESPN isn’t perfect, but if you can live without the big one, it’s a strong value.

Streaming services

Amazon Prime Video

$119 / year or $59 / year for students
$12.99 / month ($155.88 per year) or $6.49 / month for students ($77.88 per year)

There’s no way of getting Prime Video without Amazon Prime, naturally. But along with Amazon’s original shows and plenty of back-catalog movies, you’ll get the usual mix of Prime benefits — as you should, seeing as the price keeps going up.

CBS All Access

$5.99 / month ($71.88 per year)

CBS’ standalone subscription service will let you watch live primetime broadcasts in most markets and stream a huge vault of the network’s past programming. It’s also the only place you watch watch some original content like Star Trek: Discovery. All Access is available widely across all the popular streaming gadgets and mobile devices.


$14.99 / month through most providers ($179.88 per year)
$5 / month add-on with DirecTV Now ($60 added to main subscription per year)

Standalone HBO is available from HBO itself and numerous providers including Apple, Google, Roku, and Samsung (on its recent TVs). You can also choose to subscribe to HBO as an optional add-on through Amazon Prime, Hulu, or PlayStation Vue.

The cheapest way to get HBO through a TV streaming service is with DirecTV Now, which charges only $5 extra each month for the premium network.


$5.99 / month ($71.88 per year) for limited commercials plan
$11.99 / month ($143.88 per year) for no commercials plan
$12.99 / month ($155.88 per year) for limited commercials plan and Spotify Premium
$4.99 / month ($59.88 per year) student combo for limited commercials plan and Spotify Premium

Its growing lineup of strong original programming — with The Handmaid’s Tale at the top of the heap — makes Hulu’s traditional service a must for many people. The basic service runs $5.99 monthly as of February 2019, but you can upgrade to the no commercials plan for $11.99. Some exceptions apply to the latter, but the bulk of shows will be interruption-free.


$8.99 / month for Basic ($107.88 per year)
$12.99 / month for Standard HD ($155.88 per year)
$15.99 / month for Premium 4K ($191.88 per year)

Netflix’s gradually rising prices haven’t done much damage to the service’s enormous popularity. The main differences between its three tiers are video quality — the Basic plan won’t even let you watch in high definition — and concurrent streams. Customers on the Standard plan can stream on two devices at once, while those on Premium get up to four simultaneous streams. Basic just gets one stream at a time.

Offline downloads are supported on Android and iOS, which can be a lifesaver on flights, during other long travel, or even for those boring afternoons on vacation.

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Last updated: January 23rd, 2019 to reflect updated Netflix and Hulu pricing, plus expanded availability for YouTube TV.