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Cutting the cord? How to pick your streaming services

“Cut the cord.” It sounds so freeing, doesn’t it? No more paying exorbitant fees for hundreds of channels you never watch. With streaming services, you can watch whatever, whenever, wherever. Pretty great, right?

There’s just one roadblock: Streaming services are complicated, far more complicated than cable ever was. It’s hard to find all the television you enjoy. Different networks have different relationships with different streaming services.

The easiest way to sort out what channels are available on which service is to use my handy chart. Click here for a comprehensive lineup of streaming services, including what channels they offer and don’t.

Getting the right hardware

To get streaming services, you need a streaming media gadget. Unless you already have this capability in your smart TV, there are two types of streaming gadgets: set-top boxes and HDMI sticks.

HDMI sticks are the size of USB drives and plug right into your TV. That means less clutter in your entertainment center and they’re also cheaper. Click here for a comparison of the Amazon Fire vs. Google Chromecast vs. Roku.

Set-top boxes include the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and others. If you are wondering how these compare, click here for a comprehensive comparison chart of these streaming media players.

Finally, you’ll want to add an indoor or outdoor antenna to get free over-the-air programming. Click here for the best antennas you can buy right now.

Today, streaming services are the Wild West of televised entertainment, and companies are still experimenting with how to best serve customers. Assuming you want to save some pennies, how do you decide to spend your money?

Here is a simple and straightforward way to keep costs down and still get the programs you crave.

Figure out what you want to watch

This step is easy. What shows do you love? What kind of TV would it be impossible to live without? Put together a list of series you obsess over, and then record their corresponding channels.

For example, if you’ve been following “Game of Thrones,” and maybe you even hope to rewatch the series from beginning to end, you’ll want HBO. If you love “NCIS,” you’ll need access to CBS. As you’re putting together this list, be realistic. You may think you can live without “The Bachelorette,” and then you’ll feel nostalgic and kick yourself for losing ABC.

Find out which streaming services offer those channels

This is the hard part: Now that you have your channels, what streaming services are compatible? You’ll find that a lot of networks are available on multiple platforms, but some make it easier than others.

Comedy Central isn’t available at all on Hulu, YouTube, or PlayStation Vue, which is a real bummer for fans. You can get Comedy Central on Sling TV, but only through its “Orange” and “Blue” plans. You can also find it on DirecTV Now, but only with its “Live a Little” plan.

So, if your life would be meaningless without Fox News, you’ll want Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, or Direct TV Now’s “Live a Little” plan. Again, my streaming services channel lineup chart will help you figure this out.

Next page: Learn how to control cord cutting costs
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