In recent years, online streaming services from companies such as DirecTV and Hulu have signed up millions of subscribers by offering popular channels — from FOX and CBS to CNN and ESPN — typically at lower monthly costs.
And after years of Comcast dominating local sports coverage, some of these streaming services will let you watch Harper and the Phillies this season. Four of the major live TV streaming services carry NBC Sports Philadelphia, the regional sports network that broadcasts most Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers games.
Consumers tempted to cut the cord should closely review the “skinny bundles” to ensure that the channels they need are included. If so, customers can save hundreds of dollars a year by cutting cable — and still watch Philly sports.
“Cable gives you a lot for the money,” said James Willcox, who follows the pay-TV industry for Consumer Reports. “The main complaint is you pay for a lot of channels you don’t watch.”
Perhaps the biggest barrier to cutting the cord in Philadelphia has been the limited options for local sports.
For years, Comcast had a chokehold on local professional sports fans through its control of the regional sports network — then called CSN — by withholding it from satellite rivals through a so-called terrestrial loophole. DirecTV and Dish called Comcast’s action an unfair competitive advantage in the battle for pay-TV customers. That’s because if Sixers, Flyers, or Phillies fans wanted to watch most of their games, they had to subscribe to Comcast.
Comcast’s grip on local sports weakened with the rise of Verizon’s FiOS TV service — which carried CSN — and eroded more when the Federal Communications Commission closed the terrestrial loophole in 2010. Comcast also agreed to make its programming available to online streamers as part of its regulatory concessions for approval of its deal to buy NBCUniversal in 2011.
Still, the major satellite TV providers, Dish and DirecTV, don’t carry NBC Sports Philadelphia as they have been unable to reach an agreement with Comcast over carriage fees.
An antenna will get you most Philadelphia Eagles games on FOX, CBS, and NBC over the air for free. But an antenna won’t capture NBC Sports Philadelphia, home of the rest of the city’s professional teams.
The market leader in live TV streaming, Dish’s Sling TV, doesn’t include NBC Sports Philadelphia in its lineup, either. Sling TV happens to be among the cheapest streaming options, with plans starting at $25.
The current streaming options for NBC Sports Philadelphia are Sony’s PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, Google’s YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV, according to Maureen Quilter, a spokesperson for the regional sports network.
Still, you can’t completely cut ties with Comcast or Verizon if you go with one of the streaming options. A broadband internet connection is still required.
A person living alone needs download speeds of at least 25 mbps to stream shows, while a family can get by with 50 mbps, Willcox said.