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Streaming strategies for getting more for your TV viewing budget

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The Peacock family says they{ } just swapped cable and streaming for streaming only to save more than $150 a month{ } KOMO photo

It used to be that TV streaming subscriptions were a good way to save money by cutting the cord on expensive cable television bills. Now, there are so many streaming platforms with so many options, you can spend a small fortune trying to get all the options you think you want.

Step one: Make a list of your basic must-haves.

"You know, the single biggest thing is for you to realize what kind of viewer you are," said Jim Wilcox, Senior Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports.

One way to save is to use a TV antenna instead of cable to get local broadcast channels free. TV antenna success depend a lot on your geographical location, the antenna location in your home, and the type of antenna you use.

"If you can do that, then your options are wide open and you can probably then just supplement it with a couple of (streaming) services," Wilcox said.

Another strategy: Find a streaming service that's designed to replicate what you get with cable such as SlingTV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTubeTV, FuboTV, Philo, and recent newcomer AT&T Now. But beware:

"A lot of the cable replacement services have had price increases. They've gone from $30 or $40 (per month) to $55 or $65," Wilcox cautioned. "It's not so difficult these days to stack enough services so that you're paying close to what you might have been paying with a pay TV service."

The trick is to narrow down the streaming service or services that have the most variety of what you watch. To help you with that problem, there are two streaming guides that help you find and compare the content on virtually all streaming platforms.

With ReelGood.com you can find where the movies and TV shows are streaming and get alerts when your favorites move to your platforms. Because many shows move to different platforms when their contracts expire, streaming veterans say if you stick with 2 or 3 platforms, there's a good chance the show you're interested in will turn up on your platform eventually. JustWatch.com, the other top streaming guide, also helps filter your picks to find the best platforms for what you want.

More important tips:

  • Before you cut the cord with cable, verify the new internet fees. The charge for internet without cable programming will likely be surprisingly higher than the internet fee you pay with a cable contract.
  • Take advantage of free streaming trial offers. The length and terms of the offers vary but this is a way to test drive different platforms to see if you'll watch enough to warrant paying the monthly charges.
  • And be sure to review platform sharing policies to make sure that any "free" sharing you do is authorized. Some platforms are said to be cracking down on excessive platform sharing.

Bottom line: Consumers who want to control their TV bill should focus on what they enjoy most and find the best overall value without worrying about missed programming.