The battle to save a few entertainment dollars is real, and a major part of that fight for a lot of us involves the manner in which the Atlanta Braves and baseball can be procured for use in our homes.
For me, the turning point came when I realized that my cable bill had bloomed to $220 per month. What that $220 bought me was a 500-gigabit internet service, roughly 90 HD channels and a few hundred never-used SD (480p Standard Definition) channels that were basically unwatchable.
There were no premium movie channel subscriptions of any kind with that; I only added the $8/month sports package add-on necessary to gain access to the regional Bally Sports networks hosting the Braves games. All of that and the annoying equipment rental charges added up to $7.35 per day.
Heck, with the cable package I’m about to dump, I don’t even get the MLB Network… that despite having purchased the ‘sports package’ add-on.
Just which cable company am I with? Frankly, I’m not here to bash anybody (well, almost… we’ll get to that later), but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter since cable provider choices are usually very limited for everyone.
That’s a quandary that tends to dictate pricing no matter who serves your local market. As it is, I’ve been satisfied with the service and the content with cable… just not the price.
And that’s exactly why ‘cord cutting’ has become a thing.
Who Do You Call?
I’ll tell you now that what follows is merely a report of my research and my experience with the process of dumping cable. I have been given no perks for any of this, and it’s not intended to be an endorsement or a product review. I’m also not going to make a plea for ‘friends’ to get referral discounts. I just suspect others may have toyed with this subject themselves, so perhaps this could serve as a means of taking away some of the fear that’s inevitably involved when ‘change’ is contemplated.
So what are the baseball-friendly alternatives to cable? In theory, all you need is Internet access and a streaming provider. Getting there, though, requires some digging through many — and often conflicting — websites.
Many of the streaming services appear to have their own ‘niche’ of emphasis in their packages, and while the prices appear to vary wildly, a closer examination proves that they are virtually all quite in sync with one another on the cost-competitiveness scale for the content volume they offer.
For example, while Sling TV has packages starting at $40/month, you only get about 30 channels for that. Philo is another cheap option at $25/month but includes nothing involving sports.
So the real factor comes down to your own priorities for channel packages… and for baseball, that list is quite limited.
Right now, if you want to get your home-area regional Bally sports networks (RSNs), you have the choice of AT&T’s DirecTV streaming or Fubo.
You can also subscribe to Bally directly with Sinclair Media (the owner of the Bally RSNs) through their $20/month Bally Sports+ product, but I’d personally recommend against that for two solid reasons:
1. As an add-on, the $20/month charge is higher than the equivalent from other providers. If you manage to find a cheap streaming option for regular TV channels that works for you, then that’s great… but you’d need to be at $60/month or less for that to be competitive with others, and those choices are very limited.
2. The financial stability of Sinclair and their Diamond Sports Group makes me leery of doing any direct business with them. I’d much rather deal with a third-party provider and let them worry about Sinclair.
As for my family, we are also very leery of hooking up with AT&T in any manner (this is the promised ‘bashing’ part of the program). My previous experience using them as an internet provider was maddening. Brief attempts more recently to try new services ended quickly as issues with pricing, customer service, and service quality were all in play. It was not good.
I can’t say if the DirecTV side of their house is any better (though a review of multiple internet ratings suggest “they aren’t”). Your mileage may vary, but we’ve opted to stay away.
If you do wish to try them out, the link here provides a nice breakdown of package comparisons with the pricing of each. Bally is introduced into the mix as part of their ‘Choice’ package at $90/month.
That leaves Fubo TV. There are some quirks to their channel packages, but it appears that I can live without the things that are missing… with one glaring problem that I’ll cover separately. Overall, Fubo’s “niche” is about sports channels… which is music to my ears.
I have signed up for their ‘Elite’ package at $85/month. This includes Bally Sports and the MLB Network. It’s not cheap, but my judgment is that enough value is there.
The image quality was surprisingly good… officially it was said to be 720p (not SD, but also not HD), but had I not known this, I would have sworn it was HD.
Didn’t matter if the subject matter was the Braves with San Diego fans in the background or the Hawks playing on the well-marbled parquet floor in Boston: the detail was there without any “fuzziness”… even on a 75” screen.
Our wired internet connection at 500 gb was strong for the entire game last night, save for about 10 seconds when the display pixelated, then quickly recovered… but that was almost certainly a fail with my internet connection.
Thus, it appears I’ve found a new home for Braves baseball.
The Missing Links
What’s missing with Fubo TV? Nothing I was watching normally, but for many, this bit could be a deal-breaker that drives you over to AT&T: none of the Warner/Turner broadcaster family of channels are there (CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, etc.) and none of the Arts and Entertainment family are available (A&E, AMC, History, Lifetime). Also missing: HBO and BBC America.
It’s the TBS/TNT channels that might be a problem come playoff time. For those games, I might have to explore another option for the month of October (MLB.TV?). For those reading this who love NBA basketball… I understand that would be a show-stopper for you.
Both DirecTV and Fubo have several small add-on packages available, but I won’t be adding onto the costs with these.
I do still need internet service, though, and for that service I will be returning to my current cable provider. While that negotiation hasn’t been conducted yet, I expect we’ll be looking at something around $70/month, bringing the monthly outlay to roughly $155 before taxes.
It’s still higher than I’d prefer, but it’s also not $220, either.
As part of this effort, I’ve also purchased a cable modem and a new wifi hub. Those costs will eventually be offset by not renting the same equipment from my cable/internet provider.
One more gotcha: games on Peacock ($4.99/month) or Apple TV ($6.99) will be missing. That’s annoying, but there’s also no way around that… and cutting the cord didn’t create this problem. At least those contests are limited (though the next one comes this Friday, April 21st vs. Houston).
I will say this, though: I don’t feel compelled one bit to subscribe to either Apple TV or Peacock just for their ‘games of the week’.
What if Something Changes?
There’s a good chance that something will change, in fact. The Sinclair situation is such that MLB could swoop in and change the entire landscape. In the extreme, they could choose to sell their broadcast rights to anyone, which could render current streaming deals with AT&T or Fubo as moot.
I am signed up with Fubo on a month-to-month basis. If it comes to it, I could end up back with my cable provider (though it would then be as a ‘new’ customer and I’d probably get discounts 🙂.
But being month-to-month and having my own equipment will provide both protection and flexibility… the kind of flexibility that 2-year plans don’t offer. In you’re stuck in one of those… I have felt your pain.
But many others of you are probably chuckling to yourself about all of this as you’ve already taken the leap out of the box and crossed the stream.
Ultimately, the goal has been about baseball… and being able to watch baseball at a more affordable rate. Maybe I can buy a hat now.