'CR' Annual TV Issue Maps Plans For Cutting Costs -- And The Cord

To say that watching TV today is complicated is an understatement.

That’s the reaction I usually have to Consumer Reports magazine’s annual TV issue in which the CR watchdogs offer advice on how to save money on TV services.

This year’s edition came out last week -- the July issue -- with the cover headline “Cable TV or Streaming? Where to find the best deals” (photo above).

Unlike in past issues, this year’s package of stories and sidebars emphasizes services and scenarios that have little to do with the big streamers that have been the focus in past issues -- Disney+, Max, Amazon Prime, Netflix and the rest. The evils of cable are also a frequent topic.



Instead, this year’s focus is on live TV streaming services and the role they can play for consumers seeking to reduce their monthly TV subscription costs.

But here is where the complications of today’s TV world come in. Comparing and contrasting these services according to cost, content and other factors comes across in the story as a mind-numbing exercise.

This is no criticism of CR and especially reporter James K. Willcox, who has been the writer and curator of these stories for years.

His explanations and instructions are great. But the tasks he outlines are far from simple. They involve comparing cable providers and their various subscription tiers, considering satellite services such as Dish or DirecTV and other tactics.

Call customer service, CR suggests, and ask about deals, cancellation fees and possible plans to raise rates during the term of, say, a two-year commitment.

Engaging with customer service at multiple companies might be enough for some people to swear off TV altogether.

“Do a cord-cutting test drive,” CR suggests. “Some streaming services offer a one-week free trial, so you can give a few services a try while keeping your current cable contract.

“The differences go beyond the channel lineup. Each of these services has its own menu system, and you may feel more comfortable with a particular option’s system.

“You’ll also be able to see whether you actually miss any cable channels that you can’t get through a service you’re trying out,” CR says.

It is a lot to keep track of, but it is likely that millions are undertaking this kind of research to customize a TV subscription scenario that fits their budget and household TV needs. I am not one of them.

The July CR issue provides a road map to all of it. In addition, the magazine’s trademark ratings system is applied to comparing and ranking streaming devices.

In the category of HD Streaming Media Devices, CR ranks Amazon Fire Stick at the top, followed by Fire Stick Lite, Google Chromecast, Onn, and Roku Express.

In the category of 4K Streaming Media Devices, Nvidia Shield TV Pro is top-ranked. Others featured on this list are Amazon Fire TV Cube, Roku Ultra, Apple TV 4K and TiVo Stream 4K.

For these ratings and rankings, CR’s criteria included Ease of Use, Data Privacy, Data Security and Picture Quality.

In another boxed sidebar, CR compares (but does not rank) six of the live TV streamers according to price and content offerings -- DirecTV Stream, Fubo, Hulu + Live TV, Philo, Sling TV and YouTube TV.

In 2020, CR’s TV cover package went directly at the big streamers. Among other things, the mag advised dropping Netflix and picking up Disney+ as the better streaming value.

In 2022, Consumer Reports advocated subscription-sharing and “service hopping” to save money -- two strategies on the part of subscribers that the big streamers have worked to mitigate.

Next story loading loading..