If you've been hanging around cord cutting blogs long enough, you've probably heard a lot about “skinny bundles” (and if you haven't been hanging out at cord cutting blogs, now's a great time to bookmark ours). Or maybe you've heard of “live TV streaming services,” or “OTT multichannel services,” or any number of other clumsy terms that all, as it happen, refer to the same sort of service. So what is a skinny bundle, or an OTT live TV service, or whatever else people are calling it? Is it just cable by a different name? Is it “cord cutting,” or isn't it, or is it something in between? Let's take a closer look at this relatively new type of service and how it's changing the cord cutting game.
Prehistory: Cord cutting before “skinny bundles”
To understand what skinny bundles are and where they came from, it might help to take a trip back in time. Let's set our time machine's dials to the long-lost year of 2014, when the best answer to the question “what is a skinny bundle?” would have been “well, nothing, yet.”
In 2014, none of the skinny bundles we're talking about here had gotten a full release yet. Cord cutters relied on on-demand content for movies and TV shows, using apps like Netflix and Hulu, just like they do now. Cord cutters were increasingly using free over-the-air (OTA) TV, too, so they did have a live TV option.
But OTA TV doesn't have network television channels like AMC or TBS. The only way to watch those channels live was to subscribe to a legacy pay TV service like cable or satellite. And those services were bulky and overpriced. Then, as now, cable and satellite loved to bundle hundreds of channels together. Customers who just wanted to watch TBS or ESPN had to pay for FXX, MTV2, and ESPN 8 too (okay, the last one isn't real). And the cable giants would even bundle those bundles into super-bundles with phone and internet service — just as they still do today, of course.
If only there were a way to watch these channels without cable, cord cutters dreamed. Maybe they could stream online, just as on-demand content does on Netflix. And maybe they could slim down those bulky bundles, too.
In January of 2015, we got a very exciting answer: from now on, there would be a way to get all of this. It was called the “skinny bundle.”
What is a skinny bundle?
In January of 2015, Sling TV was the first skinny bundle to get a widespread release. How it worked then is pretty similar to how it works now, and it's also more or less how the competition works.
Sling TV works like this: it's a streaming service, like Netflix, but also a pay TV “multichannel” service, like cable or satellite. Sling TV is actually owned by a satellite TV company (Dish) but that doesn't mean that it's not disrupting the old rules. Sling TV's bundles are a great deal slimmer than the ones you're used to from cable and satellite, and Sling TV also offers customers the ability to customize their bundle with add-ons.
The model for the skinny bundle, then, is simply this:
- A skinny bundle will provide you with a bundle of live TV channels, just like cable, except
- That bundle is generally going to be smaller than the ones that cable offers, so
- Skinny bundles tend to be cheaper than cable packages. Plus,
- Skinny bundles are streaming services, so you can watch them all over the place on all different devices (including on your Smart TV, Roku, or other streaming device).
And that's pretty much it!
Skinny bundles can vary a bit, of course, and the business space has evolved. Sling TV's model allows customers to choose a base package and then customize it with little add-on bundles of channels, but other services offer tiers of service with pre-selected bundles of different sizes. Vue and other competitors, like DIRECTV Stream, even offer some pretty fat skinny bundles, with the largest skinny bundles reaching toward 100 channels and beyond — not so skinny at all, really! Some skinny bundles offer cloud DVR services, either included or at an additional price. Nearly all use the add-on model for premium channels like HBO and Showtime.
But all skinny bundles (or live TV streaming services, or OTT multichannel services, or whatever else you'd like to call them) offer live streaming TV while using smaller bundle sizes and other measures to keep costs lower than what you're used to from cable. That's it!
Meet the Skinny Bundles
What is a skinny bundle? Well, now you know – but you don't know which services are skinny bundles. Here are a few of the largest and most trusted skinny bundles on the market right now. Each of these services offers a free trial, so checking out one or two would be a good way to familiarize yourself with the world of skinny bundles.
Philo's goal is to be the cheapest of the skinny bundles, and it's doing a pretty good job of it. Philo keeps the prices on its twin bundles down by taking advantage of what it doesn't have: sports and local channels. By skipping those costly bits of skinny bundle fare, Philo is able to offer everything else at crazy competitive prices. If you don't need sports or local channels, Philo is a fantastic option.
Streaming video on demand (SVOD) service Hulu also has a skinny bundle option. The appropriately named Hulu + Live TV includes a lot of great networks, with local channels and regional sports networks among them. You can learn more about Hulu + Live TV by reading our review.
fuboTV started life as a soccer-specific streaming service before rebooting and re-launching as a more general-interest skinny bundle. Fans of some sports will still find that fuboTV has some advantages for them, but there's something for everyone in the service now. Read our review of fuboTV for more information, or check out the free trial using the link in this section.
Sling TV got some attention in this article, because it was the first service to being to define live TV streaming services and answer that question in our title: what is a skinny bundle? In Sling TV's view, it's an a la carte bundle that you build yourself by starting with a base package and then adding add-on bundles for $5 or more a pop. You can check out Sling TV for free for a week using the link in this section.
YouTube TV is Google's version of the skinny bundle. This is a very strong service that earned good marks in our YouTube TV review. YouTube TV includes a lot of great channels. You can check it out for free for a week by signing up for its free trial offer.
15 thoughts on “What Is a “Skinny Bundle”?”
I want to be a cord cutter but had no idea where to begin. This has given me a good base of what to do and how to do it. I’m ready to explore the options.
Hi Brenda, I suggest you start with our “Getting Started” cord cutting guide!
most of your info is accurate, but far tooooooo much is either NOT true or you need to update this hogwash.
Shame on you.
We have the Amazon Fire stick. We signed up for DVD all access but we are still trying to find live streaming of ABC and NBC.
Hi Bob, thanks for reading! Check out these posts for some answers: https://cordcutting.com/how-to-watch/abc/ https://cordcutting.com/how-to-watch/nbc/
Locast is fantastic.
None of the skinny bundles or ANY of the Roku options for live tv are Vailabke in Canada?? Is there anythi g I can get in Canada to watch live tv?
Hi Amanda, thanks for reading. While there aren’t as many options for live TV streaming in Canada, I believe that fuboTV operates there.
For OTA TV in Canada, streaming/DVR/Multi-tuner I would look at the Tablo (Tablotv.com) as the device of choice. BTW it is made in Canada! Of course depends on where you live to the amount of OTA TV available.
I live in Hawthorne, CA and am looking to cut the cord. We are old school and have ATT DirecTV and 3 TVs, that’s it. How can I find someone to come and assess our needs with Roku and a bundle. I’m having trouble comprehending all the equipment I need like Roku, local live TV, and being able to record. Anyone in the neighborhood that can help. I’m desperate to cut but want easy. $200 per month for premiere just to have HBO and Showtime is killing us on a fixed income. HELP!
I live in Florida so I can’t come by but I could probably help. I am 60 years old and haven’t had cable in years, just a high speed wifi connection and a Amazon Firestick. It’s pretty easy once you get use to it. Once you get the hang of it you will never want cable or satellite again. Right now I watch Hulu with live TV streaming and Netflix. But the good thing about these all the streaming services is you can cancel any time, so I think I will cancel Hulu and try YouTube TV next.
I’m not sure if you still need help, but I’m watching local TV (ABC, CBS, NBC) using an antenna and either my Roku or Fire Stick for streaming. I’ve had AT&TNow (preciously DirectTVNow) since it came out and was $35/month. It’s now up to $60/month and I’m grandfathered into a really great package. However, I now have Amazon Prime at $120/year and have been watching some decent content and am considering Sling for some live TV channels at half of AT&TTVNow. Some things are trial and error. The cool thing to remember is, you’re not “married” to any of the streaming services. It’s a different mindset from traditional cable television. If you try it and don’t get good service, leave and try something else. Most of these streaming services work on Roku and Amazon Fire Stick, so either one should be fine.
Right now, Sling is offering its “blue” package for “happy hour” from 5 p.m. to midnight for free so you can try it before you buy it.
need help trying to setup account on the select tv .com the phone no they give does not work is this outfit a fraud ?
I am trying to figure out how to get live local TV. Is there a cost? I can get live from big cities but not my local TV stations.