A La Carte

I REMOVED THE YOKE of cable TV several years ago. Thanks to today's streaming channels, I have endless options—and I'm still saving money.

If you thought cable offered an overflowing abundance of choices, buy a Roku or other streaming device. You could stay glued to the screen 24/7 and never see anything twice, probably for years.

A Roku device, available for as little as $24, will give you access to more than 200 channels, including the well-known streaming channels such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. Some of the 200 channels charge monthly fees, but many are free.

Indeed, buried treasure can be found in the more obscure channels, such as Fawesome, an odd blend of “free” and “awesome.” Here you will find the original The Saint television series starring Roger Moore before he became James Bond. Also check out Tubi, which provides access to live news, in addition to long forgotten TV shows and old movies. Hulu lets you access other established cable channels, such as A&E and Lifetime.

Many of the “free” channels have commercials. Remember them? It’s a small price to pay to relive childhood memories of watching the absurd but often hilarious 1960s sitcom Green Acres, available on Pluto. More cerebral choices can be found throughout the Roku world, including a plethora of documentaries and foreign language films.

But the best part of this post-cable world is that I’m paying about $30 less per month than before, even with seven subscribed channels that offer first-run theatrical films such as King Richard on HBO Max and widely celebrated new series such as Ozark on Netflix. Another advantage is that I can pause channels at my discretion, which was impossible when I was tied to the cable company. Here's what I currently pay—with some prices the result of short-term specials:

  • Netflix $15.49
  • YouTube $11.99 (no commercials)
  • HBO Max $11.99
  • Hulu $6.99 (with commercials)
  • Prime $14.99 (also free shipping with Amazon)
  • PBS Documentaries $3.99 (added to Prime)
  • Criterion Channel $10.99

Several streaming services are available as add-ons to other channels. For example, you can get Showtime through Hulu for $3.99 a month for four months. Bargains can be found everywhere, but it requires investigation and effort. Still, it's better than being hostage to a cable bill that only ever went up.

Retirement affords me the time to catch up on programs I could never watch while working and being an active parent. For example, PBS Documentaries, offered through Prime, provides access to all the Ken Burns documentaries, and also episodes of Finding Your Roots. I was able to binge watch Downton Abbey on Netflix.

The Criterion Channel might be the least known of my choices, but it’s a treasure trove of classic and foreign films. If you miss the art house theater long gone in your urban village, this is the place to visit.

And not everything costs extra. Check out some of the best free channels on Roku. You’ll never get bored.

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A La Carte