Anyone serious about cord-cutting knows that there's no single alternative to the cable box. Typically you'll need to assemble various parts and services -- Netflix and a Tablo DVR, for example, or Hulu Plus and a Roku box. Maybe all of the above and more.
PlayOn, for example, gives you access to tons of basic-cable and premium channels, while PlayLater lets you record those channels for offline and mobile viewing. They're great tools, but a little pricey at $39.99 per year or $129.99 for lifetime subscriptions.
Not today. For a limited time, you can get lifetime PlayOn and PlayLater licenses for $69.99 -- and score a free Google Chromecast to boot. Total value of the package: $165.
The Chromecast, of course, is the Google-made HDMI dongle that streams content from a huge number of sources, including Google Play, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and, of note, your mobile device's Web browser. Speaking of which, your smartphone or tablet serves as the remote. And Google just announced some nifty-sounding upgrades for the Chromecast, so it's looking better than ever.
As for PlayOn, it slings shows from your Windows PC to various devices, including tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and media streaming boxes. It's akin to Roku, with your PC filling the role of "the box." (Indeed, you can actually use a Roku box as the bridge between your PC and your TV. And that allows you to stream from Hulu without paying for a Hulu Plus subscription.)
Then there's PlayLater, a nifty utility that can record from most of the same channels that PlayOn can stream. These include ABC, Amazon Instant Video, Comedy Central, Food Network, HBO Go (though I've had mixed results with that), NBC, SyFy, and TBS. Obviously certain channels, like HBO Go and Netflix, require you to have an active, paid subscription. But many of them are free.
In other words, PlayLater turns your PC into a DVR that can record normally-unrecordable sources for later viewing. It stores these recordings as MP4 files, and can even autosync with iTunes so they're queued up and ready for viewing on your iDevice. (Those files will also play on Android, Windows Phone, and other devices.)
So, yeah, for $70 you're getting a lot of TV goodness. My sole complaint is that the company charges extra if you want the HD versions of PlayOn and PlayLater -- and, let's face it, no one wants the SD versions anymore. Fortunately, the HD upgrade costs just $14.99, so overall this is still a solid deal.
Bonus deal: All the cord-cutting planets are in alignment! Today only, and while supplies last, Woot has the refurbished Ooma Telo voice-over-IP home phone system for $79.99, plus $5 for shipping. Buh-bye, pricey landline! This is a rerun of a deal I shared a couple months ago, and I remain a big fan of Ooma, which has served me well for years.