Now for the content delivery systems.
Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) portable set-top digital media receiver retails for $99. Buy it and set it up, and you can stream programming wirelessly from your Apple iTunes account.
Apple TV allows you to draw content from Hulu Plus, Netflix, Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube, MLB.tv, NBA League Pass, movies and anything you can rent-to-watch or listen to through the iTunes store. Movies, television shows, music videos — you have all of them at your disposal. You can pick and choose what you want to hear or watch, thereby completely controlling the costs.
And at some point — perhaps in the not too distant future — Apple has promised to deliver an actual television set to marry with the set-top box. That will make me sit up and take notice.
Similar to Apple’s offering, Roku provides a small set-top box, only in this case it comes in four variations. The cheapest package costs $50 for basic acccess; the latest model includes instant replay, 1080p video and even Angry Birds Space all for $100. And again, that’s just the price you pay for the setup.
R0ku offers access to 750 channels, including Hulu Plus programming and Netflix movies and content at those companies’ standard pricing for the service. Roku also offers Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, NBA Game Time and Prime Flix among other offerings.
Trying to find out the cost of every channel available will take you some time; options like HBO GO require a subscription to HBO. So it pays to scroll through to figure out what you want, and how much it will cost you to watch.
Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 console actually is a video game console, though it has evolved into a portal to television and movie programming.
Since Xbox is a complete system that includes video gaming, this one will set you back some coin: the existing version of the console system can run up to $300 per set.
Xbox 360 users can access the Internet, Twitter, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), ESPN apps, YouTube and thousands of movies, TV shows and songs. Xbox users also can subscribe to Hulu and Netflix, and they also get the benefit of programming available from both Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), both of whom inked a deal with Microsoft back in 2011 to stream content from their respective Fios and Xfinity services.
Rumors abound that the soon-to-be delivered Xbox 720 will have the ability to stream live broadcast television. To this point, price is speculative, as is a firm release date, so stay tuned.
It all comes down to what’s more important to you — content or costs. If it’s the latter, you’re stuck parsing all the choices above. But if you care about watching whatever you want, when you want (as I do), none of the streaming options currently hold a candle to cable.
So while I might eventually become a streamer one day, that day is far down the road.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he was long AAPL, MSFT, and VZ.