TV providers are stepping up the game when it comes to DVR and television equipment capabilities. Scroll through thousands of on demand titles, record all of your favorite shows, and watch your stored recordings on multiple TV's at once: all from a single box. Specific recording features will vary by provider and receiver. The DIRECTV Genie is the premier HD DVR on the market. With Genie you can connect up to 8 TV's to a single DVR, record up to 5 HD programs at once, and browse through over 10,000 On Demand titles. Got home too late to catch that new episode of your favorite show that you've been waiting all week to see? No problem. You can rewind live TV up to 72 hours with Genie, so you'll never miss a premiere ever again. Control what your children can watch. Schedule or watch recordings from your laptop, tablet, or phone. Discover new programs that you'll love with Genie's personalized recommendation feature. The possibilities are endless! Make sure to check the fine print when it comes to equipment fees. Some providers include the DVR for free, while others charge a monthly fee.
By the 1990s, tiers became common, with customers able to subscribe to different tiers to obtain different selections of additional channels above the basic selection. By subscribing to additional tiers, customers could get specialty channels, movie channels, and foreign channels. Large cable companies used addressable descramblers to limit access to premium channels for customers not subscribing to higher tiers, however the above magazines often published workarounds for that technology as well.

Having said all that, if I were to buy a TV today, I might consider either the new Amazon Fire TV edition made by Element that just hit the market. You will essentially get a 4K TV with the latest streaming software from Amazon Fire TV baked in your TV set. Fire TV is becoming a lot more neutral in terms of supported platforms and apps, but it’s best suited for people who use Amazon Prime. Also, the new line of TCL Roku TVs with 4K HDR look interesting to me for similar reasons. I haven’t tested out either of those TVs so I can’t recommend one over the other. But it’s food for thought. Hope that helps.
Many rely on their cable provider for home phone service. Like most of their services, it can be replaced with a much cheaper internet based service. For those who need a little more than a cell phone after they ditch their cable TV subscription, I recommend PhonePower (formerly BroadVoice.) They are an affordable and reliable phone service provider that uses your existing internet connection.
Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.

It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
This streaming service so happens to be more current and up to date than Netflix. The drawback about this is that the latest movies and TV shows (from both broadcast and cable) often come with an extra price tag. Regardless, its HBO library is to die for. Episodes of shows you wouldn’t find anywhere else like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Oz, and Band of Brothers are available for free with your subscription, and you won’t find them anywhere else. It’s HBO content covers up for the lack of its attention-grabbing originals. There are no adds, and the subscription fee is 99$ a year, but if you do the math you’ll realize that it’s less than 9$ a month.

The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Sling TV, you’ll still be more than $200 ahead. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option and subscribe to Showtime through Hulu and save another $72. Or you can drop Sling TV for Showtime and save an extra $108.
Streaming sticks, which include the Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, aren’t much bigger than a pack of gum, and they plug right into your TV’s HDMI port. You can then use your smartphone, laptop or—in Roku’s case—a remote control to launch hundreds of steaming apps. These devices are available for well under $50 apiece, and, on their own, don’t require a monthly fee.
We looked closely at the ratings and scores by Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. Each of these groups rate cable companies on customer satisfaction, with some breakout categories like performance, value, communications, billing, and technical support. Companies that score well with these consumer resources are more likely to resolve issues, clearly communicate changes in billing, and consistently provide reliable television service.
When we went through the ordering process for Spectrum and got all the way to the check-out, we realized we never got to choose which DVR we wanted. Spectrum offers both Motorola and Cisco DVRs (neither of which stand out from competitor DVRs like the Genie or Hopper 3), and as far as we can tell, you get whichever one Spectrum decides to send you.
The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.
Apple TV. This could be considered the luxury car version of streaming devices except for a couple of snags. Apple went all in with Apple TV when it placed some of its fastest processors in the unit and opened up an App Store for Apple TV. Apple has done a good job of opening up the system and adding great features like the TV app, which compiles much of your streaming library together in one spot.
The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

In broadcast television, cord-cutting refers to the pattern of viewers, referred to as cord-cutters, cancelling their subscriptions to multichannel subscription television services available over cable, dropping pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media available over the Internet such as Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube Premium. This Internet content is either free or significantly cheaper than the same content provided via cable.
DIRECTV NOW was DIRECTV’s way of keeping its satellite TV service available for users who don’t want a dish installed or multi-year contracts. You can use the Just Right package and add HBO (Game of Thrones and Westworld for only $5 more per month instead of $15? Yeah, we’re in). Consider also that you can get your favorite networks like HGTV, Sundance TV, and the Travel Channel. Plus, you can also record up to 20 hours of TV to hold onto for 30 days with the included cloud DVR.
The biggest plan to get is $11.99, dubbed the “Premium” plan, which gives you Ultra HD and the ability to watch on 4 screens. This particular plan could be advantageous for families who want to watch a lot of different things at once, but is the extra $4/month or $48/year worth it? It all depends on your situation, but something to consider. They do offer one month free, so there is the option to test out whatever plan you want as well before finally deciding.
(It’s worth noting that Sarah’s not really a television addict, but that she likes to have the TV on in the background while she’s doing busywork, of which she has quite a bit from her job. You can often find her in the late evenings with about 70% attention on some low-intensity work task and about 30% attention on something on the television. Personally, I prefer to listen to white noise when working, but to each their own.)
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.
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