In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
Philo ($16/mo. - $20/mo.): This new cut-rate service is cheap for a reason: It eliminates all sports, major networks and premium movie channels, delivering instead what amounts to a stripped-down basic cable package with the likes of History Channel, A&E and TV Land. Philo also has limited DVR storage and can be watched on multiple devices simultaneously. It’s a good starter option for people who want a solid array of traditional cable channels to supplement with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now and others.
Google Chromecast ($35 or $69): As part of the Google family of products and services, Chromecast devices (standard and Ultra) offer an impressive library of apps that treat the TV screen as a tool for more than just passive viewing, including games, music and viral videos. Chromecast also takes part of its name seriously, allowing users to start watching something on their phone or tablet and then “cast” it to a TV. The devices are often discounted at the Google Store, online.
Always take a moment on a new TV to switch off any special features that are meant to reduce motion-blurring. (These go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but the setting typically has the word “motion” in it, as in Sony’s “Motionflow” or LG’s “TruMotion.”) These settings tend to make movies and even most modern television shows look more flat and artificial, in what’s often called “the soap opera effect.”
In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.
Netflix molded itself into an alternative to cable early on. One way the company accomplished this was by frequently acquiring rights to popular TV shows. So you’ll find all past seasons of “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” from AMC there. You’ll notice that seven seasons of “Shameless”, a Showtime produced series is there as well. With a broad selection of genres, Netflix aims to be all things for most people. And currently it’s doing a better job at it than any other streaming service on the market. You can even try out Netflix free for a month. The most basic plan is $7.99 per month. A subscription with HD quality costs $10.99 per month. Ultra HD (4K) will cost you $13.99 per month. You can try out Netflix free for a month.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
A couple years ago, some services decided it wasn't enough to just provide some a la carte streaming of shows. They wanted to provide what is pretty much a full cable-television subscription experience over the internet. These are those services. They won't necessarily give you super-granular control over content like you'd have with a regular streaming service, or even moreso with a DVR recording stuff off the air, but they give you access to a lot of content you might not otherwise get without a cable subscription—especially news and sports.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
If there's one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there's a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.
Our family of four has been using a Roku 3 for a few weeks now and we've had no problem finding relevant content to watch. It's quite a traditional TV viewing experience, with of course the bonus of being able to pause and rewind. The latest version of the Roku interface is much improved over previous iterations and you can even download an app to use your Android or iOS device as a remote which can save time when typing in search queries. The Roku remote has a built-in headphone jack for late night viewing and in a nice touch, plugging in the headphones immediately mutes the sound on the TV.
I get asked about the best cable TV alternatives on a regular basis by readers so I wanted to write a post that outlines some of the cheaper alternatives to cable TV that still let you watch the shows you like. If you want to cut the cord and wonder what channels you can get without cable, this post shows the best cable replacement services to consider.
One thing people should keep in mind is not to count services your already paying for when considering savings. For example I’ve had netflix and Amazon prime for several years and my internet wasn’t part of my satellite tv. So when we cut the cord we only added 10.00 month for Cricket on sling international and 130.00 a year for NHL the only sports we care for a total extra cost of 250.00 dollars saving 985.00 dollars a year which easily pays the one time cost of a antenna and the new tivo without fees
Just because you subscribe to cable or satellite doesn't mean you have to use the provided set-top box. In an effort to become part of the cord-cutting landscape, many of the major cable and satellite providers, who double as internet service providers, let users subscribe and then access all programing via apps rather than the cable box or even the tuner in the TV.
While bundles are often a great deal - especially for people who love sports or movies - it's important to be aware that some companies' ultra-competitive bundle pricing is valid for a limited time only (e.g., six months or a year), after which time the cost of the bundle goes up. In some cases, customers are able to extend the duration of the promotional pricing just by calling the cable company and speaking with a representative.
All the cable-replacement services offer some type of free trial period, so you can try before you buy. Because most require a credit card number, you’ll have to keep track of when the trial period expires and cancel if you don't want to continue the service. And remember that package details can change often, so check the latest offers before signing up.
With Spectrum TV, for example, you get access to live TV streams for any of the networks in your tier of service. There's also lots of on-demand content for individual shows and some movies. It integrates channel guides and search for select shows/movies. If a channel (or show on a channel) that isn't available to you shows up on a menu, it's generally grayed out. And you can mark shows as favorites so they're easier to follow. But what's annoying is it takes a lot longer for a show to appear in the on-demand section—three or four days, instead of just one with a show on Hulu or even a network's own app, for example.
After 2009, over the air TV signals became digital and old analog tuner TVs stopped working. Did you know that you could still get over the air signals? In fact, you can watch local channels without cable, and they are available free and in a clear beautiful high definition picture. Those signals are bouncing off your house as you read this. If you own a TV sold in the U.S. made after March 1st, 2007, it has a digital tuner as mandated by law.
The bandwidth of the amplifiers also was limited, meaning frequencies over 250 MHz were difficult to transmit to distant portions of the coaxial network, and UHF channels could not be used at all. To expand beyond 12 channels, non-standard "midband" channels had to be used, located between the FM band and Channel 7, or "superband" beyond Channel 13 up to about 300 MHz; these channels initially were only accessible using separate tuner boxes that sent the chosen channel into the TV set on Channel 2, 3 or 4.
Different Internet Service Providers, known as I.S.P.s, have different tiers. The various streaming services make different recommendations — typically available on their individual sites — as to the minimum requirements that allow their content to look sharp and run smoothly on different devices. Averaging their recommendations out, you’ll probably want to make sure that you have a minimum 4 Mb/s (that’s megabyte per second) connection, which, be warned, isn’t available in some of the more rural areas of the United States.
If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.
Before canceling your cable or satellite service, make sure your planned cord-cutting options will work for you. For the antenna option to work well, you need to be in a location where it is easy to receive over-the-air TV broadcast signals. A good idea is to connect an antenna to your TV and see what local channels you can receive. Also, check your smart TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or media streamer to see if they offer the streaming channels and services you desire.