Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
As cord-cutting has picked up steam, many cable companies are offering their own "skinny bundle" packages with internet and a few channels for less. It seems counterintuitive, but in 2018, "cutting the cord" can still mean sticking with your current cable company. The important thing when comparing these services is to look at the contract requirements and extra fees. Even if a service price looks the same as many all-streaming packages, if you need to tack on an extra TV box or two the monthly fees will add up quickly.
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.
Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.
DirecTV Now. DirectTV Now offers a package that is very competitive with PlayStation Vue, and as you might expect, delivers a very cable-like experience without the actual cable. However, it does have one of the worst interfaces, especially on Apple TV, and lacks the ability to pause live television. One big bonus of DirecTV Now is access to very cheap subscriptions for premium channels like HBO and Starz, so if you load up on all of these, DirecTV Now might come out as the cheapest service. They also don't charge for their DVR service.
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)
In the most common system, multiple television channels (as many as 500, although this varies depending on the provider's available channel capacity) are distributed to subscriber residences through a coaxial cable, which comes from a trunkline supported on utility poles originating at the cable company's local distribution facility, called the "headend". Many channels can be transmitted through one coaxial cable by a technique called frequency division multiplexing. At the headend, each television channel is translated to a different frequency. By giving each channel a different frequency "slot" on the cable, the separate television signals do not interfere with each other. At an outdoor cable box on the subscriber's residence the company's service drop cable is connected to cables distributing the signal to different rooms in the building. At each television, the subscriber's television or a set-top box provided by the cable company translates the desired channel back to its original frequency (baseband), and it is displayed onscreen. Due to widespread cable theft in earlier analog systems, the signals are typically encrypted on modern digital cable systems, and the set-top box must be activated by an activation code sent by the cable company before it will function, which is only sent after the subscriber signs up. If the subscriber fails to pay their bill, the cable company can send a signal to deactivate the subscriber's box, preventing reception.
At present, the leading cable TV service providers in the country deliver more than hundreds of HD channels to about 60 million homes in the country. In addition, most of the cable TV providers also offer high-speed internet and home phone services alongside. Customers also enjoy the luxury of double bundling or triple bundling these services, which in turn helps them to save a huge sum of money in the end.
I had made the terrible mistake of renting my cable modem from my local cable provider for years (amateur) before finally buying my own. Not only did I shed the monthly five-dollar-a-month rental fee from my current broadband bill, I can now utilize more of the broadband that I actually pay for. The rented cable modem was at least three years old — if not older. Before I finally gave it the heave ho and drove it back to my cable provider, I did a speed test to see how much broadband I was actually getting. Let’s just say, it was a lot less than half of what I was paying for. The MOTOROLA SURFboard (Model SB6141) clocked in twice as fast, just under the 50Mpbs as I was paying for.
This option is for you if you like to follow the latest network and non-premium cable shows, like The New Girl, The Voice, The Flash, or Modern Family. Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) offers current programs from FOX, NBC, ABC, the CW, as well as delayed or archived content from cable channels like Comedy Central and FX. You can add CBS shows, like Big Bang Theory, for another monthly fee of $5.99.
Pvue has went from $30 on the basic to $40 as there is no longer that package. I thought that meant all of the locals or at least two would be upcoming. Only one so far FOX. I have been given a grace period on the increase for now and maybe that is partly because I still have only one network. Otherwise I have been beset with regular glitches, problems including messed up dvr recordings, etc, etc. The list it long. I still cannot get smooth play using the browser app. Just last night an amazon update was required for my firestick and that along with phone calls, Pvue reset etc had me out of tv for one full hour. I sit down to watch some tv and this is what I get for an evening? I don’t know why but I am delaying going to a YouTubeTV trial because PVue is still $30. I think I am going to do the trial though because the aggravation is worth more than $5 difference if YouTubeTv is ok.
We split our cable bill with our renter, but I think my wife and I are ready to get rid of it once she moves out (likely this Summer). There’s just too many cord-cutting options. I think we’ll get the $20/month Sling TV subscription, Netflix, and an HD antenna and be good to go. That’s just $30/month and no need to play games with the cable company (I’m sick of their crap!). And with Sling we’d even have ESPN, one of the last reasons people even consider keeping cable anymore (sports!).
As part of this switch over, we installed an over-the-air antenna. This allows us to pick up a large number of local channels. We live close enough to the Des Moines metro area that we can pick up strong signals from a lot of stations in Des Moines. (It’s worth noting that this is aided by the fact that there’s a repeater tower within five miles of our house, which means the signals are strong.) This includes the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS – and a large number of additional channels of varying quality, including an all-children’s channel and a channel that seems to be nothing but a loop of the weather forecast.
These add-ons are called Amazon Channels. Some channels are ones you’ve heard of. Many others you haven’t. Amazon Channels range in price and can sometimes the premium ones like Showtime are slightly cheaper than subscribing directly to the platform. It’s worth looking over Amazon Channels to see if there’s a combination of streaming options that works for you to replace cable TV.
This streaming service has the seasons of most, if not all, broadcast TV series such as (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW) with the latest recently aired episodes. Hulu also hosts a large selection of cable network series (including Comedy Central, MTV, and A&E). They have a movie library, but its content is not that good. Although their number of originals doesn’t match those of Netflix, Hulu has been trying to push some of its originals like The Hotwives of Orlando and Deadbeat. Their service costs about 7.99$ a month, 11.99$ if you want a commercial-free streaming experience. For those who are addicted to traditional television, Hulu Live TV is their best chance at watching the full lineups of national networks and locals. If you’re are TV-oriented, Hulu Plus is the best option for you. While you can get plenty of Hulu for free, paying 8$ on a monthly basis will get you the next-day service you need.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
This is a little hard to answer because I don’t know the make and model of your TV. That said, your antenna should be plugged in to your ATSC input, and you will need to scan for channels once the antenna is plugged in. Your QAM input is not for your antenna. It’s for a cable hookup. If you have a quality TV, I imagine the picture-in-picture should work with OTA channels unless your tuner has some kind of restriction.
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.