With services like Showtime, HBO, Hulu, and many others now streaming their programming online, cord cutting has firmly entered the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get all your favorite shows over the internet. In order to make the transition away from cable as simple as possible, we’ve put together six streaming “packages” that should meet the needs of the most common types of TV viewers.
Comcast has earned a reputation for bad customer service, but it has steadily improved its ratings year after year. Its ACSI score rose by eight points in just one year, from 54 out of 100 in 2015 to 62 out of 100 in 2016. This is an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation and will likely continue to progress. Though from 2017 to 2018, its rating did drop by one point.
Now we come to the one thing that's still a challenge for cord cutters, depending on what sports and teams you want to watch. Sports programming is by far the most expensive content on TV. For the average U.S. pay-TV subscriber, about 40% of your monthly programming cost is due to the sports content that is carried on the various cable network channels in your TV package.
The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.

Free yourself of some common misconceptions and all the bad advice you’ve read. Read the findings of the 2016 Congressional investigation by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), a top ranking chairman on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Her committee delved into pricing and customer service practices for the major cable providers across the U.S.

Over the last few years, however, I’ve noticed that I barely watch any television at all. I just generally prefer to read books or to play a board game in the evening rather than watching television. So, for me, the cost of a cable bill is kind of excessive. I could justify spending $10 or $15 a month on Netflix, but paying $80 or $100 a month for a bunch of channels I don’t watch just isn’t worth it.
I started out at $98 with my current bill, including two $10/mo cable boxes for decoding even the basic cable (local channels), which I had cut back to in March from a $200 bill under a “promo” deal for staying with their “triple play”. I had also just bought a $19 HD TV antenna and can pick up all but 3 of the 60 channels in reach perfectly on my first pass. I bet I can get those 3 clear (one is ABC) if I work at location/angle. Also took out a PlayStation Vue free week trial offer, and it works fine on my smart Sony Android TV (have to upgrade my dumb one which has Apple Gen 3 – probably will do your recommended Amazon FireTV).
I have started cutting the cord by adding antenna outside that is bringing in 34 channels. I use netflicks, hulu and fire tv. All 4 tvs using different devices. Dish reduce my bill and I keep 200 channels as I have no contract for 77.00 a month with one joey. looking forward to learn more from your website to get more value from the services I use.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
A Nielsen report showed that during the fourth quarter of 2011, the number of people paying for television had dropped by 15 million people (a rate of 1.5 percent), and the number of cable subscribers dropped by 2.9 million.[11] A 2012 Deloitte report said 9% of television households dropped cable service during 2011 and an additional 11% planned to cancel their service.[12] Sanford Bernstein estimates 400,000 dropped pay video services during the second quarter of 2012, up from 340,000 in 2011. One reason for the drop was college students' returning home for the summer, while the companies made up for the loss in other quarters. However, the number of new homes paying for television service is less than the total number of new homes.[5] Another possible reason is services, such as time shifting and live recording capabilities, that were once exclusive to pay television services, are now being offered to cord cutters.[13] Although the number of subscribers usually increases in the third quarter, in 2012 only 30,000 people added pay television service, according to a study by the International Strategy & Investment Group. Cable lost 340,000 subscribers (with Time Warner Cable accounting for 140,000 of that number) and satellite gained only 50,000; telephone companies added 320 subscribers.[14] Throughout 2012, pay television added only 46,000 new subscribers, out of 974,000 new households overall, according to SNL Kagan. 84.7 percent of households subscribed, compared to 87.3 percent in early 2010.[15]

Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.


As I kept vague tabs on everyone’s television habits over the spring and summer, a few patterns emerged. The biggest one was that YouTube and Netflix were watched on the television far more than the actual cable service. The second was that most of what was actually watched on the cable service were series that could easily be found on other streaming services for far less money. By subscribing to Netflix and Sling TV, with occasional subscriptions to other services for a month to binge watch a particular series or two, we cover virtually everything that we had watched on television throughout the spring and summer.
Customer service is fairly average, with a rating of 60 out of 100 from the ACSI and 59 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. This can be attributed to the fact that you’ll likely have to call to get any information and access to more plan options. Those plans might include a Frontier Prime plan, that has 60% of the most popular channels. It only skips out on HBO, Nick at Nite, and other premium networks.

Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.
Having bundles, also helps. While with DTV and AT&T, you still get access to DTVN streaming content, but also 15 channels of HBO and HBO GO. After the bundle rebates, the cost is $50/mo, for the lowest tier. Certainly not cable, and your money is going to the same company, but you do get the best of both, full 5 tuner DVR whole home DVR service, plus on the go streaming. What I am trying to say, Satellite service isn't Cable or Streaming. They traditionally were the rebels against Cable TV prices. However after some time they turned into nothing under $110/mo, a lot like cable. But while there's a lot of customer churn, the prices and business modeling has changed. I am liking it, while it lasts.

As if to emphasize the idea that streaming is just re-creating the existing television landscape in a different venue, CBS recently announced the launch of CBSN Local, a local news addition to its CBSN streaming service. CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn called the service, expected to launch at the end of 2018 in New York, “the exciting next chapter in how our stations will serve audiences seeking local news on all of the most popular content consumption platforms.” Now, even through streaming services, viewers will be able to view localized meme-ready material from wherever they may be at the touch of a screen. (To be fair, this has been expected for some time.)
We’re not talking about those adjustable rabbit ears of the 1950s, but a modern antenna that sits atop your roof or behind a picture in your living room—wherever you get the strongest signal—to deliver live TV (but not streaming videos) without cable. “One of the best cable TV alternatives is the tried-and-true antenna,” says Chris Brantner, known as Mr. Cable Cutter from the website Cut Cable Today. “Most people don’t realize just how many free TV stations they can get with a quality antenna.” According to Brantner, chances are good that you’re in range of dozens of great over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, PBS, ION, and other regional stations. “Many of the most popular TV shows, local sports games, and local news come on OTA TV in crystal-clear high definition,” he adds. “And get this: The broadcasts you can pick up with an HD antenna are higher quality than what cable provides, because their broadcasts are compressed!” Did we mention that these channels are totally free? Remember these money-saving tips that don’t actually pay off in the long run.
I have been looking for cost effective ways to watch television. I can tell you that we pay $200.00 per month in a bundled package. We do not subscribe to any premium channels either. I have a question for you ? So if I buy one of those DVD players that can go online which would be your suggestion for the best program for me ? My husband loves hunting and fishing shows. Amazon does not have those type of shows. I would appreciate your help. Thanks for putting this info out there.
I’ve been following this cord-cutting trend for a while and have read many articles. This is the best, clearest how-to I’ve read. Our DIRECTTV contract is up in April, and we will probably cut the cord. We’re tired of playing the promotion game with Cox, Dish, Direct TV. But the real issue is the internet promotion game with Cox and Centurylink here in Phoenix. The thing is, my 6 and 7 year old already find the shows they want on Hulu and Netflix (one paid and one trial account). So I figure we can get broadcast via OTR, record to Tivo OTR (my wife and I had Tivo years ago and loved it) and stream the popular services through it. I’ve also invested in AppleTV devices for a few years (this is an Apple ecosystem household) and that service is getting better and better (competes with Roku and Sling, to a lesser degree) at having channels available via Apps. Great article!
But if you are serious about cutting the cord, you might want to invest in less-expensive, dedicated solution called a dongle. Smart TVs are great, but technology updates so quickly that it doesn't take long before the "smart" functionality becomes a bit antiquated and you probably don't want to switch out your TV every few years.  Dongles include:
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Last year, the company’s VP of customer service, Tom Karinshak, detailed some steps Comcast is making to overhaul its customer service, including; expanding digital care teams, a callback feature that allows you to schedule a time for Comcast to call you (rather than wait on hold), and an ETA feature that messages customers on the arrival status of service technicians (for installation and troubleshooting).

Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.


Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
Bundles that include television service are offered by cable and phone companies. Since fiber-optic is only available in limited areas, the phone companies usually also offer a bundle where the TV component is delivered by a partner satellite TV company. In any case, bundling TV with some combination of home phone and Internet can yield monthly savings. Click below to see and compare bundle offers.
Then take a look at that list you’ve been putting together. How is it looking? Chances are it may appear a little messy with many side notes and some networks scribbled out. If so, good. Maybe for the first time in your life, you’re taking a hard look at what you are spending on a channel by channel basis. That’s essentially the worst nightmare of cable TV operators.
Pricing & Other Info Offer ends 11/27/18. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only. Limited to X1 Saver Double Play with Digital Starter, Streampix, and Performance Pro Internet service. 1-year minimum term agreement required. Early termination fee applies if all Xfinity services (other than Xfinity Mobile) are cancelled during the agreement term. Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, Broadcast TV Fee (up to $10.00/mo.), Regional Sports Fee (up to $8.00/mo.) and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change during and after the term agreement. Additional outlet service fee applies for multi-room viewing. After term agreement, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Comcast's monthly service charge for X1 Saver Double Play is $100.00, AnyRoom DVR is $9.95, and HD Technology Fee is $10.00 (subject to change). Service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. TV: Limited Basic service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand selections subject to charge indicated at time of purchase. Not all programming available in all areas. Internet: Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. Xfinity hotspots included with Xfinity Internet Performance (and above). Limited hotspot access included for Performance Starter and below. Available in select areas. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month’s recurring service and standard installation charges up to $500. Cards issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa® U.S.A. Inc. Cards will not have cash access and can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Prepaid Card mailed to Comcast account holder within 18 weeks of activation of all required services and expires in 180 days. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2018 Comcast. All rights reserved.
There are still some free streaming options, but they are limited, understandably. Hulu dropped its ad-supported free option in 2016, but the CW’s proprietary app still works on that model. CBSN and the upcoming CBSN Local are both free-to-view, working off of the reasonable assumption that no one wants to pay a monthly subscription fee for TV news these days. But given the widespread failure of online advertising, it’s not too surprising that paid subscriptions are the normal business model for most streaming content.
The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.
Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.
We think it’s worth the upgrade to the Hopper though, because along with all the other awesome Hopper features, DISH has integrated Amazon Alexa voice commands into its DVR experience. No longer must you sift through the couch-cushion chasms to find your lost remote. You can simply tell Alexa to turn on This Is Us and cry your eyes out with the rest of us.
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.
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