(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.)
A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere. It’s easier than you may think, and you don’t have to give up much in the process. Here’s a series of guides to help you cut the cord and start saving money now.
NFL RedZone, produced by NFL Network, whips around every NFL game on Sunday afternoons delivering the touchdowns and most exciting moments as they happen. When a team goes inside the 20-yard line, NFL RedZone takes fans there. The channel keeps fans up-to-date in real time, switching from game to game with live look-ins, highlights and a chance to see the key plays. NFL RedZone also delivers up-to-the-minute fantasy stats, extended highlights, and much more.
There are few networks dealing with this migration to live streaming better than CBS. Their standalone live streaming channel CBSN functions with its own news anchors and has a vibrant roundup of breaking news from around the world. So it really kicks cable-stalwart networks like CNN in shins. CBSN has original programming, including CBSN: On Assignment.
Verizon FiOS TV: Verizon's FiOS fiber television service is available in a number of states along the eastern seaboard and in Oregon and California. The company shook up the pay TV industry in 2015 by launching its custom build-your-own package, which allows customers to choose themed channel packs, similar to Dish's Flex Pack. You can see what channels they offer through our channel guide to Verizon FiOS. You can also bundle FiOS TV with FiOS high-speed internet.
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.
One last point on what to watch: If you really want to pay only for what you want to watch and nothing else, don’t forget that iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Cinema Now, Google Play and others will gladly sell or rent you movies and episodes of TV series to watch on your computer or TV. If you’re thinking of your various subscriptions as an analogue to cable, then think of this option as akin to the old-fashioned “pay per view.” The fees can add up if you watch a lot, but these vendors have some free videos, too.
As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.
You will instantly get over 100 channels, and there are tons more that you can add along the way. PlayLater is software for your computer or mobile device that records streaming media, saving it to your device for future viewing. If you already have a streaming device or gaming console, you've already got most of the features offered by this software, but for $39.99 for lifetime access, you won't waste a lot of money trying it out.
Great article, thanks for all the food for thought! We originally got a great deal from Comcast, the triple play: $99/mo (plus taxes) for the first 2 years, for cable, land line and internet. But now the bill has crept up to around $175/mo. Getting ready to cut the cord, but we have two dilemmas: 1) we didn’t buy a Smart TV so because of some goofy issue with my laptop, I have to reboot it after connecting it to the TV in order to watch anything. A pain in the butt. Have searched extensively and not found a workaround. Are these fire sticks USB devices that would cut out the laptop connection entirely? And 2) we are middle agers with the same land line for 25 years, and it’s like a member of the family… lol. We’re afraid to let it go! It’s been part of our identity for so long, literally (for ID purposes with accounts and such) and figuratively speaking. But I think we’re going to rip the band aid off soon. About all we watch on our 700+ channel Comcast package consistently is Law and Order and Frasier reruns, and the occasional movie. Otherwise it’s just pointless channel flipping.
There are plenty of cable service providers in the country and most of them offer attractive packages or plans to their customers at affordable prices. However, customers who are in search of a cable service provider commonly asks, “who is the best cable service provider in the country” and “how can I acquire a cheap cable TV deal from the providers”.
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.)
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
Cable TV service heavily relies on a network of trunk and fiber optic cables. These cables serve the crucial function of transmitting TV shows, movies, and other programs from the networks to your TV in the form of encrypted signals. In simple words, a cable TV service transmits network contents to your home with the help of a physical connection made up of a network of cables.
That is far from an exhaustive list. You may find some of these on your big TV streaming hub (Roku has a great list of apps), but not all—some may only be on mobile devices. Remember, a lot of the shows that you watch on these stations end up on other services—specifically Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video. So you may not have to suffer through watching these on small screens with un-skippable advertising.
Plan for how you’ll watch TV without cable. “If you want to take advantage of streaming services—such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and so forth—you’ll need a way to display them on your TV,” according to Tom’s Guide, a popular unbiased technology product review site. The top strategies are to buy a smart TV or a streaming device for cable TV alternatives. Netflix is what you want if you like to binge-watch entire seasons of previously aired shows. Hulu is best for the latest popular shows, and Amazon Prime has many of the same titles as Netflix and Hulu but, because it’s newer, lacks the extensive library of shows. Sling TV is another option, and it streams live cable shows.
Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.
On November 28, 2011, a report by Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger said that young people who grew up accustomed to watching shows online would be less likely to subscribe to pay television services, terming these people as "cord-nevers". Anninger predicted that by the end of 2012, the industry's subscriber count would drop by 200,000 to 100.5 million; Anninger's report also stated that consumers were not likely to return to paying for television. In the case of land-line telephones, people had believed younger people would eventually get them, but now numerous subscribers only have mobile phones. Anninger predicted that the same would hold true for pay television, and that providers would need to offer lower-priced packages with fewer channels in order to reverse the trend. Also using the term "cord-nevers" was Richard Schneider, whose company Antennas Direct was selling antennas through the Internet. After a decade in business, the company was selling 600,000 antennas a year. However, Schneider said some people only knew of the Internet and services such as Netflix and were not even aware broadcast television even existed. In a speech on November 16, 2012, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said "cord nevers" did not see anything worth paying for.
If you haven’t heard of Tablo, it is a clever little box. You plug it into your wall socket, connect your over-the-air TV antenna to the Tablo, and then download the sister app to your phone or tablet. The Tablo can connect to your house router via WiFi or by using the included Ethernet cable. I used the cable. Then the app brings up an easy-to-use TV guide on your phone. You can record shows and series as you would with any other DVR, and you can watch live TV through it. Its playback functions and interface are awesome -- much easier to traverse than the one I pay for with ATT -- and let me zip through commercials in seconds. In another part of my home, I have a smart TV with Roku built in. It has a Tablo app on it that allows me to watch my recordings or live TV on the big screen. And I also have a Chromecast on my other TV to do the same.
What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company recently hiked prices by $5 on its various plans. The company's Live a Little plan, which provides 60 channels, now costs $40 per month, and the Just Right package has gone to $55 per month. Go Big jumped to $65 per month, and the top 125-channel plan, Gotta Have It, costs $75 instead of the previous $70. The good news is that the NFL Network has been added to all DirecTV Now's packages starting with Just Right and above, at no additional cost. Also, you can add HBO for just $5 per month. The company will be launching a next-generation version of the service this spring that bumps up the number of simultaneous users from two to three.
K.C. That’s a great way to save money, especially if you aren’t much of a TV watcher. I don’t personally watch much TV, but the shows my wife and I watch tend to be on cable – often the Travel Channel, Food Network, Discover, History, ESPN, and The Disney Channel for our little one. That said, I don’t think we would be heartbroken to cut the cord and go without – just as long as I can keep my fast internet connection! 😉
You could use a number of approaches when faced with the challenge of "How to find cable TV providers near me?" You could spend hours surfing the internet, going through the process of entering your information into each provider's website to see if they service your area. It would be much more effective, however, if you could narrow the search down to the best cable providers in your area before diving into the shopping phase.
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Make sure all of the TVs that you want to be connected are in the house at the time of installation. Keep the area around your TV open so that the technician has room to work. If you're getting satellite, make sure the technician will have easy access to your balcony or roof where the dish will be mounted. Set aside enough time in your schedule for the technician to complete the entire process. Keep your phone on hand in the days and hours leading up to your appointment, so that the technician can call and confirm or alert you to any changes.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
What do you do when your cable box is more useful for telling the time than delivering movies and TV? A decade-plus after Netflix added streaming video the internet is ready to take over for cable and satellite, offering more options and lower rates. Now that you're ready to pull the plug, there's a lot to consider, like who has what, what works where and how much everything costs.