Our view: If you've got a good $50- to $60-a-month internet plan and can add an antenna for local channels and maybe a Netflix or a Hulu, you will pay less. But many of us have TV/internet bundles that raise the price of internet if we drop TV. That's what happened with me and Frontier, when the company said my $35 monthly internet charge would double to $70 if I ditched cable.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
You will obviously need a modem to gain access to a cable internet service. So, you can either buy the modem or rent it from your provider. In addition to that, you will also need to check whether the provider offers free equipment installation or not. You will now need to add up all these costs and check whether the final price seems affordable or not. If it doesn’t seem affordable to you, it is best to look for other options.
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month.
The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
Update: Been using PSVue for a couple months now. Overall just okay. TV guide / listing is below par and very hard to navigate but my biggest irritation is trying to use my phone or tablet while traveling. The constant re-entering of passwords and 2nd phone text verification is overwhelming. They also use one of the picture verification codes that is such a pain that I am now considering switching to something else. Also, you need to make sure you sign on with your portable device prior to leaving home, if you don’t you will NOT be able to watch anything on it as it must first “sync” to your home account before you can use is away from home. It is a nightmare constantly signing into the service when you are not at home.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
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.
This is a big deal for Amazon, which had previously refrained from partnering with any US pay-TV service to offer Amazon Prime Video. (The full scope of the deal is unclear at this point; neither partner revealed financial terms.) It’s arguably a bigger deal for Comcast, however. The partnership lets it remain relevant by allowing it to at least temporarily bypass the existential terror felt by cable providers in response to cord-cutting, the trend for viewers to shift from traditional cable television to streaming services.
If you (and your significant other) are comfortable with a larger, more industrial design, the $100 ClearStream 2 is an indoor/outdoor antenna that boasts a 50-mile range. The benefit of the more powerful Clearstream 2 is that I could place it anywhere in the room and pull in 70 channels, ranging from the major networks to PBS affiliates and local Spanish and Chinese language broadcasts.
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.
You forgot Playstation Vue. It’s way better than Sling (Sling’s app is terrible), has full function cloud DVR and OnDemand access, and has access to local Comcast SportsNet channels (DirecTV Now doesn’t in Philly). I’ve been using Vue for 6 months and I did a trial of DirectTV Now and Sling. DirecTV probably has the best app (Amazon Fire), but Vue has the best content if you’re a sports fan. Sling is a distant 3rd, worst app and worst performance.
Hey Matt, great question. Sling Box is not going to be related to Sling TV, and as far as I know there’s no benefit to having that box if you’re wanting to sign up for Sling TV. In terms of minimum internet speed, I would at least recommend 50mbps. That’s what I have at my house right now and it works the vast majority of the time; however, I think 100mbps would also be a much safer bet if you were looking for more constancy.
There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).
You probably want amplification, unless you're living next door to the local broadcast tower. They don't make the signal stronger coming in the house; they make an already low signal strong enough for the TV tuner to use. Even some of the flat antennas have amplification options; but amplification ups the cost. Setup is easy, but you'll have to play with the antenna position to maximize reception—just like fiddling with rabbit ear antennas in the 1970s. Some outdoor antennas can work from inside if they're up high—say in your attic—if there isn't a lot of obstruction.
The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time.