This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
Initial installation may be more expensive with satellite service than initial installation with cable TV. Satellite dishes can be costly, so if your plan doesn’t include a satellite dish and installation, you can end up paying a good deal extra for these services. However, a lot of companies will include a satellite dish and installation for no extra cost, so just be sure to read the fine print.
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.
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.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.
We interviewed about 20 current and former industry executives and analysts to understand why traditional television has started losing its foothold in America’s living rooms. Some blamed their peers for decisions that made cable too pricey or opened the door to online competition, and many declined to be identified for fear of angering business associates. In reality, almost everyone played a role in jeopardizing the business.
Keeping a wired connection to your media streamer will always give you the best reception possible. I have zero interest in a wireless connection for my main television. But we don’t live in a wired world that much anymore. If you have a second (or third) television that streams off of a media stick or gaming console, it’s a good time to check the strength of your wireless router.
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.
There's no need to break the bank just to get television. Plenty of providers offer cheap cable TV packages, so you can save your money for what really matters. Check out Spectrum's Triple Play bundles. When you bundle with internet and home phone services, you can get TV and internet for as little as $30 a month for each. DIRECTV also offers affordable plans. You can get over 155 channels for just $35 a month. If you cut out just a few Starbucks and late night froyo trips every month, you could use the savings on hours of priceless entertainment!
Fiber-Optic TV is one of the newest types of television technology. Light travels through glass or plastic cables to deliver all of your favorite channels. These cables are much stronger than the copper cables used for cable TV, and they can transmit data across further distances while still maintaining the same high quality picture and sound. Fiber is typically the most reliable option, because the connection isn't affected by power outages or bad weather like cable and satellite TV are. Many fiber TV providers offer bundles with fiber internet, which is extremely fast. One of the downfalls to fiber television is that it has limited availability because it's a newer technology, so it may not be offered in your area. These fiber cables must also be installed perfectly by a professional to function properly, which is part of the reason that availability is limited. Fiber TV tends to be a more expensive option, but its incredible HD quality and reliability are worth the price!
Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are the best-known subscription-based services, and for good reason. They have excellent selections of TV shows and movies, both modern and classic, and the services are quite inexpensive. Each one costs between $8 and $12 per month, depending on what kind of options you need. Even if you subscribe to all three, this will represent a substantial price break over cable.
TV providers advertise low prices to entice new customers. These promotional rates will usually increase at the end of your initial contract and jump to the regular monthly price. However, some providers will increase rates in the middle of your contract. Most companies have rate information on their websites, but you should also confirm any rate increases with a sales representative.
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
Know when special pricing ends. If you're taking advantage of an introductory offer with limited time pricing, set a reminder in your calendar for one month before the offer expires. This way you have plenty of notice to call your provider and negotiate a new deal with them. Failure to do so could result in your bill going up by as much as double when your offer expires.
DirecTV Now offers a generous number of channels across four different packages, and it doesn't cost all that much, considering how much you get: $35 per month for more than 60 channels, up to $70 per month for more than 120 channels. While it's a good deal on paper, DirecTV Now itself has inconsistent video quality, a suboptimal interface and a haphazard selection of on-demand content. DVR options are still in their infancy, and platform availability is all over the place. If you want the largest amount of stuff to watch for the least amount of money, DirecTV Now works; otherwise, it's not the best choice.
I don’t know about that with the resolution and picture. I only have experience with Vue and Sling. I have been using Vue for about a year and a half. I don’t know what it streams at but it has always been a very good picture for me using my firestick. Even when my net goes down to 6m, but lower will bring on some stutters. Sling on the firestick or browser was definitely lower quality. Fuzzy for smaller items and hair looks like dark blobs. Much harder to make out say race car #’s. Still decent, but I need better for a lot of what I do. With Vue the problem I have is tons of goofy glitches and molasses operation with the firestick. I understand other devices like the fire box work better. Using either firefox or chrome has lots of player crashes and some stuttering that I am trying to fix on my pc. May be my setup but I am suspicious with the fact that all other streaming is fine. I know the firestick worked much quicker and better with Sling and any other content provider. So I believe that Vue’s setup is not working well with the firestick or with browsers. They are using adobe flash, the one that has always had these kind of problems and is dying a slow death as everyone moves away. They need to ditch that. I wish I could get YouTube TV to try that, but I am afraid that all of these services are going to end up finding a way to insert commercials that there is no way to get around. So we pay and still are forced into lots of loud obnoxious rude commercials. I really wish that cable would bring their prices in line and let me keep my real dvr. Near perfection with a wired connection and no need for extra speedier expensive net service and all of the glitches with that. At this point video and even phones are much better wired. Need lots of work to ever get that all working reliably.
Cable TV is fairly easy to install, but it can also be time-consuming. Cable companies will send someone to install the system of cables and cable boxes for you. However, these appointments can eat up a lot of time and cost extra. Cable companies generally don’t give a specific price quote for their installation services, but installation service can often run as high as $200 depending on the provider.
Way back when, cable and satellite TV were initially sold to consumers as an add-on: Get all of your local channels, along with uncut movies, more televisions programs and additional sports. But pulling the plug on cable doesn’t necessarily mean you can just go back to broadcast networks only. Modern homes and apartments are no longer wired-up with antennas the way they were 30 years ago. Indoor HDTV antennas are available at prices ranging from under $20 to move than $150, but the quality of the signal and the number of channels that come in clearly vary depending on external factors, like whether you live near mountains or skyscrapers.
What you get: The Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu now also offers a combined plan, priced at $13 per month, that bundles a Spotify subscription with Hulu’s entry-level on-demand service.
FuboTV ($34.99/mo.): Although it is best known for its wide array of international sports networks — it’s particularly ideal for fans of soccer and college athletics — FuboTV also includes a solid package of basic cable outlets and some local network channels. The service offers 30 hours of cloud DVR storage and a “three-day replay” function, giving subscribers three days to watch broadcasts that they forgot to record (with some exceptions because of licensing limitations).
Who says you have to watch TV on an actual TV? Take your shows and go with Wave TV on the Go. Wave TV service includes a free app so you can watch some of your favorite shows on your screen of choice. Catch great shows from your computer or any compatible mobile device. With participating channels like ABC, A&E, Cartoon Network, ESPN, sports and news stations, there is something for everyone.
You can also find many television shows on Youtube.com. The video sharing site is not actually intended for television shows, but many people take the time to record and upload their favorite television series. You will have to watch more than one video to get a complete episode, but they’re typically labeled with the name of the show, the episode number, and then “video 1” or “video 2”, so you can piece together the various videos you need to watch to see the whole show. While a little inconvenient, if the goal is to save money, even Youtube.com is a good option for cutting your $60 or $130 cable bill!
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.
We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
There’s a good chance you won’t have more than two options for your cable TV service. Providers have limited competition by avoiding regions with existing monopolies. We favored cable providers with widespread available that were the most likely to be available to you. Local and more regional providers (like WOW! or Cincinnati Bell), score great in customer service but offer service in fewer than 10 states. If you happen to live somewhere with a local provider, it’s still worth considering.
Talk about getting more bang for your buck! Gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony can actually stream shows, according to Tom’s Guide. Just install the app for the streaming services you’re interested in and bam—now you don’t have to buy new equipment. There may be some limitations to the services you can watch through these devices, so be aware of those downsides to this cable TV alternative.
Cord Cutting Strategy #5: When you call to cancel the service, they will try to retain you with some very low offers. Ignore those offers and stick to your plan. Stating clearly that you do not watch the service any more is a great way to cut through their offers. Expect to spend some time on the phone, and expect some significant “we want you back” offers afterwards; just ignore them all.
DIRECTV also offers more full-time high-definition (HD) channels than anyone, and it has the ability to record up to 200 hours of HD video content. So whether you’re tuning in to see Tom Brady’s piercing baby-blue eyes or just want to marvel at the realistic zombie makeup on The Walking Dead, you can expect a crystal clear picture for both live TV and recorded shows off your Genie DVR.
The Fire TV Cube adds voice controls to your TV, sound bar and even (ahem…) a cable box — if you’re into that sort of thing. Being able to turn on your TV, or even start a show on Hulu while you’re TV is still off really feels like a luxury coming from a more expensive television. I just reviewed the new Fire TV Cube and thought that Amazon did a really great job.
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.
The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
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People living in remote valleys of the country came up with an innovative idea to solve their reception problems. They put up antennas on hilltops and ran cable wires into their house for better reception. The cable providers are currently using the same technology for offering a variety of channels and programs that meets the individual needs of every customer.
Yes, Amazon Prime requires an internet connection to stream video. I recommend getting cable internet vs. dial up or DSL. DSL may be fast enough, but dial up will not be. A basic cable internet package should be enough for streaming video. Try the minimum plan, but if it isn’t fast enough, then bump up the service one level, try that, and repeat if necessary. But you should be fine with the basic package. Also be sure to check how much data streaming you have to be sure you don’t go over the plan limits, as that may be expensive, depending on your internet provider (many plans offer unlimited downloads, but it’s still a good idea to check).
Typical speeds (speeds that most users can expect during peak usage) are almost always lower than the maximum advertised speed across all providers. Cable providers in particular tend to have lower actual speeds than advertised. Speeds will vary by location. When you enter your zip code above you'll see actual vs. advertised speed for each provider in your area.
If you have unpredictable tastes, but only focus on one show at a time, it might be most cost efficient to just buy all your television a la carte. For the price of a year of cable, the average viewer can buy 26 seasons of TV. Assuming these are all 45 minute shows with 14 episodes, that’s almost 300 hours of content. If you can’t ever imagine yourself 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 or the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching prime time now and then.
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.
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.