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.
6 months ago I decided to try and replace my Dish Network service. I built a HTPC with plenty of power, storage, and have a pretty high speed internet service. I put up an outside antenna and get all the stations from about 60 miles away in the computer using a Hauppauge 4 tuner card. Then I started looking at program content providers including IPTV providers and several others such as Hulu and DirecTV Now. I was able to get Kodi and NextPVR loaded on the computer and had some success with OTA and the 2nd IPTV provider I tried. Then I had a problem with them. I decided I would go with DirecTV Now and actually got it working but not with Kodi. I think PlayOn will allow me to connect DTVN to Kodi but not sure how that will work.
With the exception of Sling TV and HBO Now, the latter of which is available for $15 per month, prices for these services start at under $10 apiece. It’s easy to mix-and-match providers as none of these companies require contracts. You can even share login info with a friend down the block or sibling on the other side of the country, without worrying about anyone getting on your case.
Sling TV is the streaming service that also offers live TV over the internet. It’s essentially cable TV without the contract or the massive bill. Currently, if you sign up for Sling TV you get a Free Roku. They also offer a free 7-day trial membership to try out their service. The service works on every major OTT streaming device and recently began offering a cloud DVR. Sling TV also streams NBC live online along with Fox and ABC in select markets.
It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
If you subscribe to DirecTV Now, you can add HBO for $5 per month. Same goes for adding Cinemax — $5. Showtime or Starz will cost you an added $8 per month. It doesn’t matter which channel bundle you subscribe to, so you can even just get the 60+ channel bundle for $35 per month. Parent company AT&T has offered this deal since 2016, and there’s no indication that it is going away anytime soon.
These do require additional hardware, running extra cables from your TV, and waiting at least a day to watch the newest episodes of cable network shows. And if you're hoping to sever all ties with your cable provider, that's not going to be an option in many regional markets, as you'll still need them for the high-speed Internet service that makes this all work. But the cost savings of dropping the TV package can be substantial, and there have never been as many good choices available as there are today in both hardware and content. Here's what you'll need.
Another issue is the availability of the local streams for networks like the Big 4: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Several reasons prevent the services from just putting local streams out there. As a result, you will find situations like in Phoenix where YouTube TV streams all four, Sling TV streams just FOX and DirecTV Now can’t stream local channels at all. You can read our review of the best services for streaming local TV for more details.
Personally, I have a 50 Mbps connection through a Verizon Fios internet only plan. They have competitive pricing for internet service. Furthermore, the quality of service is excellent, and the customer support is much better than other major competitors. See if they are available in your area by checking this promo page. I was able to get their service at a great price using that link.
By making use of industry-wide data and the latest proprietary technology, we’ve been able to gather a large amount of information that will allow you to determine the best available local internet and television service providers in your zip code area. In the age of technology, you want to know that you have steady access to internet and television—but you don’t want to be spending a fortune on your service either.
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.
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.
Like PlayStation Vue, AT&T's DirecTV Now has several tiers, starting with $35 a month, going to $50 for 80+ channels, $60 for 100+, and $70 for 120+. That does include Viacom stations and all the networks except CBS; the priciest plan offers up multiple Starz-related channels; HBO and Cinemax are here but for $5 per month extra each; Showtime is $8 per month extra.
Satellite TV and internet work by transmitting data over radio waves. TV and internet broadcasters transmit radio waves to satellites and then, the satellite transmits the signal back to your receiving satellite dish. The dish passes the signal onto your TV and internet receiver, which processes the signal and passes it to your TV or computer for enjoyment.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Sling TV, you’ll still be more than $200 ahead. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option and subscribe to Showtime through Hulu and save another $72. Or you can drop Sling TV for Showtime and save an extra $108.
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.
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.
A la carte TV is basically already here. It may not be in the exact form you want it. But if you can’t find something to watch these days between your TV antenna and streaming box, then I suggest you sell your TV and stick with books. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Even though I pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and Philo every month, I still love free apps like YouTube.
Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.
If you want to take advantage of streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth — you'll need a way to display them on your TV. If you have a recent TV from a major manufacturer, you may not need to get anything at all. Smart TVs usually have these apps built in, and almost every high-end TV sold within the last two years or so has smart capabilities.
Shudder is geared for horror fans, and it carries more than just movies. There are classic movies that you’ll recognize (Reanimator) and (Hellraiser). There’s campy horror, and foreign horror. There are a number of series from overseas. One of the better ones, “Beyond The Walls”, is a three-part mini-series that starts when she inherits a house across the street from her apartment. It was willed to her by an elderly man she never met. There are also longer series like Jordskott and sci-fi based Missions.
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.
One of my personal favorites is Amazon Prime, which gives you access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, and documentaries, and there are thousands of other movies and shows available on a pay per view basis. There is a monthly fee to use Amazon Prime, but it is much more than just a TV subscription as you can also get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, borrow Kindle books for free, and more – all for less than $8 a month (Amazon Prime is one of the best deals in the tech world, in my opinion!).
Let's not forget that most of us have access to live television! I know it sounds arcane, but it is still possible to pick up most major channels using a high-definition digital antenna. If the biggest thing holding you back from taking the leap is that you just can't wait an extra second to watch that television show, a good digital antenna will do the trick.
Having said all that, if I were to buy a TV today, I might consider either the new Amazon Fire TV edition made by Element that just hit the market. You will essentially get a 4K TV with the latest streaming software from Amazon Fire TV baked in your TV set. Fire TV is becoming a lot more neutral in terms of supported platforms and apps, but it’s best suited for people who use Amazon Prime. Also, the new line of TCL Roku TVs with 4K HDR look interesting to me for similar reasons. I haven’t tested out either of those TVs so I can’t recommend one over the other. But it’s food for thought. Hope that helps.
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.
Committing to a long term contract can be scary, especially when you're not sure what your budget is going to look like in the next few months. Luckily, there are providers that offer “no commitment” options, so you won't be tied down by a contract. Providers like Spectrum even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide the service isn't worth the price, they'll give your money back: no questions asked and no hassle. If you're already stuck in a long-term contract from a previous cable provider with early termination fees, not to worry! Spectrum even offers to buy you out of your previous contract for up to $500, so you can get out of your commitment at no extra cost.
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.
The best way to check this is to search by your zip code. If you’re in a more rural area, satellite internet and TV might be an option you want to pursue. Although satellite isn’t ideal for internet speed, it can do the job in a pinch. If you’re in a metropolitan area, you might have access to fiber internet and TV, which is far faster than DSL and most cable networks.
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
Such stations may use similar on-air branding as that used by the nearby broadcast network affiliate, but the fact that these stations do not broadcast over the air and are not regulated by the FCC, their call signs are meaningless. These stations evolved partially into today's over-the-air digital subchannels, where a main broadcast TV station e.g. NBS 37* would – in the case of no local CNB or ABS station being available – rebroadcast the programming from a nearby affiliate but fill in with its own news and other community programming to suit its own locale. Many live local programs with local interests were subsequently created all over the United States in most major television markets in the early 1980s.
Showtime has made itself an add-on with just about any service that offers the option. It's available through Hulu, Amazon Prime, and CBS All Access, plus the live TV streaming services (below). Or use the apps on Apple TV, iOS, Android, Roku, and Xbox One. The price to get Showtime those services is generally a couple buck lower per month, a $24 a year savings.
Just like it does with TV service, CableTV.com shows you cable internet providers in your area along with any competing fiber, DSL, or satellite internet providers. You can even see which providers in your area offer to bundle both TV and internet service. This helps you identify potential savings because almost all companies that provide both services offer discounts for bundling.
Bear in mind that, if you’re on the ball, there’s also plenty you can watch for free — with no need to subscribe to anything. This may change in the future as major media companies put more of their products behind a paywall, but for now, some major channels (like ABC, Fox, the CW and PBS) make select episodes of their shows available online for nothing, for a limited time after their original broadcasts. You can watch them through a web browser or through an app on your set-top box.
Not all media streamers offer the same channels: Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as standalone media streamers, don't all offer the same selection of channels and services. Roku devices are the most comprehensive with up to 4,500 possibilities, but there are other media streamers available (such as Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and others) that may not have the channels and services you desire.