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.
Antenna: The antenna is the way TV started. You connect an indoor or outdoor antenna to your TV and receive programs from over-the-air local and network affiliate TV channels. This is a great way to receive free programming from the major TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, and PBS). It is important to note that older analog TVs, and many HDTVs made before 2007, will require the use of a digital converter box that is placed between the antenna and the TV.
Many broadband providers require a cable modem with DOCSIS 3.0 so if you decide to go for a used modem, be sure you’re getting one that’s recent enough to be compatible with your local broadband provider. Your cable modem is the foundation of your Internet connection. Somehow, the importance of it is often overlooked by many people. There’s another building block also often overlooked, but worth re-visiting if you are entering the land of cord cutting.
Let's not fool ourselves, the media companies go where the money is, and right now that's still the cable/satellite/telco providers by a wide margin. But according to Steve Shannon, Roku's General Manager of Content and Services, the tide is turning in negotiations between content providers and cable distributors with more rights becoming available for streaming services. "As each contract comes up for renewal, digital rights are becoming more valuable," he says. "Content creators recognize that there's value there and as cable companies are looking to reduce programming costs, some are giving up the digital rights."
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.
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:
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
If you want—or need—to see a significant number of your local teams’ games, I’m going to stop right here. This is one area where streaming services can’t yet fully deliver. Local games are generally exclusive to regional sports networks, and you’ll still need cable for that. There’s also the issue of some online services being a little more unstable than die-hard fans might like. Dish’s Sling TV failed for many customers during this weekend’s NCAA Final Four action, leading the company to issue an apology.
One big advantage Roku offers though is a choice of four models ranging in features and price, from the $50 Roku LT to the faster and higher resolution $100 Roku 3. With over 1,000 channels, Roku has long had an edge over its Apple rival in terms of content, but unsurprisingly, many channels are of limited appeal. While it lacks support for iTunes, Roku counters with the Amazon Instant video store (unavailable on Apple TV). Roku also offers both a PBS and PBS Kids channel.
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!
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As the name suggests, cable internet works by using the same analog cables traditionally used to deliver cable television. These copper coaxial cables travel from your home to the a neighborhood node, and then to your service provider. Cable internet has a wider bandwidth than DSL, and unlike fiber, it’s already installed in most homes, which makes cable service convenient for getting high-speed internet with minimal installation. And if you’re interested in getting cable TV as well, bundling cable services can often save you money over getting the services separately.
With a fiber TV and internet connection, you get internet and TV signals via fiber-optic lines instead of copper lines or satellite radio signals. Fiber-optic lines use tiny strands of plastic or glass to transmit light in a binary data code, which means they have a higher bandwidth than copper wires. Copper wires, intended for voice transmission, can’t carry as much data as fiber-optic lines, which were designed for light transmissions.
Netflix.com: There is a monthly cost associated with Netflix , but the added convenience of keeping the movies and TV shows as long as you want, and being able to stream a selection of movies and TV shows over the computer through one of the options above, make it worth it. $8.99 for the basic package, plus you can get a 1 month netflix free trial!
I saw somewhere online that there is a free streaming service that offered nearly 200 channels for free. Why do You not include that service in Your overview? You are right about Direct T.V. That's what I have now and it is EXPENSIVE and a terrible service. I am hell bent on getting rid of it. I just can't decide whether to go with streaming or a cable service. How dependable are the steaming services?
What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There's now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs even when they’re outside the home.
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
Amazon Prime Video subscribers should look over what HBO content is already in your membership. There are already full seasons of older, but popular shows like “The Wire” included in your Prime Video subscription. There are plenty of other ways to subscribe to HBO. You can get HBO added to Amazon Channels or a Sling TV subscription, but you’re paying $15 per month in either case. So before you start binging on Game of Thrones, shop around and see what you can get.
Streaming sticks, which include the Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, aren’t much bigger than a pack of gum, and they plug right into your TV’s HDMI port. You can then use your smartphone, laptop or—in Roku’s case—a remote control to launch hundreds of steaming apps. These devices are available for well under $50 apiece, and, on their own, don’t require a monthly fee.
The major network channels are all broadcast in HD. And you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the quality of uncompressed HD video in an antenna feed is actually superior to what you've been getting with your cable box. Cable operators have to deliver hundreds of channels, plus broadband and phone service over a single connection to your home, so the TV signal is usually compressed to conserve bandwidth. Not so with your OTA feed. The difference is immediately noticeable. Outside of a Blu-ray movie, this is the best output I've ever seen on my TV. And did I mention the channels are free?
By 2015, Wall Street had changed its tune. With about 40 million U.S. subscribers, Netflix was becoming a clearer threat. Analysts started pushing media companies to reclaim those old episodes from Netflix to make cable TV more attractive, which could slow the rise of cord-cutting. That year, Todd Juenger, an influential analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, estimated that big media companies, including Viacom, Fox, and CBS, would have been worth a total $45 billion more if they hadn’t done business with Netflix in the first place.
Dish TV: Dish Network offers a range of packages made up of the most popular channels. Prices range from $40 for more than 67 channels to $75 per month for the full suite of 290+ channels. One of the best things about Dish Network and its TV packages are their innovative custom option called Flex Pack. This plan allows you to choose from different sets of channels, rather than paying a fixed amount for a predetermined lineup. Check out Dish TV's channel guide here.
If you're opting for streaming you have a lot more control about your choices. While a service like PlayStation Vue brings packages that are cable-like with more channels as they grow in price, Sling TV starts lower at $25, and offers more flexibility in what you can choose to add. If you only need a few channels, picking the right provider will be everything, and without contracts, you can swap services in and out as necessary. Pick up CBS All Access with its free introductory month to catch up on Star Trek, then jump over to HBO Now to binge Game of Thrones while you wait for the next season.