If there's one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there's a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.
It could be true that choosing one of these options won’t get you all of shows you could get with cable. However, if you truly want to get rid of cable, knowing what some of the options are can help you choose the BEST one. Then you can make the decision of whether or not it is worth it to spend the additional money to get the extra one or two channels through cable OR sacrifice one or two shows to save a BUNCH of money. It just depends your priorities.
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
For the base price, you get on-demand stuff from almost all of the networks (but not The CW) and even get them live in some markets. There are lots of basic cable stations (minus Viacom-owned stations like SyFy and Comedy Central). Each new tier of service adds more channels, going up to $44.99 to add some sports programming, and $54.99 for 90 channels, ending with $74.99—that Ultra package has those 90 channels plus paid cable services HBO and Showtime (but no Starz) for a little less than adding them separately.
This is just a variation on what cable companies have done for television channels for decades. Streaming content originally appeared to offer a direct alternative to that model, but service providers and content creators alike can see a lot of benefits to resurrecting the concept. Service providers offering cross-platform streaming bundles get to boast about offering such an extended range of viewing options while making access easier than ever for users. Content creators can once again leverage desire for high-demand channels to push additional offerings of lesser popularity. It’s the win-win strategy of the Comcast-Amazon partnership (taken to a further extreme, in theory), but it’s also exactly the content delivery model that has been on offer for decades, merely ported over onto a new platform.
HBO®, CINEMAX® and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc. HBO GO® and MAX GO® are only accessible in the U.S. and certain U.S. territories where a high-speed broadband connection is available. Minimum 3G connection is required for viewing on mobile devices. Some restrictions may apply. All devices, titles and related trademarks are property of their respective owners. For specific technical requirements for devices, go to hbogo.com/devices or maxgo.com/#devices.
Two of the biggest providers of skinny channel bundles are satellite TV companies Dish Network (Sling TV) and AT&T's DirecTV (DirecTV Now). It seems crazy to consider Sling TV and DirecTV clients to have "cut the cord" since pay-TV companies are continuing to make money off them. Analysts at eMarketer, however, take the opposite view, as do other experts.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
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.
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.
The dirty secret about internet-based TV services is that they are far more profitable for the pay-TV industry than their traditional lines of business. U nlike video, high-speed internet is growing. Leichtman estimates that the largest cable and telephone providers had 455,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in the most recent quarter compared, topping the 235,000 gain from a year earlier.
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
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.
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.
This technology eliminates some of the problems associated with cable TV. For example, because satellite TV doesn’t depend on physical cable connections, satellite service is available to a much wider range of customers. This means that satellite TV is available in most parts of the US, basically to anyone with a satellite dish, so some of the people in remote areas who can’t get cable TV can get satellite TV without issue.
In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.
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.
We bought the adapter boxes for our old analog TV’s and watch broadcast digital. Our favorite channel is Retro TV. They broadcast old TV series (we’re old, too). Some good stuff. We have been disappointed in the quality of broadcast digital, however. The picture is constantly breaking up. We get “No Signal” way too often. Maybe it’s the cheap adapter or cheap antenna. Anyway, “not as advertised” by the government. The quality and reliability of broadcast analog was much better.
I would like to start cutting the cord. I am under a contract with Comcast and have a year to go. I have 5 TV’s connected at a rental of $10 each. I would like to find a way to return at least 4 of the boxes back in. What can you recommend that will still allow me to access the channel content that I am paying for? I do have a Amazon Fire box. Thanks for your help.
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.