A Nielsen report showed that during the fourth quarter of 2011, the number of people paying for television had dropped by 15 million people (a rate of 1.5 percent), and the number of cable subscribers dropped by 2.9 million. A 2012 Deloitte report said 9% of television households dropped cable service during 2011 and an additional 11% planned to cancel their service. Sanford Bernstein estimates 400,000 dropped pay video services during the second quarter of 2012, up from 340,000 in 2011. One reason for the drop was college students' returning home for the summer, while the companies made up for the loss in other quarters. However, the number of new homes paying for television service is less than the total number of new homes. Another possible reason is services, such as time shifting and live recording capabilities, that were once exclusive to pay television services, are now being offered to cord cutters. Although the number of subscribers usually increases in the third quarter, in 2012 only 30,000 people added pay television service, according to a study by the International Strategy & Investment Group. Cable lost 340,000 subscribers (with Time Warner Cable accounting for 140,000 of that number) and satellite gained only 50,000; telephone companies added 320 subscribers. Throughout 2012, pay television added only 46,000 new subscribers, out of 974,000 new households overall, according to SNL Kagan. 84.7 percent of households subscribed, compared to 87.3 percent in early 2010.
That means all you need is an antenna to start grabbing these network TV signals to display on your television. Now I know what you’re thinking. If you were born before 1985, you probably have vivid memories of static all over the screen as mom or dad adjust the antenna. Digital doesn’t work that way. If your antenna can pick up the channel, then you get the picture as clear as it can be. Otherwise, you don’t get the picture.
One last point on what to watch: If you really want to pay only for what you want to watch and nothing else, don’t forget that iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Cinema Now, Google Play and others will gladly sell or rent you movies and episodes of TV series, to watch on your computer or TV. If you’re thinking of your various subscriptions as an analogue to cable, then think of this option as akin to the old-fashioned “pay per view.” The fees can add up if you watch a lot, but these vendors have some free videos, too.
You’ll get 60+ live TV channels you’re used to seeing like local FOX and CBS alongside ESPN, A&E, History and National Geographic. The subscription also gets you unlimited access to Hulu’s massive on-demand library and Hulu Originals that many folks pay $7.99 per month for. Before signing up for a week-long free trial, look over Hulu’s Live TV channel lineup to see if it’s a good fit for you.
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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.
While most cable companies offer standalone TV services, many also offer TV and internet bundles with built-in savings. Along with saving you money on your monthly bill and possibly installation costs, bundling cable TV and internet could qualify you for equipment upgrades, extra package options and more. Plus, cable TV and internet bundles make shopping for home services simple.
However, the notion that cord-cutting represents an ever-worsening existential crisis for media companies is simplistic at best. To be sure, consumers are plenty mad at their pay-TV providers, which have jacked up prices at three times the rate of inflation since 2013 and provided dismal customer service for years. Most people, though, haven't taken the leap to cancel their pay TV service, and those who do oftentimes haven't actually "cut the cord."
When it comes to standalone streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV, your viewing experience is completely dependent on your internet connection. So if the internet goes down or there are a ton of people in your neighborhood online at the same time, your speeds might be slow. You'll likely experience buffering, lagging, or even a completely frozen screen. With cable TV, you'll never have to worry about missing a moment, because the connection doesn't rely on your internet. Don't be that guy that misses the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl: NO ONE wants to be that guy.
I find the best option to be their “Live a Little” package. It is priced at $35 per month and contains Fox News, CNN, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, Hallmark Channel, ESPN, Disney, HGTV, USA, ID, TNT, Food, TBS, History, Discovery, Disney Jr, TV Land, Nick Jr, AMC, FX, FXX, Bravo, Lifetime, A&E, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bloomberg, BET, Cartoon Network, CMT, CNBC, Comedy Central, Disney XD, E!, ESPN2, Fox Business, FS1, Galavision, HLN, MTV, MTV2, Paramount Network, Syfy, TCM, TLC, Univision, VH1, and more
Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
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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.
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.
As mentioned earlier, you can bundle broadband internet services with TV. A cable TV provider also typically serves as a cable internet provider. You can often choose from a wide selection of cable internet packages, depending on the cable TV and cable internet provider. Depending on your area, you may be able to adopt a high speed internet connection. However, if you're lucky and happen to live in a more urban or suburban area, you may have access to a fiber optic high speed internet connection.
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.
I had called my cable company once to see if I could get a better deal after being a loyal subscriber for three years. For many months, I loved the service that I got for the price I paid. Then one day, that price wasn’t so great anymore. All of these fees started showing up on my bill. The customer service rep I spoke with on the phone listened as if a grave matter of national importance was being discussed.
Sling TV is live Cable TV without a contract. Yes, you read that correctly. Sling TV is a small bundle of the most popular Cable channels, including ESPN, TNT, TBS, History, AMC, A&E, Food Network, HGTV, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, CNN and more. For sports lovers in particular, the combination of your TV antenna with ESPN, TNT and TBS from Sling TV is going to get you a lot of great NFL, MLB and NBA content. Sling TV has additional add-on packages and a big On Demand library, too. There's no contract, so you have nothing to lose by trying it out!
One of the great dreams of cord-cutting is that it will allow consumers to pick only the channels they actually want, rather than paying for programming they never watch. But the services above essentially operate more like traditional cable, providing packages of channels, not all of which are widely desirable. It’s unlikely that any one of these subscriptions will offer everything that a given consumer is looking for, and it will require viewers to scroll past a lot that they don’t.
After 2009, over the air TV signals became digital and old analog tuner TVs stopped working. Did you know that you could still get over the air signals? In fact, you can watch local channels without cable, and they are available free and in a clear beautiful high definition picture. Those signals are bouncing off your house as you read this. If you own a TV sold in the U.S. made after March 1st, 2007, it has a digital tuner as mandated by law.
I started out at $98 with my current bill, including two $10/mo cable boxes for decoding even the basic cable (local channels), which I had cut back to in March from a $200 bill under a “promo” deal for staying with their “triple play”. I had also just bought a $19 HD TV antenna and can pick up all but 3 of the 60 channels in reach perfectly on my first pass. I bet I can get those 3 clear (one is ABC) if I work at location/angle. Also took out a PlayStation Vue free week trial offer, and it works fine on my smart Sony Android TV (have to upgrade my dumb one which has Apple Gen 3 – probably will do your recommended Amazon FireTV).
I get asked about the best cable TV alternatives on a regular basis by readers so I wanted to write a post that outlines some of the cheaper alternatives to cable TV that still let you watch the shows you like. If you want to cut the cord and wonder what channels you can get without cable, this post shows the best cable replacement services to consider.
Great article ! I live just south of Pittsburgh and am thinking of cutting the cord with Comcast. I have a question since I did not see it specified in your article. Over the weekend I saw PS Vue streamed at my daughter’s house in Sacramento but I did not like the video quality. I believe they streamed it through an iPad. One of the things with my X1 Infinity box is the high definition crisp picture. Can you specify if Sling or PS Vue can deliver such crisp 1080 definition if streamed through a Rocky Ultra or an Amazon Fire box? Thanks
The premium cable channel Starz—home of some great shows like Counterpart, Power, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Outlander, and The Girlfriend Experience—is both streaming for those with a cable/satellite subscription to it, available as a discrete streaming service (Starz Streaming), or as an add-on to Amazon Video. There are many apps allowing Starz viewing on almost any hardware (except PS4, but you can get around that by using the Amazon Channel add-on option). The cost is the same no matter how you get Starz.
On the other hand, expanded cable TV package usually contains about 30-50 channels. Popular networks such as Fox News, MTV, ESPN, and Disney are usually included in this package along with the channels available in the basic cable package. However, it is critical to note that not every channel are available in all the packages, which implies that it is best to check the channels in your preferred package before settling for a certain cable TV provider.
Overall, Amazon is still playing catch-up when it comes to Netflix and other streaming services just because they don’t have as much content. However, at technically $8.25 / month it is a bit cheaper than your typical $8.99 or $9.99 package, and you get free, 2-day shipping as a perk. If you shop online a lot, that could end up swinging your choice.
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!
Philo ($16/mo. - $20/mo.): This new cut-rate service is cheap for a reason: It eliminates all sports, major networks and premium movie channels, delivering instead what amounts to a stripped-down basic cable package with the likes of History Channel, A&E and TV Land. Philo also has limited DVR storage and can be watched on multiple devices simultaneously. It’s a good starter option for people who want a solid array of traditional cable channels to supplement with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now and others.
The bandwidth of the amplifiers also was limited, meaning frequencies over 250 MHz were difficult to transmit to distant portions of the coaxial network, and UHF channels could not be used at all. To expand beyond 12 channels, non-standard "midband" channels had to be used, located between the FM band and Channel 7, or "superband" beyond Channel 13 up to about 300 MHz; these channels initially were only accessible using separate tuner boxes that sent the chosen channel into the TV set on Channel 2, 3 or 4.
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.
Over the last few years, however, I’ve noticed that I barely watch any television at all. I just generally prefer to read books or to play a board game in the evening rather than watching television. So, for me, the cost of a cable bill is kind of excessive. I could justify spending $10 or $15 a month on Netflix, but paying $80 or $100 a month for a bunch of channels I don’t watch just isn’t worth it.
I have started cutting the cord by adding antenna outside that is bringing in 34 channels. I use netflicks, hulu and fire tv. All 4 tvs using different devices. Dish reduce my bill and I keep 200 channels as I have no contract for 77.00 a month with one joey. looking forward to learn more from your website to get more value from the services I use.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.
Dependability and other quality issues related to the streaming Internet TV services are all over the board. Internet speed, type of Internet connection (wired vs. wireless), and platform (game console vs. computer vs. other devices) are among the things to consider. I chose PlayStation Vue because it has the widest choice of channels at a price I couldn't pass up. Its feature set is considered by many to be superior to the alternatives. Buffering of streaming content is more noticeable on certain platforms, with Roku often cited as one of the worst. When considering how much you'll save over traditional cable/satellite, you need to factor in the cost of Internet service. That wasn't an issue for me. As a heavy computer user, I would have Internet access to pay for anyway, regardless of my TV usage. If you have a family with several members using your Internet connection all at the same time, streaming TV service performance will take a hit, as it requires a fair amount of horsepower. If more than one person in the home is watching PS Vue at the same time, they each need to be on a different platform, with some exceptions. Sony's PS Vue website explains those limitations in more detail.
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
Your TV antenna has you covered for local news - morning, afternoon and evening editions from your local broadcast stations, live. You will also get the live daily national news shows from the major broadcast networks including Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News and CBS Evening News. Your TV antenna also provides any special live news broadcasts such as the State of the Union and breaking news.
Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.
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.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.
We’re not going to make you jump through hoops either—we know it’s a timely decision to make and one that you have to be confident in. We keep our comparison service quick and easy to use by allowing you to find the right provider in your local area. Simply enter your zip code, view and compare the plans and deals across a range of providers, and then select the one that best suits your needs. We also provide all the contact details that you’ll need in order to call and set up your service.
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
I'm all for new features. Don't know how much time I've lost on just one more turn. But, I'm not a kid anymore. I think all people with families can testify, that you simply don't have the time to spend hours on a game. And each iteration makes the hurdle even bigger. I would probably get my ass handed to me by a 12 year old! Still love the game though!