If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever 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 and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)
Fios TV is #1 in customer ratings in HD picture quality and signal reliability, according to the 2017 American Customer Satisfaction Index. In fact, every major customer satisfaction study ranked Fios higher overall than cable TV providers like Comcast, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable), Cox and Cablevision. If you’re wondering what is the best alternative to cable, then check out how Fios compares to Cable TV, download and upload speeds as well as using video streaming services.
A couple years ago, some services decided it wasn't enough to just provide some a la carte streaming of shows. They wanted to provide what is pretty much a full cable-television subscription experience over the internet. These are those services. They won't necessarily give you super-granular control over content like you'd have with a regular streaming service, or even moreso with a DVR recording stuff off the air, but they give you access to a lot of content you might not otherwise get without a cable subscription—especially news and sports.
For us, the best strategy seemed to be to tell the customer service folks we talked to that we simply did not watch the service at all, thus it didn’t matter how cheap they made it. This was a true statement, after all – we hadn’t watched it at all for weeks prior to the call. While they gave us some pushback and tried to make some lowball offers, I simply responded with, “That’s great, but we just don’t watch the service at all,” and it’s really hard for them to say anything about it.
Once I was given this new price of $45 per month, I knocked off an additional $10 per month by buying a router and cable modem instead of renting them. They planned on renting me a cable modem at $5 per month, and charging me another $5 per month for a router. Instead, I was able to add to my savings just by asking the question about rental fees, a point you will get sick of hearing about if you keep reading my guides.
Roku ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).
In fact, with internet television offering the same features as traditional cable at cheaper monthly subscription, you can cut the physical cord and get away from two-year contracts with expensive equipment rental fees. You do need internet access, of course, to take advantage of a variety of streaming services. Some people choose to pay for that access while others prefer to take advantage of free internet.
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.
The main piece of equipment you will need to turn off cable is a streaming device. Luckily, most of us already have one. Many of the TVs sold these days are smart TVs that support various streaming services. Modern Blu-Ray players also tend to have smart features, and if you are a gamer, you can use your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as a streaming device.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
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.
The reason American consumers are abandoning their cable subscriptions is not a mystery: It’s expensive, and cheaper online alternatives are everywhere. But who exactly is responsible for the slow demise of the original way Americans paid for television? That’s a far trickier question. The answer can be traced to a few decisions in recent years that have set the stage for this extraordinarily lucrative and long-lived business model to unravel: licensing reruns to Netflix Inc., shelling out billions for sports rights, introducing slimmer bundles, and failing to promote a Netflix killer called TV Everywhere.
One thing is for sure: A number of Tampa Bay residents have moved away from cable, and many are interested in exploring that option. The Tampa Bay Times asked readers to reach out about their experience with cutting the cord, and received around 100 responses. The most-cited reasons for making the leap were dissatisfaction with a cable provider and cost.
Apple TV ($149 - $199): Similar to the Amazon Fire, the Apple TV is fantastic for dedicated Mac families, allowing them to sync programing between iPhones, iPads and laptops. Apple also has one of the better interfaces for finding and organizing content, with an app simply called “TV” that’s designed to function a lot like a DVR, keeping the latest episodes of your favorite shows in an easily accessible queue. Note: Netflix shows can be searched via the "TV" app, but they can't be added to its queue; users are simply redirected to the Netflix app.
Those who want to see non-British foreign television have ample options, too. In addition to the aforementioned Acorn (which also features programs from Canada and Australia, among other countries), both MHz Choice and Walter Presents have well-curated collections of European series, with a particular emphasis on the many great Scandinavian crime dramas. And the increasingly popular TV coming out of South Korea is available on DramaFever, Viki, and Kocowa.
Prime Video is a nice hybrid of an all-you-can-eat streaming service like Netflix, plus a video-on-demand store, with plenty of original content to go with it. It's "free" to anyone with a Prime account, which is best known for giving customers free two-day shipping—but you can also get Prime Video for $8.99 a month as a standalone service, with none of the other Amazon extras.
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.
Comcast reported a loss of 275,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, bringing the total for the calendar year to 625,000. The company said most of these losses were not from people leaving for another service. Moffett pointed out that cable companies needed to offer lower-cost packages, but a survey by Strategy Analytics revealed financial considerations were not the primary reason. People were not satisfied with what they could get, and online sources had a wider array of content. The survey showed that 13% of cable subscribers intended to cancel service in the next year. Slightly more than half were under the age of 40, and nearly all had a high school education. Two-thirds had or planned further schooling, and just over half earned at least $50,000 a year.
Great article, thanks for all the food for thought! We originally got a great deal from Comcast, the triple play: $99/mo (plus taxes) for the first 2 years, for cable, land line and internet. But now the bill has crept up to around $175/mo. Getting ready to cut the cord, but we have two dilemmas: 1) we didn’t buy a Smart TV so because of some goofy issue with my laptop, I have to reboot it after connecting it to the TV in order to watch anything. A pain in the butt. Have searched extensively and not found a workaround. Are these fire sticks USB devices that would cut out the laptop connection entirely? And 2) we are middle agers with the same land line for 25 years, and it’s like a member of the family… lol. We’re afraid to let it go! It’s been part of our identity for so long, literally (for ID purposes with accounts and such) and figuratively speaking. But I think we’re going to rip the band aid off soon. About all we watch on our 700+ channel Comcast package consistently is Law and Order and Frasier reruns, and the occasional movie. Otherwise it’s just pointless channel flipping.
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.
Sling TV is one of the better value options out there, because you can get a lot of the most popular channels for only $25 a month. However, if you’re a binge-watcher, you’ll love Hulu with Live TV’s huge on-demand library, which currently has 10 full seasons of Adventure Time (aww yeah homies!). YouTube TV is great, but it may not be available in your area just yet.
Well we did it. Cut the cable. Installed a Clearstream 2V Antenna HD antenna on the roof, side of chimney, The antenna hooked into the old Time warner box so it goes to all 8 rooms where there is a cable outlet. Ended up with about 40 Digital HD stations, some duplicates I will need to delete. Picture as good as if not better than Time Warner / Spectrum. Turns out our neighborhood is in a good spot for over the air tv reception. We are using Playstation Vue, (nothing to do with playstation games) as an online streaming app for all the same channels we had with time warner, such as AMC, TNT, SyFy, HBO, etc. along with Netflix and Amazon Prime. We have more channels now that we had with TWC at over $150 per month less what TWC was charging us. Playstation Vue app has a built in cloud recorder with unlimited use for recording to the cloud, your favorite shows, and fast forward, etc. We did purchase a Tivo Roamio OTA to record the channels off the antenna. So we can save our favorites and skip through commercials. Okay, it gave us one more remote to deal with because we now just switch between Live tv and internet tv. But for a savings of $150 mo, I can live with it.
By the 1990s, tiers became common, with customers able to subscribe to different tiers to obtain different selections of additional channels above the basic selection. By subscribing to additional tiers, customers could get specialty channels, movie channels, and foreign channels. Large cable companies used addressable descramblers to limit access to premium channels for customers not subscribing to higher tiers, however the above magazines often published workarounds for that technology as well.
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.
This streaming service basically revolutionized the whole cable TV alternative thing and still stands as one of the best in the market. Sling TV’s subscription fee kicks off at ($20 per month), and it’s unlikely that you’ll get charged more for your add-ons. This service offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue) and allows subscribers to select smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. Sling TV has something for everyone, kids, foreigners, and sports enthusiasts. Oh, and their DVR features are too shabby either.
Funny so many people complaining about Charter. We’ve been with them for years and had little to no trouble. No services is perfect, but they have not given us any trouble. Last time I went to the local office, waited maybe 5 minutes and was taken care of quickly, efficiently and friendly. Course there are many different locations, maybe some are better than or worst than others. Just our experience. Plus, we live some what out in the country, don’t have any other options. But over all we are happy.
It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted. We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.
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.
The option that has become the standard at our house for watching TV, movies via Netflix and a variety of other sources is a software called PlayOn. PlayOn is basically a media streaming software that will pull the video streams from sites like Hulu.com, Youtube.com, network websites, MLB.TV, Netflix, Amazon Video and others and allow you to stream them over the home network, to a network media player attached to your TV.
DirecTV Now. DirectTV Now offers a package that is very competitive with PlayStation Vue, and as you might expect, delivers a very cable-like experience without the actual cable. However, it does have one of the worst interfaces, especially on Apple TV, and lacks the ability to pause live television. One big bonus of DirecTV Now is access to very cheap subscriptions for premium channels like HBO and Starz, so if you load up on all of these, DirecTV Now might come out as the cheapest service. They also don't charge for their DVR service.