The early systems simply received weak (broadcast) channels, amplified them, and sent them over unshielded wires to the subscribers, limited to a community or to adjacent communities. The receiving antenna would be higher than any individual subscriber could afford, thus bringing in stronger signals; in hilly or mountainous terrain it would be placed at a high elevation.
In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
Although we all know that the whole point behind cutting the cord is saving money and getting better TV time if the service is deemed worth paying for then why not go for it? Many people have not made the switch because they still value Live TV, which traditional TV reliably provides. But a few streaming services out there are trying their best to replicate the cable and satellite experience at a lower price and with more convenience. Streaming services are having quite the run, and they are here to prove to you that you can survive without cable. Be brave enough to cut the cord, look for cable TV alternatives, and then stream happily ever after.
The moment for me when the idea of dropping TV service became a long term prospect rather than just a short term experiment so I could write this article, was when I plugged in the antenna. The fact that I can get such high quality output, for network and PBS channels I had been paying for makes it hard for me to envision going back to a cable TV subscription. In addition, I have to sit through far fewer commercials (though I suspect that may change over time). Watching Netflix movies on the TV is much more satisfying than on the smaller computer screen and of course the freedom to watch current TV programs on my own schedule is a huge benefit when juggling the demands of work and family. I know there will be times during the year when a sports event I want to watch will be unavailable. But there's just no arguing with the dramatic cost savings. Pay TV is undeniably a richer experience, but is it worth a 330% premium? Not for me.
The best cable TV company will make it easy to find your favorites for a fair price. We took 2017’s 50 most-watched channels and tallied them against providers packages to see which were offering the best plans for the best value. Popular channels like the Food Network hold more value and relevance for most viewers than channels that tally up in your package count, like the Gem Shopping Network or C-SPAN 4. But if you know your TV habits are a little more niche, keep track of the channels you frequent most and then compare the provider packages to see which offers the best price for minimal excess.
We’re all familiar with the frustrations that come with setting up new internet, cable TV, and other home services. We decided there had to be a better way to do this, so we created InMyArea.com to make the hassle of moving that much easier for our friends, family, and neighbors. InMyArea is here to help you compare the home services available in your area in order to find the provider that’s right for you and your budget. Whether you’re moving, looking to save money, or you just want a fresh start, we’ve got you covered. Built by family, for family, helping people is what we’re made for.
Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
The Amazon Fire TV specs are enough to allow for playing over 300 console and PC Games. If you are a gamer and want to stream games, then this is the one to get. The Fire is rooted in the Amazon Prime service and if you don’t plan on using Amazon Instant Video then the Fire TV may not be for you. You get 1 month of Amazon Prime free if you want to give the service a try.
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.
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
As I kept vague tabs on everyone’s television habits over the spring and summer, a few patterns emerged. The biggest one was that YouTube and Netflix were watched on the television far more than the actual cable service. The second was that most of what was actually watched on the cable service were series that could easily be found on other streaming services for far less money. By subscribing to Netflix and Sling TV, with occasional subscriptions to other services for a month to binge watch a particular series or two, we cover virtually everything that we had watched on television throughout the spring and summer.
Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
If you prefer to self-install and troubleshoot your own technology, Cox Communications’ website makes that possible. Its vast resource library offers educational how-to videos on setting up, using, and troubleshooting your services. If you have a problem, just select your issue in its search tool, and it’ll direct you to the right instruction manual.
This option is for you if you like to follow the latest network and non-premium cable shows, like The New Girl, The Voice, The Flash, or Modern Family. Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) offers current programs from FOX, NBC, ABC, the CW, as well as delayed or archived content from cable channels like Comedy Central and FX. You can add CBS shows, like Big Bang Theory, for another monthly fee of $5.99.
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.
Since current seasons of CBS aren’t available on Hulu, CBS All Access is one option to get CBS Shows the day after the initial broadcast as CBS isn’t a part of Hulu. The basic service costs $5.99 per month and does air commercials. However, they offer a commercial-free plan for $9.99 per month. The service also offers live local CBS in over 150 markets. For more details, check out my review of CBS All Access.
If you watch a lot of shows on your local stations—think ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX—you can tune into them for free. These channels are publicly broadcast and the signals are easy to pick up in most metropolitan areas. All you need is a good HD antenna, which you can score for under $40 on Amazon. Depending on the terrain in your area and your proximity to TV towers, one type of antenna might be better for you than another. But once you’re set up, you’ll be able to enjoy the latest episode of Modern Family with the same crisp picture you were getting through your cable company, minus the monthly bill.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
Many cord cutters opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
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.
Cable companies, of course, are freaking out: eMarketer says 22.2 million US adults cut the cord by the end of 2017, a trend that will continue for all age demographics below 55. In a November 2017 survey, Leichtman Research said that in the third quarter that year, the top six cable companies lost 290,000 subscribers, compared to 90,000 in Q3 of 2016. It's worse for the satellite providers Dish and DirecTV, which lost 475,000, while internet TV services (specifically via Sling TV and DirecTV Now) gained 536,000.
In 2015, the FCC redefined what really constitutes "broadband" speed in the US as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, up from 4Mbps, which was the standard since 2010. At the time, that put 17 percent of the population (55 million households) without true broadband. According to the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 34 million US citizens (10 percent) lack access to such speeds; 23 million are in rural areas.
Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
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
We've been using our Playon media setup for years now, and it works great. In fact we just watched all the seasons of Walking Dead in the past few months using this setup. I highly recommend it. It works well because using this setup we don't need to have a computer directly connected to the TV, and we can use our regular Logitech Harmony remote to navigate shows, pause and play, etc on the console.
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.
For vast libraries of movies and TV content prior to the current season, I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. Another big reason to get Amazon Prime is the option of adding Showtime and Starz with your subscription. For just $8.99 per month, you have every TV show and movie offered by Starz and Showtime just as if you had the network with a cable provider.
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.
However, several customers who have subscribed to a cable internet service have no idea that the speed of their internet connection will be based on the available bandwidth. The TV service in your home or office usually takes up only a small fraction of the bandwidth, which means that there is plenty of bandwidth left for your cable internet connection.
The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.
YouTube TV. YouTube's cable-over-internet service has a great interface for channel browsing and excellent video quality. It also ranks up there with PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now when it comes to local channel support. A big bonus of YouTube TV is the ability to use it with up to five separate YouTube accounts within the same household. This includes roommates or family. It also offers free DVR with unlimited storage.