After you enter your ZIP code into our checker tool, the next question on your mind may very well be "Why are there only one or two cable TV providers in my area?" Numbers published by Forbes tell the story. One cable company enjoys nearly 40% of the cable television market share. Most of the remainder of the pay TV customer base is served by just a handful of cable providers.
6 months ago I decided to try and replace my Dish Network service. I built a HTPC with plenty of power, storage, and have a pretty high speed internet service. I put up an outside antenna and get all the stations from about 60 miles away in the computer using a Hauppauge 4 tuner card. Then I started looking at program content providers including IPTV providers and several others such as Hulu and DirecTV Now. I was able to get Kodi and NextPVR loaded on the computer and had some success with OTA and the 2nd IPTV provider I tried. Then I had a problem with them. I decided I would go with DirecTV Now and actually got it working but not with Kodi. I think PlayOn will allow me to connect DTVN to Kodi but not sure how that will work.
Setting this up was easy, too. We bought an inexpensive antenna at a local store that was on sale and simply attached a coax cable to the back of that antenna (the cable came with the antenna) to the cable port on the back of our television, then simply went into the menu on our television and scanned for channels. It found around 30 of them, and they come in crystal clear in about 480p – not high resolution, but good enough, especially on a smaller television. Once the antenna is set up and running, the programming is completely free.
I’m hesitant to cut the cord with cable tv due to my husband’s sports. He watches ESPN (a couple of different ones), and the Big 10 Network. Other than these sports channels, we mostly only watch the regular network channels. If I had the food network and HGTV I would watch them, but I can do without them just fine too. Hubby does like the DVR feature that our ‘big name’ cable company provides. But the monthly prices keeps climbing! Any suggestions you have for us?
By 2012, however, Time Warner’s investors were demanding to know why the company wasn’t selling its reruns to Netflix, according to one former Time Warner executive. “We sat out for a few years, and all of Wall Street said, ‘What the hell are you guys doing? You’re leaving value on the table for your shareholders!’ ” the former executive said. “So we relented. That was the beginning of the end.”
YouTube TV ($40/mo.): YouTube’s newest venture entered the market as one of the cheapest and simplest. Its channel package is small, there aren’t that many add-ons at the moment, and the service isn’t even available in every city or town in the United States yet (although the range is expanding every day; check here for updates). But if watching local stations live matters a lot to you, then you should know that YouTube TV is making that the cornerstone of its business — along with unlimited DVR cloud storage and enough portability that you should be able to shift easily from one device to another while watching a show you’ve recorded.
Recent data released by the Philadelphia-based company indicates that most cord-cutters don't stray far because many have no other viable alternatives given the poor state of broadband competition in many markets. An average Comcast customer uses 150 gigabytes per month and has 11 connected devices in their homes thanks to the proliferation of online video.
ISP’s vary by location. I’m maintaining a list of providers with affordable internet only plans you can use to cut the cord. If you can’t find one on that page, try your existing provider. Now I know the “big” internet providers seem only to offer “triple play” packages bundling phone, TV, and internet. However, if you dig around on their site you should be able to find an internet service offering.
Nothing is perfect. I can easily imagine more flexible user interfaces and certainly look forward to more customer friendly and consistent licensing rights for TV episodes. Long term, the good news is that content creators are essentially carrier agnostic. "They've learned the lessons of the music industry and want to get their content in front of viewers on whichever platform they choose to consume it," says Robin Diedrich, media analyst at Edward Jones.
In hindsight, some TV executives believe the industry would be much healthier now if everyone—programmers and distributors—had agreed to make all episodes of shows available to cable subscribers on any device. That was the dream behind TV Everywhere, an idea hatched in 2009 by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. But in those crucial early days, TV Everywhere struggled to get off the ground.
If you mean DirecTV Now, it’s a very solid service. I do like it a lot. And as stated above, it will be a big contender in 2017, especially if they start streaming in 4K as promised. I haven’t decided whether I’m sticking with PS Vue after my rate increases. I’m leaning toward switching to YouTube TV, but have another month to decide before my monthly rate increases.
DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
My take is that they are focused on the areas that get NO cable service because they know it’s a slam dunk so they charge rates that are more expensive for what they offer because they can. It’s like this, if they want my business, they have to have have the same TV channels for less and they are so far from it. And if they do undercut any pricing, it’s marginal because they are trying to maximize their profits exponentially. Take a look at the free trials they all offer. They’re almost all the same 1 week or maybe 5 days and then the monthly rate kicks in. What a joke. They’re a bunch of greedy bastards.
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Last year, the company’s VP of customer service, Tom Karinshak, detailed some steps Comcast is making to overhaul its customer service, including; expanding digital care teams, a callback feature that allows you to schedule a time for Comcast to call you (rather than wait on hold), and an ETA feature that messages customers on the arrival status of service technicians (for installation and troubleshooting).
YouTube is known for hosting thousands of viral videos. But it’s also a great place to learn. In the span of a few minutes, you can discover everything from how to fold a fitted sheet to how to make delicious dishes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch many classic shows and movies there too! Are indie films and documentaries more your thing? Check out Vimeo.
There’s a good chance you won’t have more than two options for your cable TV service. Providers have limited competition by avoiding regions with existing monopolies. We favored cable providers with widespread available that were the most likely to be available to you. Local and more regional providers (like WOW! or Cincinnati Bell), score great in customer service but offer service in fewer than 10 states. If you happen to live somewhere with a local provider, it’s still worth considering.
Plan for how you’ll watch TV without cable. “If you want to take advantage of streaming services—such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and so forth—you’ll need a way to display them on your TV,” according to Tom’s Guide, a popular unbiased technology product review site. The top strategies are to buy a smart TV or a streaming device for cable TV alternatives. Netflix is what you want if you like to binge-watch entire seasons of previously aired shows. Hulu is best for the latest popular shows, and Amazon Prime has many of the same titles as Netflix and Hulu but, because it’s newer, lacks the extensive library of shows. Sling TV is another option, and it streams live cable shows.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
Customer service is fairly average, with a rating of 60 out of 100 from the ACSI and 59 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. This can be attributed to the fact that you’ll likely have to call to get any information and access to more plan options. Those plans might include a Frontier Prime plan, that has 60% of the most popular channels. It only skips out on HBO, Nick at Nite, and other premium networks.
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
For sports channels, there’s NBCSN, FS1, FS2, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, and Pac 12 Networks. fuboTV has been aggressive with adding regional sports channels as well to its offerings. In New England, subscribers can get NESN (home to the Red Sox and Boston Bruins games) and NESN Plus. There are regional FOX Sports and NBC Sports networks available across the U.S.
Investors also pressured media companies to take Netflix’s cash. Take, for instance, Time Warner Inc., which is now owned by AT&T Inc. While Disney, CBS, and others licensed many of their old shows to Netflix, Time Warner initially held out. Starting in 2009, Time Warner and Comcast Corp. tried to rally the industry around an idea to slow Netflix by making TV episodes available online—but only to cable subscribers. The idea was called TV Everywhere.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
Perhaps no one deserves more credit for threatening the old TV business model than Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings. As the driving force behind the world’s largest streaming video service, with about 130 million subscribers, he’s taught consumers to expect an abundance of old and new shows and movies, without the irritation of commercial interruptions, for just $8 a month.
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.
It’s a critical issue since Sling TV had more than 2.3 million subscribers as of the most recent quarter while DirecTV Now serves more than 1.8 million clients. AT&T recently launched an even skinnier bundle called AT&T Watch that appeals to viewers not interested in sports. Other companies including Verizon and T-Mobile may get into the skinny bundle business, which UBS expects to represent 25% of all pay-TV subscriptions by 2022.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
With Frontier, depending on your location, you may be able to choose between FiOS TV or Vantage TV. FiOS TV is service by fiber-optic cable, rather than traditional. If you choose to bundle, you’ll have fiber-optic internet too — which means astronomical speeds. For your TV service, it might mean a sharper image but only if you have an HD or Ultra HD television to support it.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
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What you get: The sports-centric Fubo now offers about 75 channels for the base $45-a-month package, or more than 90 channels with the new $50-a-month Fubo Extra plan. With Fubo you get a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (A&E, Bravo, FX, SyFy, USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, NBA TV). You also now get Turner channels, plus sports programming such as the MLB on TBS and the NBA on TNT. Also in the mix: a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. The service comes with a free cloud DVR that lets you store 30 hours of shows, movies, and games.
Keeping recordings on a server has its benefits, like making them available on different devices or a backup when your connection (or the service itself) fails, but it can also complicate things. Sling TV adds an extra $5 for DVR access, and on certain services you'll find that recording doesn't work with channels like HBO. Some YouTube TV customers have complained that the system points them to video on-demand copies of shows that include unskippable ads instead of their recordings, so read the fine print and check user reviews first.