1 Number of available channels may vary by area. Please refer to your local channel lineup for details. An HDTV, HD cable box and HD cabling are required to view HD programming. HBO, Cinemax and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office Inc., LLC. SHOWTIME is a registered trademark of Showtime Networks Inc., a CBS Company. Starz® and STARZ ENCORESM related channels and service marks are the property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


But you’d be surprised what you don’t miss when it comes to clipping one or two networks from your channel lineup. Seriously, how valuable is a channel that you really want, but in reality only watch once or twice a month? I encourage you to check out the channel lineups on each of these live TV streaming sites as you (and ideally a partner, spouse, child, etc.) put together your lists of must-have channels and shows.
However, customers who do not have a cable TV service at their home will also be able to subscribe to a cable internet service, as most cable TV providers offer standalone internet service to customers. However, if you are planning to bundle either two or three of your services, get in touch with your preferred cable TV provider, as they will also be able to help you with that. Below are a few factors that you need to consider before subscribing to a certain cable internet service provider.
The TV industry isn’t suffering financially, however, because it keeps raising prices on the remaining customers. The average pay-TV customer today spends $106.20 a month, up 44 percent from 2011, according to Leichtman Research Group. Since 1980 cable, satellite, and phone companies have generated $1.8 trillion in revenue from selling TV service, according to Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Revenue last year was $116 billion.
Then take a look at that list you’ve been putting together. How is it looking? Chances are it may appear a little messy with many side notes and some networks scribbled out. If so, good. Maybe for the first time in your life, you’re taking a hard look at what you are spending on a channel by channel basis. That’s essentially the worst nightmare of cable TV operators.
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.
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.

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.
Adam… there are countless options and opinions out there on what’s “best” but it all boils down to what the readers want and need. The wife and I cut cable completely about 6-7 years ago. We have internet only for $50/mo. We now have a $4 a month (taxes only) VOIP phone (Ooma) for home phone, cut our cell phones down to bare minimum $5/mo. plans and rolled the savings to an amazing 55″ OLED SmarTV television on an open box deal. Between the apps on that, the computer attached by HDMI, the over the air antenna and free apps and web sites, we don’t need any of the devices or subscriptions to have it all… and then some. There’s no need for Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Sling, Philo, Fire Stick or anything. Our motto is keep it simple. We get library access online 24/7 and instead of asking “what’s on TV tonight?” the question is “what do you WANT on TV tonight?” … $54/month total… we’re good!
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
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. 
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.

Charter Cable TV: Charter operates in 28 states, and now also runs Time Warner Cable TV and Bright House Networks. In fact, Charter Cable TV and Time Warner Cable TV services are both being marketed now under the Spectrum brand. Charter is spread across the U.S., with notable gaps throughout the middle part of the Midwest, some western and southwestern states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho, as well as Florida and some states along the eastern seaboard. We offer guides for the entire Charter channel lineup, as well as the Time Warner Cable channel lineup.
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.
Then find service provider for Internet only, make sure you get high quality/speeds, download and upload. You can install Speedtest.net in you PC to check the speed so you know you are getting what you are paying for. Spectrum charges $45/month, but I found out they do not include Wi-Fi which you need for your TV, that will cost an extra $5/month. I kept Frontier, my provider (it was Verizon before they sold) so it was easy to cancel phone & TV, no need to change equipment, just returned the TV boxes.
Wow, thank you so much for this informative article. But to be honest I’m still so freakin confused. We have 5 TVs, so my first questions is do we have to pay for 5 Subsctiptions every month? My second questiton is, should I buy my own modem and router? I’m not exactly sure what each one does but would I still need to pay for an internet connection if I had them?
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.

DIRECTV NOW was DIRECTV’s way of keeping its satellite TV service available for users who don’t want a dish installed or multi-year contracts. You can use the Just Right package and add HBO (Game of Thrones and Westworld for only $5 more per month instead of $15? Yeah, we’re in). Consider also that you can get your favorite networks like HGTV, Sundance TV, and the Travel Channel. Plus, you can also record up to 20 hours of TV to hold onto for 30 days with the included cloud DVR.

Those who end up cutting the cord never go back. That wouldn’t be hard to believe considering all the great services offered by some major online streaming services. We’re talking about youngsters mainly who don’t even bother and sign up for cable, to begin with. As they delve deeper into the world of video-on-demand subscription, 10-15$ becomes an amount worth the spend. Every service has something different to offer, and before you sign up for any, you might want to investigate which channel suits your preference best. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month for you to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them include contract signing. The worst case scenario is that you’ll be stuck with a service you wish you hadn’t subscribed to for just a month. There’s no such thing as forced long-term commitment with streaming services. Now with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives for Cable TV. Most of these stand-alone streaming services allow users to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, TNT, TMC, Discovery, History, Disney, National Geographic, NBC, ESPN and popular cable networks.
The market is full of streaming devices and sticks that offer viable cable TV alternatives. Some of the more popular devices are Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. Investigate each option to compare prices and offers and see what works best for the shows and needs you have. These are the splurges that may actually end up costing more than you thought.
With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air—you can watch it live like with cable or satellite, except you’re watching over the internet! The basic package includes 30 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, and Disney Channel. You can get a slightly different lineup of networks for $25, or get both for $40. There are also $5–10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones. So if ESPN is the only reason you’re clinging to your cable box, you may be out of excuses now!
Doing a truly honest inventory of which channels you can live without can reduce the pain of paying your cable bill each month. Did you know that you don't need anything more than basic cable in order to subscribe to pay channels like Starz and per-per-view events? The FCC requires cable companies to allow you to buy these premium channels without having to subscribe to higher tiers of service. So if your must-see show is on, say, HBO, maybe you can forego a fancier, more expensive plan and simply buy the channel on top of basic cable. Furthermore, expect various service charges to infect your bill. For example, you may pay a service charge for HD programming with your service provider. Also, you may face standard installation fees and activation fees. However, there are some providers that waive both standard installation and activation fees. With all this being said, these particular service charges may be subject to change.
Can you please help me. I live in Mexico. I have a Shaw box and get cable from Canada. They are changing so I need to change. I have no idea what to do. Some people here have roku, others netflix. I have a JVC and Samsung purchased in Mexico. I like to watch the British dramas Shaw offers on my 5 PBS channels. I also watch HGTV and vet shows. I have read a lot but am confused. What do I do?
I was pissed over that stupid robot test garbage. I complained several times and they have made it a lot better, but maybe not for everybody? I used to use the signs test, I don’t know really why, but I have found the cars panels work well. Hit the left bottom button until you get to cars, Usually just need a few clicks for that to work. I used to have lots of fun when my ISP kept changing my IP address and had to call maybe several times a week to have my Vue location reset. I understand their need to make sure people aren’t using this when it is not allowed but they need to make the access better for customers.
Great article. I’m just starting to look into cutting the cord and this was most helpful. I just ordered an Arris 6183 and Netgear R6400 in preparation for switching from Centurylink DSL (1.3Mbps max in our area) to Suddenlink (200 Mbps) as our current DSL modem/WI-FI router belongs to Centurylink. I’m leaning toward Sony Playstation Vue and noticed that you preferred the Amazon Fire TV streaming device for this. I was wondering what makes it better for Vue? Thanks
Armed with technology that makes a smaller antenna possible and a digital protocol that makes the signals easier to capture over longer distances, antenna companies are now delivering powerful long-range units with home decor as a design directive, resulting in small, unobtrusive and even fashionable indoor models. Mark Buff, CEO of antenna maker Mohu says that with cable TV having been the norm for so long, "many people had forgotten that OTA (over the air) signals still exist. But we're now seeing increased interest by cord cutters. And even customers who aren't cancelling subscriptions are using antennas for second and third TVs as well as for their vacation homes, saving the cost of additional cable boxes."
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.”
It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.

NOTE: There is no such thing as a "digital" or "HD" TV antenna. Those terms refer to the fact that the over-the-air broadcast signal is digital/HD (since 2009), not the antenna itself. No matter what you may read about "advanced technology" TV antennas, the actual reception technology has not changed in decades. Sure, antennas come in all different shapes and sizes today, even sci-fi-like designs, but those are physical changes not technical advancements. If you buy an older home and discover a TV antenna in your attic or on your roof, it's going to receive the same pristine digital broadcast signals as anything you would buy today.
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.

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.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
Know when special pricing ends. If you're taking advantage of an introductory offer with limited time pricing, set a reminder in your calendar for one month before the offer expires. This way you have plenty of notice to call your provider and negotiate a new deal with them. Failure to do so could result in your bill going up by as much as double when your offer expires.

Some people use a game console for accessing streaming services and even as a solution for live TV and a DVR, such as Xbox One or the Sony Playstation Vue streaming service. The reason we do not recommend these as live TV, DVR or streaming options is because using a game console in the always-on manner that is required for watching TV uses a LOT of power. It is the equivalent of adding another refrigerator to your household and you can expect your electric bill to go up about $8-$10 per month. It's just not a responsible way to watch TV.
What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company recently hiked prices by $5 on its various plans. The company's Live a Little plan, which provides 60 channels, now costs $40 per month, and the Just Right package has gone to $55 per month. Go Big jumped to $65 per month, and the top 125-channel plan, Gotta Have It, costs $75 instead of the previous $70. The good news is that the NFL Network has been added to all DirecTV Now's packages starting with Just Right and above, at no additional cost. Also, you can add HBO for just $5 per month. The company will be launching a next-generation version of the service this spring that bumps up the number of simultaneous users from two to three.
PlayStation Vue plans aren’t that much cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, so it’s probably not the best option if you‘re cutting the cord to save money. It does offer a 5-day free trial, so you can test it out (two days shorter than any other streaming service), but make sure to cancel by day five, or you‘ll be charged for the whole month.
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.

You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.


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.
In an effort to entice cord cutters and cord nevers, some cable television providers have begun offering Internet-only streaming services. Cablevision began to offer "Cord Cutter" packages that include a free digital antenna and access to its Optimum WiFi network, as well as the option to add HBO Now to the service, making it the first ever cable provider to do so.[32] In 2015, Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) began to trial television services delivered via their managed internet infrastructures; Comcast's "Stream" service offered access to broadcast networks, HBO, Xfinity StreamPix, and their respective TV Everywhere services. Outside of TVE apps, the service can only be accessed via Comcast home internet on supported devices.[33][34] In October 2015, TWC began to trial a service under which subscribers are given a Roku 3 digital media player to access their service via the supplied TWC app, rather than a traditional set-top box. A TWC spokesperson emphasized that this offering would provide "the same TV and same packages delivered to the home today", but delivered over TWC-managed internet rather than a cable line.[35][36][37] This service has since been transferred to the current Spectrum service after Time Warner Cable's merger with Charter, with an equivalent Apple TV app forthcoming.
TV providers advertise low prices to entice new customers. These promotional rates will usually increase at the end of your initial contract and jump to the regular monthly price. However, some providers will increase rates in the middle of your contract. Most companies have rate information on their websites, but you should also confirm any rate increases with a sales representative.
As part of this switch over, we installed an over-the-air antenna. This allows us to pick up a large number of local channels. We live close enough to the Des Moines metro area that we can pick up strong signals from a lot of stations in Des Moines. (It’s worth noting that this is aided by the fact that there’s a repeater tower within five miles of our house, which means the signals are strong.) This includes the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS – and a large number of additional channels of varying quality, including an all-children’s channel and a channel that seems to be nothing but a loop of the weather forecast.
In order to receive any promotional rate, you will be required to authorize and agree that Cable ONE may obtain a consumer report about you in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act from a consumer reporting agency in order to verify your eligibility to receive this and other offers as well as determining deposits and install fees required, if any.
BMT, many of the networks are actually raising the prices they charge cable companies because their revenues are down. It is having he opposite affect of your prediction, and many basic cable plans are becoming more expensive. The competition between the major providers is the only thing currently keeping pricing in check. We still have our cable for the time being, but I wouldn’t be opposed to dropping cable at some point – we rarely watch much TV. Unfortunately, the channels we watch most often are cable only channels! 🙂

Remember the days when you could watch network television for free? (those under 25, ask your parents). Well those channels are still available at no cost...if you have an antenna. And no, we're not talking about the clunky rabbit ears of old. Antennas have changed substantially in looks and performance over the last several years. Breakthroughs in technology spurred by development of the tiny but powerful digital antennas in smartphones have been adapted to the realm of TV reception.  The result? "TV antennas today are 10% of the mass they were decades ago," says Richard Schneider, president of Missouri-based manufacturer Antennas Direct. "And the move to an all digital transmission that the FCC mandated back in 2009 has put those TV signals in a higher frequency which means a better signal with less noise".

We still watch television sometimes. I don’t think anyone’s television watching habits have changed drastically. Our kids still prefer watching their preferred YouTube channels over anything else during their allotted screen time. I still watch on family movie night and binge-watch series with Sarah. Sarah’s viewing habits have probably changed the most, but this switch has actually nudged her into digging deeper into Netflix and she now seems to have more stuff in her queue than she can possibly watch.


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.
History appears to be on your side if you're ready to cancel your traditional paid TV subscription. The Video Advertising Bureau released a report suggesting that the number of households without a cable or satellite service in the United States has just about tripled since 2013. As the report doesn't take cable replacement services into account, the actual number might be even higher.
If you live in a more rural area, however, you will only be able to access very few internet types. For example, you may only have DSL internet, dial-up internet, and satellite internet. If that is the case and if you're not too worried about affordability, you should opt for satellite internet, which may feature speeds of up to 25Mbps depending on the satellite dish service.
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.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Make sure all of the TVs that you want to be connected are in the house at the time of installation. Keep the area around your TV open so that the technician has room to work. If you're getting satellite, make sure the technician will have easy access to your balcony or roof where the dish will be mounted. Set aside enough time in your schedule for the technician to complete the entire process. Keep your phone on hand in the days and hours leading up to your appointment, so that the technician can call and confirm or alert you to any changes.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
FuboTV is a live online streaming service that specializes in providing sports programming. Though they also offer a selection of regular TV programming, they provide live streaming of games in the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA, as well as major college sports and international sporting events. For $34.99 per month the service offers access to 68 channels. FuboTV is also offering a one-week free trial so that you can check out the service.
Some providers have both TV and internet available to bundle. Other providers sell TV only or internet only. Companies that offer only one service often partner with TV-only or internet-only counterparts to provide a complete service. For example, satellite TV can be paired with DSL or fiber internet to save you time and money. Using our handy comparison tool, you can look at all TV-only, internet-only, and TV-and-internet options available in your area.
But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.

Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
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.
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