This is pretty cool, especially if you are an AT&T member. If you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, DIRECTV will pick up the tab for data to help you achieve all your binge-worthy goals. Data Free TV means you won’t use your AT&T mobile data for watching DIRECTV NOW or FreeVIEW in the App. This means that you can watch Direct TV From ANYWHERE for free if you are an AT&T member. (Think long car trips mommas!)
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Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
These do require additional hardware, running extra cables from your TV, and waiting at least a day to watch the newest episodes of cable network shows. And if you're hoping to sever all ties with your cable provider, that's not going to be an option in many regional markets, as you'll still need them for the high-speed Internet service that makes this all work. But the cost savings of dropping the TV package can be substantial, and there have never been as many good choices available as there are today in both hardware and content. Here's what you'll need.
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You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.
Streaming wouldn’t exist without Youtube TV for it’s the most popular streaming-video platform online. Youtube even tried to provide live TV at some point, and for 35$ per month, you get 40 channels. Although the number of channels is not that impressive, there are good networks for sports enthusiasts like ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports. YouTube TV offers an unlimited DVR feature, which enables you to record content and keep it for up to nine months.
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).
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.
Local cord-cutting numbers are more difficult to come by. Cable companies hold most subscriber-specific information close to the chest, and generally won’t give out even a ballpark number of customers. That’s because the competition is tight — Spectrum and Frontier Communications are the main competitors for cable and internet customers in Tampa Bay, and every customer counts.
If you had to pick a character, who would you rather be? The corrupt senator played so skillfully by G.D. Spradlin? Or are you the Godfather? Spradlin’s character sure reminds me of my old cable company. I think we’d all like to believe we’re Al Pacino’s character. Confident. Taking no bullshit whatsoever. Do you really act that way when you’re on the phone with your customer service rep from Comcast? Nah, I don’t think so. I’m sticking with some tough love here. You really don’t.
CBS All-Access is a good example of a single channel app that offers live television. However, CBS All Access doesn't contain CBS's complete library so don't go in expecting you'll be able to stream the entire Big Bang Theory series. Other networks, like HGTV, Smithsonian Channel, History Channel, etc. also offer varying degrees of access to content through their apps.
One of the streaming services I would suggest you look into if you’re a fan of shows like The Big Bang Theory or NCIS would be CBS All Access for $6 per month. This provides you with streaming access to the network along with on-demand access to all of their shows. So you know, the CBS link here is an affiliate link, but only because I honestly think it’s a good option for cord cutters.
Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.
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.
PlayStation Vue ($39.99/mo. - $74.99/mo.): Don’t let the name throw you. You don’t need to own a PlayStation to subscribe to Vue, which is accessible through most of the major set-top boxes. You do, however, need to pay a premium. As with Hulu and Sling, Vue’s ability to deliver live local broadcast is dependent on where you live, but Sony does offer a lot of local TV in a lot of different markets, and even where it doesn’t, it allows subscribers to see many of the major networks’ shows on-demand. Vue also provides some simple add-on options, a huge amount of DVR cloud storage, and a lot of portability between devices.
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.
After Charter Communications recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, it rebranded as Spectrum and has worked to simplify its services. Unfortunately, that means you’ll only have one option if you just want cable TV. That one TV-only plan is called TV Select. It comes with at least 125 channels and about 46% of the most popular channels. Notable absences include E! and the Travel Channel, but otherwise you’ll be getting a fair number of major networks.
If any of these options think they are worthy to cause one to cut the cord they are all sadly mistaken. Once you add the total cost these options charge, just to get the more highly desirable stations most people expect, you run into limitations: how many devices you can stream simultaneously, how much bandwidth you would need to even maintain stability, and how much more speed you’ll have to pay for with your internet provider to get it. It’s almost as if they are pushing potential cord cutters right back to their cable providers. Not to mention, Comcast/Xfinity, as much as I despise them, gives more reasonable offers for less cost, with anywhere DVR – both local and cloud based.
Keeping a wired connection to your media streamer will always give you the best reception possible. I have zero interest in a wireless connection for my main television. But we don’t live in a wired world that much anymore. If you have a second (or third) television that streams off of a media stick or gaming console, it’s a good time to check the strength of your wireless router.
The reason was simple. And it was contrary to much of the expert advice that I read on some very well-respected review sites. I’m still pleased that I didn’t listen to the criticisms and focused on my own needs. At the time, I wanted the fastest device for streaming PlayStation Vue. In early 2016, nobody was talking about that, and it really pissed me off. I should actually be thanking those people. I might not be sitting here now talking to you if it wasn’t for them.
If you're opting for streaming you have a lot more control about your choices. While a service like PlayStation Vue brings packages that are cable-like with more channels as they grow in price, Sling TV starts lower at $25, and offers more flexibility in what you can choose to add. If you only need a few channels, picking the right provider will be everything, and without contracts, you can swap services in and out as necessary. Pick up CBS All Access with its free introductory month to catch up on Star Trek, then jump over to HBO Now to binge Game of Thrones while you wait for the next season.