To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2018’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
Happily, the NFL has remained committed to airing local market and national games on free broadcast TV networks, so your TV antenna is going to provide ample football coverage! You'll get Sunday games, Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. The only thing missing is Monday Night Football, which is only available on ESPN. There's now a great solution for cord cutters to get ESPN at a low cost and we'll explain more in the Streaming Services section below.
Before canceling your cable or satellite service, make sure your planned cord-cutting options will work for you. For the antenna option to work well, you need to be in a location where it is easy to receive over-the-air TV broadcast signals. A good idea is to connect an antenna to your TV and see what local channels you can receive. Also, check your smart TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or media streamer to see if they offer the streaming channels and services you desire.
The second factor you should consider is definitely the terms and length of your contract with the provider. Thoroughly go through the contract agreements and make sure that you are not locked in a long-term contract. Take note that the provider may increase the cable TV price after a year or so. Therefore, signing up for a long-term contract will prevent you from switching to a different provider when this happens.
You can certainly go WiFi with the modem and router you just bought and get a decent picture without lag. I’ve done it while testing out the Fire TV in a number of scenarios using Vue. But I prefer to use Ethernet because it greatly lessens the chance of running into lag. My router is close to my Fire TV box so connecting them with an inexpensive Ethernet cable makes sense.
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.
Many cord-cutters say that they canceled their cable TV plan and opted for online streaming services to save money. In reality, you might actually end up paying more money or dealing with more hassle than the small savings are worth. Each streaming service has its own library of shows and movies. In order to get all of the shows that you watch on TV, you'll probably have to purchase several different streaming service memberships. Let's say your favorite things to watch are Game of Thrones, the ESPN Network, This is Us, and Jane the Virgin. You'll need HBO Now, the ESPN+ app, Hulu, and Netflix to watch all of these programs. That adds up to a cost of about $40 a month. Plus, you'll have to manage 4 different accounts, which is such a headache. DIRECTV's Entertainment TV package lets you watch all of these shows and networks at the same price of $40. Plus, you'll have access to over 160 live channels and thousands of On Demand titles on a single platform. You can even stream content from your phone, tablet, or laptop on the go.
So question…. my tv has 2 inputs on the back that look like cable connections. One is an ATSC input, and the other is a QAM (cable) input. I want my PIP to work, but I cannot receive any DTV signal by connecting my DTV antenna to the QAM and ATSC inputs. I get the channels on the ATSC, but not the QAM input, so PIP will not work. How do I get my TV to now allow me to continue using PIP, now that I’ve cut cable and only have an ATSC digital antenna? Any ideas on equipment to buy or adjustments I need to make?
Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.
Amazon Fire TV. Similar to Roku, Amazon Fire TV comes in both box format and stick format and runs on the Amazon Fire OS that is built on top of Android. This gives it access to Amazon's app store, and while it doesn't have quite the ecosystem of Apple TV, you can use it to both play games, watch TV and boot up other useful apps like Pandora Radio, Spotify, TED, etc.
Our view: If you've got a good $50- to $60-a-month internet plan and can add an antenna for local channels and maybe a Netflix or a Hulu, you will pay less. But many of us have TV/internet bundles that raise the price of internet if we drop TV. That's what happened with me and Frontier, when the company said my $35 monthly internet charge would double to $70 if I ditched cable.
Satellite providers like DISH and DIRECTV host service in all 50 states. The only clear differentiator between satellite and cable TV, is that satellite requires a dish on your roof. Unlike the slow speeds that come with satellite internet service, there are no restrictions on your television service. In fact, both DISH and DIRECTV offer a vast range of channels and exclusive sports packages like NFL Fantasy Zone and MLB Network Strike Zone.
The conversion to digital broadcasting has put all signals - broadcast and cable - into digital form, rendering analog cable television service mostly obsolete, functional in an ever-dwindling supply of select markets. Analog television sets are still[when?] accommodated, but their tuners are mostly obsolete, oftentimes dependent entirely on the set-top box.
The crown jewel driving this premium streaming service is Star Trek: Discovery (which isn't even that good a Star Trek show), plus other originals like The Good Fight, which can only be seen via All Access, at least in the US (ST:D is on Netflix in other countries). You can also add Showtime programming to watch in the All Access interface for $14.99 per month.
The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time.