The digital landscape is already fragmented, and it’s continually fragmenting further, as content creators choose to become content providers. In the process, it’s beginning to resemble cable television. Each new app or content library looks like a different channel to consider, and each one is essentially a premium cable offering that requires a separate subscription to view. Services that previously acted as content aggregators are losing outside content with the launch of each new service. Instead, they are creating their own content to maintain value in a crowded marketplace. Even YouTube is getting in on the act, creating more and more channels for viewers to choose from.
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.
What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. The service is now available in more markets after launching in five cities in 2017. You also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. You can add Showtime for $11 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.
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.
These antennas are compatible with all televisions made since 2007 (when built-in digital tuners became a federal requirement) and they plug directly into the coaxial port in back of your TV. Once plugged in, you simply have your TV scan for available digital signals. Most TVs have a signal meter display that shows just how well each channel's signal is being received.
The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.
This type of service is also used to circumvent sports network blackouts or simply to mask your identity online from would-be identity thieves. Of course, check with your content provider’s terms of service to make sure you are not breaking any end-user agreements. To learn the differences between a Smart DNS and VPN check out my post on VPN vs Smart DNS.
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.
We make it easy for you to determine which local cable companies you'll have to choose from. Use our handy ZIP code checker to get valuable information that will help you in your search. You'll get the names of cable companies in your area, along with a snapshot of what they offer. Searching for cable providers by ZIP code is a great way to save time and effort so you can get right down to researching the details of each plan.
That is far from an exhaustive list. You may find some of these on your big TV streaming hub (Roku has a great list of apps), but not all—some may only be on mobile devices. Remember, a lot of the shows that you watch on these stations end up on other services—specifically Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video. So you may not have to suffer through watching these on small screens with un-skippable advertising.
Customers in areas with lots of ISP options don't get very far by searching ‘cable providers in my area'. Choosing between internet service providers can be overwhelming because there are a lot of cable companies with several service options that include not just internet delivery but also bundled TV packages and sometimes even telephone service. That's because cable providers leverage the existing underground cable television infrastructure to deliver digital data into your home via a specialty modem, which means they can offer a number of different services at once. So how to choose?
Pay-TV companies assume that if you want Internet only, you must be a cord cutter. To make up for you not paying for the TV service and associated equipment, they have begun capping data use at around 300 Gigs per month. If you stream video for three or four hours a day (average TV-watching time in most U.S. households), you will easily exceed this allowance. This means you will be charged overage fees, and to avoid those fees you will be forced into a higher-priced data tier. This is the most important reason to use a TV antenna - stream only what you need and use the antenna for the rest.
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.
What do you do when your cable box is more useful for telling the time than delivering movies and TV? A decade-plus after Netflix added streaming video the internet is ready to take over for cable and satellite, offering more options and lower rates. Now that you're ready to pull the plug, there's a lot to consider, like who has what, what works where and how much everything costs.