Overall, Amazon is still playing catch-up when it comes to Netflix and other streaming services just because they don’t have as much content. However, at technically $8.25 / month it is a bit cheaper than your typical $8.99 or $9.99 package, and you get free, 2-day shipping as a perk. If you shop online a lot, that could end up swinging your choice.
The main piece of equipment you will need to turn off cable is a streaming device. Luckily, most of us already have one. Many of the TVs sold these days are smart TVs that support various streaming services. Modern Blu-Ray players also tend to have smart features, and if you are a gamer, you can use your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as a streaming device.
Know what you want - and stick to it. Are you looking for the basic cable channels, like your local television networks? Or do you specifically want a certain channel, such as a regional sports network so you can keep up with your home team? Regardless of your goal in subscribing to cable television, you will need to stick to the plan in order to keep your bill where you want it. The customer service representative's job is to try to sell you the highest tier they possibly can, so you'll likely need to be firm when ordering.
The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
A "cable channel" (sometimes known as a "cable network") is a television network available via cable television. When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network and Sky, as well as via IPTV providers such as Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse is referred to as a "satellite channel". Alternative terms include "non-broadcast channel" or "programming service", the latter being mainly used in legal contexts. Examples of cable/satellite channels/cable networks available in many countries are HBO, Cinemax, MTV, Cartoon Network, AXN, E!, Fox Life, Discovery Channel, Canal+, Eurosport, Fox Sports, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, CNN International, ESPN, GMA Pinoy TV and The Filipino Channel.
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.
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.
Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
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.
Sometimes called "TV Everywhere" apps, these are the apps for individual networks or cable channels that provide video-on-demand of their current shows (usually a day or two after they air). All of them have wildly different interfaces. Almost all of them require you to sign in using existing credentials for a cable or satellite TV subscription. And even then, almost all force you to watch commercials while viewing shows, with no way to skip them.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
This streaming service basically revolutionized the whole cable TV alternative thing and still stands as one of the best in the market. Sling TV’s subscription fee kicks off at ($20 per month), and it’s unlikely that you’ll get charged more for your add-ons. This service offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue) and allows subscribers to select smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. Sling TV has something for everyone, kids, foreigners, and sports enthusiasts. Oh, and their DVR features are too shabby either.
Talk about getting more bang for your buck! Gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony can actually stream shows, according to Tom’s Guide. Just install the app for the streaming services you’re interested in and bam—now you don’t have to buy new equipment. There may be some limitations to the services you can watch through these devices, so be aware of those downsides to this cable TV alternative.
We haven’t mentioned customer service with other cable TV providers, but we think we should emphasize that Xfinity customer service is known for being especially terrible. We understand if you’re not surprised—Xfinity has earned its reputation. However, many of us still use Xfinity because it’s the best of what’s available (most people have access to only one or two cable TV providers in their area).
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
The best way to check this is to search by your zip code. If you’re in a more rural area, satellite internet and TV might be an option you want to pursue. Although satellite isn’t ideal for internet speed, it can do the job in a pinch. If you’re in a metropolitan area, you might have access to fiber internet and TV, which is far faster than DSL and most cable networks.
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.