The reason American consumers are abandoning their cable subscriptions is not a mystery: It’s expensive, and cheaper online alternatives are everywhere. But who exactly is responsible for the slow demise of the original way Americans paid for television? That’s a far trickier question. The answer can be traced to a few decisions in recent years that have set the stage for this extraordinarily lucrative and long-lived business model to unravel: licensing reruns to Netflix Inc., shelling out billions for sports rights, introducing slimmer bundles, and failing to promote a Netflix killer called TV Everywhere.
We’re not going to make you jump through hoops either—we know it’s a timely decision to make and one that you have to be confident in. We keep our comparison service quick and easy to use by allowing you to find the right provider in your local area. Simply enter your zip code, view and compare the plans and deals across a range of providers, and then select the one that best suits your needs. We also provide all the contact details that you’ll need in order to call and set up your service.
If you have a landline phone service through your TV provider, it's time to ask yourself whether you really need it. The vast majority of cord cutters rely on their mobile phones and do not have a landline in the home. For people who require a fax line, services such as eFax provide everything you need through a mobile app on your PC, phone or tablet and you don't have to be home to send or receive faxes.
I’ve been following this cord-cutting trend for a while and have read many articles. This is the best, clearest how-to I’ve read. Our DIRECTTV contract is up in April, and we will probably cut the cord. We’re tired of playing the promotion game with Cox, Dish, Direct TV. But the real issue is the internet promotion game with Cox and Centurylink here in Phoenix. The thing is, my 6 and 7 year old already find the shows they want on Hulu and Netflix (one paid and one trial account). So I figure we can get broadcast via OTR, record to Tivo OTR (my wife and I had Tivo years ago and loved it) and stream the popular services through it. I’ve also invested in AppleTV devices for a few years (this is an Apple ecosystem household) and that service is getting better and better (competes with Roku and Sling, to a lesser degree) at having channels available via Apps. Great article!
To put the scale of the potential threat of cord-cutting in perspective: for more than a year now, Netflix has had more subscribers in the United States than cable television, and the speed of changeover is only increasing. According to eMarketer, an estimated 22.2 million people switched from cable subscriptions to streaming content in 2017, a 33.2 percent growth over the previous year.
This is a big deal for Amazon, which had previously refrained from partnering with any US pay-TV service to offer Amazon Prime Video. (The full scope of the deal is unclear at this point; neither partner revealed financial terms.) It’s arguably a bigger deal for Comcast, however. The partnership lets it remain relevant by allowing it to at least temporarily bypass the existential terror felt by cable providers in response to cord-cutting, the trend for viewers to shift from traditional cable television to streaming services.
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Hey Matt, great question. Sling Box is not going to be related to Sling TV, and as far as I know there’s no benefit to having that box if you’re wanting to sign up for Sling TV. In terms of minimum internet speed, I would at least recommend 50mbps. That’s what I have at my house right now and it works the vast majority of the time; however, I think 100mbps would also be a much safer bet if you were looking for more constancy.
Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
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."
However, the notion that cord-cutting represents an ever-worsening existential crisis for media companies is simplistic at best. To be sure, consumers are plenty mad at their pay-TV providers, which have jacked up prices at three times the rate of inflation since 2013 and provided dismal customer service for years. Most people, though, haven't taken the leap to cancel their pay TV service, and those who do oftentimes haven't actually "cut the cord."
This evolved into today's many cable-only broadcasts of diverse programming, including cable-only produced television movies and miniseries. Cable specialty channels, starting with channels oriented to show movies and large sporting or performance events, diversified further, and "narrowcasting" became common. By the late 1980s, cable-only signals outnumbered broadcast signals on cable systems, some of which by this time had expanded beyond 35 channels. By the mid-1980s in Canada, cable operators were allowed by the regulators to enter into distribution contracts with cable networks on their own.
Some also concluded that the streaming service could be good for ratings after seeing the success of AMC’s Breaking Bad. The drama about a meth kingpin drew more than 10 million viewers in its final episode in 2013 after past seasons began appearing on Netflix. That compared with 1.4 million viewers for the first-season debut in 2008. Fans had caught up on the old seasons on Netflix, then tuned in to the current season on TV, they thought.
I’ve been using some battle-tested strategies to pay as little as possible for Internet service. Right now, I’m paying $35 per month for an Internet connection with 50Mbps download speed. I saved just under $800 after kicking my cable subscription to the curb. In 2018, I’ll save hundreds of dollars more compared to my first year of cord cutting. And I’ll have even more to watch than before. Meanwhile, the “you can’t save money” narrative will continue.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
Committing to a long term contract can be scary, especially when you're not sure what your budget is going to look like in the next few months. Luckily, there are providers that offer “no commitment” options, so you won't be tied down by a contract. Providers like Spectrum even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide the service isn't worth the price, they'll give your money back: no questions asked and no hassle. If you're already stuck in a long-term contract from a previous cable provider with early termination fees, not to worry! Spectrum even offers to buy you out of your previous contract for up to $500, so you can get out of your commitment at no extra cost.
All the cable-replacement services offer some type of free trial period, so you can try before you buy. Because most require a credit card number, you’ll have to keep track of when the trial period expires and cancel if you don't want to continue the service. And remember that package details can change often, so check the latest offers before signing up.
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Google Chromecast. The Chromecast device differs in that you plug the dongle into the HDMI port of your TV and "cast" the screen on your phone or tablet to your TV. This means that your phone acts as the remote for the Chromecast, which makes it a little more difficult to use that other dongles. Still, the overall idea of using internet television content and placing it on your television to watch on a large screen is at play.
Plus, now that there are several live TV streaming services, that may be the best way to handle all the viewing sans cable. Hulu with live TV is $479.88 per year—add HBO and Showtime to it and the price jumps to $719.76. If you add all the remaining streaming services (Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube Red, CBS, and Starz) that's $1,214.38—still cheaper than the average pay TV cable service.
On both Roku devices and Apple TV, much of the best content does require a pay per view fee or subscription, so you'll want to keep an eye on how many you buy. And there are a growing number of apps like HBO Go that are restricted to those still with a cable/satellite TV subscription. But even if you never venture much beyond Netflix and Hulu Plus, you're getting a lot of content for very little money.
Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Consumers nowadays often have multiple cords tying them to a service provider. According to Comcast, nearly 70% of its residential customers in its most recent quarter received at least two Xfinity products because of the bundle discounts. Pricing will continue to be an issue for the industry going forward as new entrants such as Apple mull whether to jump into the market.
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
If you want a more affordable way to watch TV, you can always rely on internet TV, or TV that you can view with the internet. There are various services that allow for streaming video, but you can always opt for live TV streaming services too. Streaming video services include Amazon Video, Netflix, and Hulu, whereas live TV streaming services include Sling TV, DirecTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue.
On November 28, 2011, a report by Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger said that young people who grew up accustomed to watching shows online would be less likely to subscribe to pay television services, terming these people as "cord-nevers". Anninger predicted that by the end of 2012, the industry's subscriber count would drop by 200,000 to 100.5 million; Anninger's report also stated that consumers were not likely to return to paying for television. In the case of land-line telephones, people had believed younger people would eventually get them, but now numerous subscribers only have mobile phones. Anninger predicted that the same would hold true for pay television, and that providers would need to offer lower-priced packages with fewer channels in order to reverse the trend. Also using the term "cord-nevers" was Richard Schneider, whose company Antennas Direct was selling antennas through the Internet. After a decade in business, the company was selling 600,000 antennas a year. However, Schneider said some people only knew of the Internet and services such as Netflix and were not even aware broadcast television even existed. In a speech on November 16, 2012, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said "cord nevers" did not see anything worth paying for.
Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. If you sign up and link up an investment account with $1,000+ within 40 days, you get a $20 Amazon gift card. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.
Amazon has already taken steps toward this idea. Its customers can subscribe to different content providers through Amazon Video Channels, including traditional television providers like HBO and Showtime as well as streaming content providers like Britbox and IndiePix Unlimited, then view them all through Amazon Prime Video. Individual accounts and payments are still required, but the notion of one killer app or portal that allows access to everything is such an enticing idea that it’s difficult to imagine that companies aren’t already discussing the possibility. And Xfinity’s deals with Netflix and Amazon suggest that even guarded companies with a strong proprietary interest in their original content are willing to come on board.
For sports channels, there’s NBCSN, FS1, FS2, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, and Pac 12 Networks. fuboTV has been aggressive with adding regional sports channels as well to its offerings. In New England, subscribers can get NESN (home to the Red Sox and Boston Bruins games) and NESN Plus. There are regional FOX Sports and NBC Sports networks available across the U.S.
Choosing a TV is a big decision, and one that should be based on your specific needs. Most TVs on the market today are smart TVs and have software geared toward streaming Netflix and other platforms. There is a school of thought that it’s actually better to not have a smart TV because eventually the software updates stop rolling out. So long as you have enough HDMI ports on your set, you can use any popular streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
*XFINITY Digital Starter TV: Offer ends 09/30/14. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Limited to new residential customers. Requires subscription to Digital Starter TV service. Equipment, installation, taxes, and fees, including Broadcast TV Fee (currently up to $1.50/mo.) extra, such charges and fees subject to change during and after the promotion. After 12 months, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Pick a Premium offer limited to Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and HBO. Not available to customers who previously subscribed to the selected premium or with any packages which include the selected premium. After 12 months, the regular monthly service charge for each selected premium channel applies. Comcast's current monthly service charges range, based on area, as follows: Digital Starter TV, from $50.99 to $71.99, and Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and HBO, from $14.95 to $19.99 each (pricing subject to change). TV service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. Limited Basic service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand™ selections subject to charge indicated at the time of purchase. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month's recurring service charge and standard installation up to $500. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2014 Comcast. All rights reserved.
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.
TV providers are stepping up the game when it comes to DVR and television equipment capabilities. Scroll through thousands of on demand titles, record all of your favorite shows, and watch your stored recordings on multiple TV's at once: all from a single box. Specific recording features will vary by provider and receiver. The DIRECTV Genie is the premier HD DVR on the market. With Genie you can connect up to 8 TV's to a single DVR, record up to 5 HD programs at once, and browse through over 10,000 On Demand titles. Got home too late to catch that new episode of your favorite show that you've been waiting all week to see? No problem. You can rewind live TV up to 72 hours with Genie, so you'll never miss a premiere ever again. Control what your children can watch. Schedule or watch recordings from your laptop, tablet, or phone. Discover new programs that you'll love with Genie's personalized recommendation feature. The possibilities are endless! Make sure to check the fine print when it comes to equipment fees. Some providers include the DVR for free, while others charge a monthly fee.
FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
Another issue is the availability of the local streams for networks like the Big 4: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Several reasons prevent the services from just putting local streams out there. As a result, you will find situations like in Phoenix where YouTube TV streams all four, Sling TV streams just FOX and DirecTV Now can’t stream local channels at all. You can read our review of the best services for streaming local TV for more details.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
There are a lot of options out there to stream your favorite shows. Don’t feel overwhelmed. They all offer free trials and no contract. There is no risk to try them out. Don’t overthink ditching your traditional pay TV provider. Try cutting the cord. If you discover it isn’t for you, I’m sure your cable company will be more than happy to take your money again.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.