This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
I had called my cable company once to see if I could get a better deal after being a loyal subscriber for three years. For many months, I loved the service that I got for the price I paid. Then one day, that price wasn’t so great anymore. All of these fees started showing up on my bill. The customer service rep I spoke with on the phone listened as if a grave matter of national importance was being discussed.
Picture this. It's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you want to rewatch your favorite show for the tenth time. You log into your Netflix account and realize to your horror that your show has been taken off of the service. How are you supposed to binge watch now? Stand alone streaming services are notorious for adding and removing titles from their library abruptly and without explanation. Your favorite show or movie might be there one day and gone the next. With cable TV, you can set up a series recording for your show so you can watch every episode. While Netflix might stop airing your show mid-series, the show's TV network won't. Many providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum also offer On-Demand features with thousands of titles that you can watch from any of your devices at anytime. This means you can still binge watch your favorite shows at no additional cost. You'll also be able to watch your shows as soon as they air with a cable or satellite TV connection. With streaming services like Netflix, you might not be able to watch the season for several months after it airs on live TV. By the time the latest season shows up on Netflix, your friends will have spoiled all the important plotlines and shocking moments.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
PlayStation Vue’s interface feels much smoother than any other streaming service we’ve tested. It really starts with the attention to detail. PlayStation Vue clearly labels channels and “On Demand” content up in the top right-hand corner of the screen. This makes it easier to differentiate live content vs. on-demand content and surf for other shows that particular network has to offer.
Same as when they came in with cable in the 70’s, they told us we would now pay for tv, but there would be no or limited commercials. That lasted a very short time until we were paying and getting more than ever commercials. The standard is over 20 minutes of each hour, used to be 12. I don’t know what the answer is but how many billions do some need to amass on the backs of average and well manipulated people?
I agree with you that “net tv is simply not ready”. We’re still in relatively new stages of how these all shake out. NOTHING out there now can match the simplicity we’re accustomed to with dedicated cable boxes and one interface for all our TV watching. We all have our gripes about the various interfaces offered by Comcast, FIOS, Charter, who have you, but in the end for the “average user” even with their downsides they are “better” than the myriad of interfaces you have to deal with combining the likes of Amazon Video with Netflix with (Hulu/YouTube/DirecTV/etc), alongside the convenience of a single remote with consistent buttons. I do think a LOT of people WANT to switch to streaming-only TV, they try it out before they “cut the cord” and don’t like the inconsistency, or they try it after “cutting the cord” and end up going back. Like for me, I already cut the cord and went with PS Vue, but like I said it’s missing half the live TV I want to watch, so now on my FireTV boxes or my PS4’s I have to use some other app (with totally different controls, user interface, etc.) to get those other channels, then I hop over to Amazon Video or Netflix to watch a movie and that’s all different too. Then if my kid wants to watch something, he’s got to hop between 3 or 4 or 5 different “apps” to find something of interest.
A la carte TV is basically already here. It may not be in the exact form you want it. But if you can’t find something to watch these days between your TV antenna and streaming box, then I suggest you sell your TV and stick with books. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Even though I pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and Philo every month, I still love free apps like YouTube.
Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.
IMPORTANT: If you regularly watch sports on a Regional Sports Network, such as Fox Sports, Altitude, SportsNet, Pac-12, Big 10 or Mid Atlantic Sports Network, and you don't want to give up that programming (largely MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and College Sports), you should think twice about cutting the cord. Trying to duplicate that content in its entirety from streaming services will end up costing you as much as your current pay-TV service.
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 opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
Let’s get some of bad news out of the way. If your goal in cord-cutting is to save money — but you’d prefer not to lose access to anything you’re currently watching via your cable or satellite subscription — then you should be aware that the money you save on one bill may be immediately redistributed to another. Additionally, unless you want your “Game of Thrones” episodes to look blurry and choppy, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper internet package.
Each live TV subscription has a limited number of streams per household. PlayStation Vue, for example, offers up to 5 streams on different devices; YouTube TV offers up to three streams at once. So the question might be for you: How often do you have all five TVs going at once. An outdoor antenna with a splitter can deliver free over-the-air channels to all your TVs with no limitations.
* Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Reliably fast Internet based on FCC, ‘Measuring Broadband America Report,’ 2016. XFINITY xFi is available to XFINITY Internet service customers with a compatible XFINITY Gateway. Limited to home WiFi network. Does not apply to XFINITY WiFi hotspots. Xfinity WiFi hotspots included with Performance Internet and above. Limited access available to Performance Starter through 40 1 hour passes every 30 days.Hotspots available in select locations only. America’s best Internet Provider: Based on download speeds measured by 60 million tests taken by consumers at Speedtest.net. Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. Taxes and fees extra. $10/month rental fee is in addition to the cost of Internet service package. Pricing subject to change. 30-Day Guarantee applies to one month's recurring service charge and standard installation.
People living in remote valleys of the country came up with an innovative idea to solve their reception problems. They put up antennas on hilltops and ran cable wires into their house for better reception. The cable providers are currently using the same technology for offering a variety of channels and programs that meets the individual needs of every customer.
Cable TV was once the ultimate entertainment necessity. The over-the-air days of VHF/UHF television signals couldn't keep up with voracious viewers who needed more, more, more channels. Having a cable directly pumping all that content into your home became the norm, and the cable providers—which likely provide your high-speed broadband internet access as well—knew they had you on the hook.
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).
I hate to be a downer but I think I see some things coming that are a continuation of manipulation of the content consumers (us) get, with how we can view and how we will still have what we pay maximized over us. I think that the content providers are likely going to give us a complete on demand service so we won’t have to mess with a dvr system. But guess what, that then gives the providers full control over what exactly is provided. What I mean is they are going to make sure we cannot move to where we want timewise in a program easily and we certainly can only avoid some of the commercials if any of them. The content providers are going to make sure any deal they make requires this kind of thing and allows for no in house dvr systems. I have to watch some programming on the nbc sports site (on demand) and it is an eyeopener as to how awful and controlled that viewing experience is.
AT&T U-Verse TV: U-Verse and its TV packages are available in 21 states including the Midwest, south to Texas to the west and Florida to the east, as well as California and Nevada. You can check out AT&T U-Verse's channel lineup here. You can also bundle U-Verse high speed internet with U-Verse TV. Do be aware that U-Verse high speed internet is now called AT&T internet.
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.