Remember the days when you could watch network television for free? (those under 25, ask your parents). Well those channels are still available at no cost...if you have an antenna. And no, we're not talking about the clunky rabbit ears of old. Antennas have changed substantially in looks and performance over the last several years. Breakthroughs in technology spurred by development of the tiny but powerful digital antennas in smartphones have been adapted to the realm of TV reception.  The result? "TV antennas today are 10% of the mass they were decades ago," says Richard Schneider, president of Missouri-based manufacturer Antennas Direct. "And the move to an all digital transmission that the FCC mandated back in 2009 has put those TV signals in a higher frequency which means a better signal with less noise".
Netflix, Apple TV and Hulu are some of the popular broadcasting services that encourage cord cutting. The cord cutting concept received a considerable amount of recognition beginning in 2010 as more Internet solutions became available. These broadcasters have convinced millions of cable and satellite subscribers to cut their cords and change to video streaming.
This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.
Hulu is more than just a place to find some streaming originals and a lot of day-after-air shows. Last year it launched a live TV service—and it quickly became the PCMag Editors' Choice in this arena. Yeah, you pay more, but for that $39.99 you get access to the entire Hulu library we discussed above, plus lots of cable channels, including many local affiliates that stream live (depending on your location).
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
As equipment improved, all twelve channels could be utilized, except where a local VHF television station broadcast. Local broadcast channels were not usable for signals deemed to be priority, but technology allowed low-priority signals to be placed on such channels by synchronizing their blanking intervals. Similarly, a local VHF station could not be carried on its broadcast channel as the signals would arrive at the TV set slightly separated in time, causing "ghosting".[citation needed]
Keeping a wired connection to your media streamer will always give you the best reception possible. I have zero interest in a wireless connection for my main television. But we don’t live in a wired world that much anymore. If you have a second (or third) television that streams off of a media stick or gaming console, it’s a good time to check the strength of your wireless router.
Those who end up cutting the cord never go back. That wouldn’t be hard to believe considering all the great services offered by some major online streaming services. We’re talking about youngsters mainly who don’t even bother and sign up for cable, to begin with. As they delve deeper into the world of video-on-demand subscription, 10-15$ becomes an amount worth the spend. Every service has something different to offer, and before you sign up for any, you might want to investigate which channel suits your preference best. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month for you to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them include contract signing. The worst case scenario is that you’ll be stuck with a service you wish you hadn’t subscribed to for just a month. There’s no such thing as forced long-term commitment with streaming services. Now with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives for Cable TV. Most of these stand-alone streaming services allow users to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, TNT, TMC, Discovery, History, Disney, National Geographic, NBC, ESPN and popular cable networks.
As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.

Having said all that, if I were to buy a TV today, I might consider either the new Amazon Fire TV edition made by Element that just hit the market. You will essentially get a 4K TV with the latest streaming software from Amazon Fire TV baked in your TV set. Fire TV is becoming a lot more neutral in terms of supported platforms and apps, but it’s best suited for people who use Amazon Prime. Also, the new line of TCL Roku TVs with 4K HDR look interesting to me for similar reasons. I haven’t tested out either of those TVs so I can’t recommend one over the other. But it’s food for thought. Hope that helps.
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.

Dependability and other quality issues related to the streaming Internet TV services are all over the board. Internet speed, type of Internet connection (wired vs. wireless), and platform (game console vs. computer vs. other devices) are among the things to consider. I chose PlayStation Vue because it has the widest choice of channels at a price I couldn't pass up. Its feature set is considered by many to be superior to the alternatives. Buffering of streaming content is more noticeable on certain platforms, with Roku often cited as one of the worst. When considering how much you'll save over traditional cable/satellite, you need to factor in the cost of Internet service. That wasn't an issue for me. As a heavy computer user, I would have Internet access to pay for anyway, regardless of my TV usage. If you have a family with several members using your Internet connection all at the same time, streaming TV service performance will take a hit, as it requires a fair amount of horsepower. If more than one person in the home is watching PS Vue at the same time, they each need to be on a different platform, with some exceptions. Sony's PS Vue website explains those limitations in more detail.


Dish TV: Dish Network offers a range of packages made up of the most popular channels. Prices range from $40 for more than 67 channels to $75 per month for the full suite of 290+ channels. One of the best things about Dish Network and its TV packages are their innovative custom option called Flex Pack. This plan allows you to choose from different sets of channels, rather than paying a fixed amount for a predetermined lineup. Check out Dish TV's channel guide here.
The comments about Spectrum DVRs are not accurate based on our experience. We have Spectrum (previously Time Warner) and our DVR allows us to record 4 channels simultaneously (not 2) while watching a fifth channel. Also, our DVR can store substantially more than 21 hours of HD content as the review claims. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure we are able to store at least 100 hours of content. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the Gold package. There are lots of channels including premium channels (HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, etc.) and there are decent mobile viewing capabilities. The Spectrum app allows you to watch all content and manage DVR settings when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Substantially fewer channels are available on the Spectrum app when accessed via the internet; however, this is shortfall can largely be made up by downloading the apps for individual channels such as HBO Go, Show Anytime, Max Go, etc. On the negative side, Spectrum is expensive and the internet speeds never measure up to what they advertise. Instead of getting 100Mbps we get about 50 down/35 up. In fairness, most people I talk to all seem to have the same complaint about their service provider. And, of course, the customer service generally stinks.
When you’re looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s important to narrow down your search by zip code because coverage may vary depending on your location—even within a service area for a single provider. However, don’t assume that a narrow search means limited options. In addition to cable providers, there are likely DSL, fiber, and satellite providers available at your address. We’ll help you compare all your options so you get the best service at the right price. Enter your zip code below to compare plans and choose the best fit.

As far as content goes, Spectrum is relatively expensive for what it offers with one key exception. The Silver TV package gives you access to premium channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and Cinemax for a better entry price than any other competitor ($84.99 per month). So if you’re really into premium channels, Spectrum might be your go-to for the best bargain.


Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
With the exception of Sling TV and HBO Now, the latter of which is available for $15 per month, prices for these services start at under $10 apiece. It’s easy to mix-and-match providers as none of these companies require contracts. You can even share login info with a friend down the block or sibling on the other side of the country, without worrying about anyone getting on your case.
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.
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.
It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted. We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
K.C. That’s a great way to save money, especially if you aren’t much of a TV watcher. I don’t personally watch much TV, but the shows my wife and I watch tend to be on cable – often the Travel Channel, Food Network, Discover, History, ESPN, and The Disney Channel for our little one. That said, I don’t think we would be heartbroken to cut the cord and go without – just as long as I can keep my fast internet connection! 😉
Wow, you took it a step further. Even though cutting the cable is temporary, I don’t think my husband would allow it. I think TV is overrated and was paying the $90/month for Internet and cable. I didn’t completely cut cable, but lowered the package to $15/month and supplement with Netflix, which we LOVE! We are still saving about $30/month, so I’m happy.
I bought your recommended budget Motorola/Arris SB6141 certified/refurbished surfboard modem for $30 off Amazon. 8 channels are plenty for me. I have to take the 2 cable boxes back anyway so their modem goes along for the ride. I wanted to offer to buy their modem off them for $30 but they wouldn’t have accepted that for sure…and I bet my modem return gets trashed.
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.
The moment for me when the idea of dropping TV service became a long term prospect rather than just a short term experiment so I could write this article, was when I plugged in the antenna. The fact that I can get such high quality output, for network and PBS channels I had been paying for makes it hard for me to envision going back to a cable TV subscription. In addition, I have to sit through far fewer commercials (though I suspect that may change over time). Watching Netflix movies on the TV is much more satisfying than on the smaller computer screen and of course the freedom to watch current TV programs on my own schedule is a huge benefit when juggling the demands of work and family. I know there will be times during the year when a sports event I want to watch will be unavailable. But there's just no arguing with the dramatic cost savings. Pay TV is undeniably a richer experience, but is it worth a 330% premium? Not for me.

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.
Fiber-Optic TV is one of the newest types of television technology. Light travels through glass or plastic cables to deliver all of your favorite channels. These cables are much stronger than the copper cables used for cable TV, and they can transmit data across further distances while still maintaining the same high quality picture and sound. Fiber is typically the most reliable option, because the connection isn't affected by power outages or bad weather like cable and satellite TV are. Many fiber TV providers offer bundles with fiber internet, which is extremely fast. One of the downfalls to fiber television is that it has limited availability because it's a newer technology, so it may not be offered in your area. These fiber cables must also be installed perfectly by a professional to function properly, which is part of the reason that availability is limited. Fiber TV tends to be a more expensive option, but its incredible HD quality and reliability are worth the price!
An antenna is your means of access to local programming when cutting cable TV. If you want an in-depth guide for the information required for an optimal antenna solution, you should check out my antenna guide. Setting up an antenna may be seamless, or it may be the most difficult thing you do when canceling cable. There are numerous variables involved in television signals and antennas. If you are having a difficult time with this, the antenna guide makes this task easier.

Req. compatible device and Fios TV. Content restrictions may apply.  Out-of-Home Use: Fios Multi-Room DVR Enhanced or Premium Service required to stream DVR recordings. Four DVR same-recording stream at a time.  Verizon Wireless Data-Free Streaming: Req. postpay 4G LTE service. Non-streaming activity (e.g., app downloads, starting/restarting the app, going off airplane mode and transitioning from Wi-Fi to 4G LTE) will incur data charges (approx. 1-5 MB per instance). For Verizon Unlimited customers, app data usage will be counted, not billed.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
DIRECTV NOW was DIRECTV’s way of keeping its satellite TV service available for users who don’t want a dish installed or multi-year contracts. You can use the Just Right package and add HBO (Game of Thrones and Westworld for only $5 more per month instead of $15? Yeah, we’re in). Consider also that you can get your favorite networks like HGTV, Sundance TV, and the Travel Channel. Plus, you can also record up to 20 hours of TV to hold onto for 30 days with the included cloud DVR.
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.
Different Internet Service Providers, known as I.S.P.s, have different tiers. The various streaming services make different recommendations — typically available on their individual sites — as to the minimum requirements that allow their content to look sharp and run smoothly on different devices. Averaging their recommendations out, you’ll probably want to make sure that you have a minimum 4 Mb/s (that’s megabyte per second) connection, which, be warned, isn’t available in some of the more rural areas of the United States.
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
In 2015, the FCC redefined what really constitutes "broadband" speed in the US as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, up from 4Mbps, which was the standard since 2010. At the time, that put 17 percent of the population (55 million households) without true broadband. According to the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 34 million US citizens (10 percent) lack access to such speeds; 23 million are in rural areas.

Most of the leading cable TV providers in the country such as Cox Communications®, Charter Communications®, and Comcast Corporation® provide an option to their customers to bundle their internet, home phone, and cable TV services in a single package. Customers can either bundle two of these service or all of them. Either way, this choice allows you to save money and enjoy various services under a single bill.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
Per your suggestion I have purchased the Roku Streaming Stick, gone thru the installation process, adding some of the free channels, etc. pretty much easy stuff and all working great until I decided to remove the stick from one TV to insert it in another TV. The Stick was VERY HOT! is that normal? I like the stick because of portability, I can take it from the living room TV to the bedroom TV without much hassle, but seems like getting hot is not safe. After a while watching the Pluto channel and going into a couple of commercials when the program re-started, there was NO sound! have to go back to main screen to start Pluto over again. This continue to happen all the time, evening/night as well as during the day. Then another issue started, a screen will come up saying “the USB port didn’t have enough power to run the Roku and needed to be connected to another power source” – I then connected it to the wall, haven’t had this issue anymore. I started running tests, turning on the TV and checking the Stick and it would normally take only about 1/2 hour to start getting hot, after one hour I would need a towel to be able to remove it. Anyone had this problem? Help!!

These lower-cost services have won back some people who quit cable, providing hope for the likes of ESPN or CNN, whose channels are included. But the skinny bundles haven’t won back all the departed. They have only about 6 million customers so far. And companies whose channels have been excluded from them have little recourse to make up lost ground.


YouTube TV. YouTube's cable-over-internet service has a great interface for channel browsing and excellent video quality.  It also ranks up there with PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now when it comes to local channel support. A big bonus of YouTube TV is the ability to use it with up to five separate YouTube accounts within the same household. This includes roommates or family. It also offers free DVR with unlimited storage.
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