Some consumers argue that they don't need cable TV subscriptions because they can just subscribe to a streaming service from a certain network and watch their shows from streaming ready devices. However, the 200 million Americans that still have cable would disagree. Did you know that your cable TV subscription probably includes these streaming services? Why limit yourself to one network or pay for and manage multiple accounts when you could stream all of your favorite shows in one place? Providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum offer these services and apps at NO additional cost. Watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
But cable providers didn't factor in that the internet they provide would become their worst enemy via access to streaming video. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are the most well-known names in what's become known as "cord cutting"—doing away with pay TV and using over-the-air (like the old days) or internet-based services to get all your "television" programming. That means no more paying a huge monthly fee for thousands of hours of TV you don't watch (in theory). Instead, you pay individual services for a la carte programming. It's a lot like paying for just what you watch. Almost.
Love your story Ron P. I laughed out loud when I got to where indirect tv gave you the impetus. It is too bad that there is so much evil greed in this world. Even beyond the outrageous satellite and cable costs that is why even with streaming services many of us have to pay for a load of channels we don’t need. We get about half an hour of content per hour, so even with all of the ad revenue they also charge us a ton to send their ads to us. I do not trust them to not run a lot of these costs up when they get us again stuck using their services. If it isn’t collusion it is in effect the same thing. Evil.
The majority of Hulu content, and indeed the content upon which the service was founded, is current seasons of broadcast TV shows. With Hulu you can view current episodes of broadcast TV shows, with commercials, the day after they air. TV antenna users already have access to this content live, on the day that it airs, can record it on a DVR, skip commercials and don't have to use up data to stream it. Also, the non-broadcast content on Hulu, except for originals, can usually be found on Amazon or Vudu.
While we recognize that Hulu is evolving as a service, at this time we don't feel that it provides much added value to TV antenna users. For cord cutters who for some reason cannot use a TV antenna or don't have access to one, Hulu, at either $8 or $12 per month depending on whether you want a lot of TV commercials in your content or just a few (you can't skip them), Hulu would be a great service to have.
Even if you get your local CBS station with an antenna, it’s still a good service to plumb the huge on-demand library. That’s especially true if you’re a diehard Star Trek fan. You may already know that Star Trek: Discovery is exclusively produced for CBS All Access. But the streaming service also has 79 epsiodes of the original series, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Enterprise, The Next Generation, Voyager and Star Trek: The Animated Series.
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Then take a look at that list you’ve been putting together. How is it looking? Chances are it may appear a little messy with many side notes and some networks scribbled out. If so, good. Maybe for the first time in your life, you’re taking a hard look at what you are spending on a channel by channel basis. That’s essentially the worst nightmare of cable TV operators.
If YouTube is a staple of your cord-cutting experience—and with millions of hours of video uploaded every second, it probably should be—then maybe this paid experience will be to your liking. After a one-month trial, 10 bucks a month gets you completely ad-free YouTubing—plus access to original shows behind the paywall. These aren't TV shows in the classic sense, but originals created by YouTube stars. YouTube also partnered with big names like Eminem and Katy Perry, as well as the Sundance Film Festival. You also get access to YouTube Music and Google Play Music. Don't confuse it with YouTube TV, which we discuss below.
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.
Setting this up was easy, too. We bought an inexpensive antenna at a local store that was on sale and simply attached a coax cable to the back of that antenna (the cable came with the antenna) to the cable port on the back of our television, then simply went into the menu on our television and scanned for channels. It found around 30 of them, and they come in crystal clear in about 480p – not high resolution, but good enough, especially on a smaller television. Once the antenna is set up and running, the programming is completely free.
Lots of satellite TV plans include a DVR or HD DVR which allows you to easily record shows, set parental controls, watch shows from any room, and access On Demand programs and movies. Cable companies may also offer you a free DVR when you buy a TV service plan. With both satellite and cable TV service providers, you will usually have to pay a monthly fee for the DVR even though the DVR itself is included at no extra cost. Service for a DVR costs around $10+/month with either cable or satellite service.
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.
Your Local Library: Your local library will most likely have a decent selection of DVD movies that you can check out for a week or more. In fact, many libraries will actually buy copies of new releases that you can reserve. My local library tends to be a bit picked over, but if you get on a waiting list you can usually find movies or TV shows you’d enjoy watching.
FuboTV ($34.99/mo.): Although it is best known for its wide array of international sports networks — it’s particularly ideal for fans of soccer and college athletics — FuboTV also includes a solid package of basic cable outlets and some local network channels. The service offers 30 hours of cloud DVR storage and a “three-day replay” function, giving subscribers three days to watch broadcasts that they forgot to record (with some exceptions because of licensing limitations).
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."
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.
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
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.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
Cable TV is fairly easy to install, but it can also be time-consuming. Cable companies will send someone to install the system of cables and cable boxes for you. However, these appointments can eat up a lot of time and cost extra. Cable companies generally don’t give a specific price quote for their installation services, but installation service can often run as high as $200 depending on the provider.
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It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
You don't need a lot of streaming services to satisfy your TV needs. Most cord cutters use two, sometimes three services and there are specific benefits to each one. We recommend the following services because they provide the most value to cord cutters and they are readily available nationwide. Here are the main services you will likely want and why:
In fact, with internet television offering the same features as traditional cable at cheaper monthly subscription, you can cut the physical cord and get away from two-year contracts with expensive equipment rental fees. You do need internet access, of course, to take advantage of a variety of streaming services. Some people choose to pay for that access while others prefer to take advantage of free internet.