If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
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There is a $10-per-month add-on channel for sports and $4.99-per-month one for Spanish channels. Perhaps the best feature on PS Vue: a cloud-based DVR for storing up to 500 programs to watch whenever you like. Also, you can use the "TV Everywhere" apps that many cable channels have that require a cable subscription—but by authenticating them with PlayStation Vue. And you can pause or rewind or fast forward on every channel. All of them.
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The issue of complication can be more easily addressed, however. With each separate streaming option requiring individual logins, passwords, and payment options, it feels like just a matter of time before some internet service provider starts offering bundled streaming subscriptions that require one payment and one login, a la the traditional bundled cable subscription model. (Comcast’s Xfinity X1 still requires multiple logins for each individual 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.
YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.
Another thing to consider is if you can set up antenna TV to catch local channels. While it might not work for everyone or everywhere, if there's a network TV show you just have to see live then this is the cheapest option. Digital TV antennas are easy to find with designs ready for home and apartments -- check out our guide for more info on how to choose the right one.