Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.


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:
Start with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, tack on an HBO subscription to the latter, and consider paying for the Brit-centric streaming service Acorn as well. You’ll have plenty to watch, all commercial-free, and if you hear a lot of buzz about a show that isn’t available through any of those platforms, you can always pay for them on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon (or iTunes, Vudu, or whichever digital retailer you prefer).

Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.


Pretty ubiquitous among the streaming hubs, Sony-owned Crackle offers an eclectic selection of content for free, mostly with ads. We are talking really bad commercials cut in at odd moments in movies—sometimes in the middle of a scene—as if an algorithm handles it rather than a human. The movies tend to be pretty craptacular with occasional gems. It's trying more and more to do original content, like TV show version of the movie Snatch, Start Up with Ron Perlman, and the new cop series The Oath with Sean Bean. It once could brag about having Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee but lost it to Netflix.
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.

For example, imagine what the science fiction fan of 2019 will need to do to keep up with the genre’s most prominent franchise content. Star Wars will live on Disney’s new proprietary service, but new episodes of Star Trek (both Star Trek: Discovery and the upcoming Next Generation sequel) are only available on CBS All Access. Meanwhile, The Expanse is exclusive to Amazon Prime. If fans want to watch DC’s superhero shows, as well, that’ll require a DC Universe subscription — although the CW shows featuring DC characters will only be available via the CW app — or, for patient fans who want a commercial-free option, Netflix. If they want to catch up on classic Doctor Who, they’d better have a Britbox membership.
Charter Cable TV: Charter operates in 28 states, and now also runs Time Warner Cable TV and Bright House Networks. In fact, Charter Cable TV and Time Warner Cable TV services are both being marketed now under the Spectrum brand. Charter is spread across the U.S., with notable gaps throughout the middle part of the Midwest, some western and southwestern states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho, as well as Florida and some states along the eastern seaboard. We offer guides for the entire Charter channel lineup, as well as the Time Warner Cable channel lineup.

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. 
PlayStation Vue. Why is PlayStation Vue not a household name? It's probably because Sony stuck the "PlayStation" label on it. Despite the name, you don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it.  And when it comes to cable-over-internet, PlayStation Vue is clearly one of the best and most affordable solutions. Similar to any cable service, Vue has multiple plans. It also has one of the best Cloud DVRs that will automatically save all shows of a type, so you can record every football game or all showings of that TV series.
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.
Your TV antenna has you covered for local news - morning, afternoon and evening editions from your local broadcast stations, live. You will also get the live daily national news shows from the major broadcast networks including Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News and CBS Evening News. Your TV antenna also provides any special live news broadcasts such as the State of the Union and breaking news.
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Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.

There isn’t a single offering out there that makes any sense for most family homes. None. 5 TVs can easily get the complete Comcast lineup of TV stations, including all of their premium channels, plus anywhere DVR hardware to boot. Additionally, if the cost was itemized apart from the Comcast Voice, and GB internet they give me, I am paying WAY, WAY less than any streaming service out there. That just plain sucks because not one other provider is available where I am, so the competition is non-existent. I, for one, think Comcast is over-priced. But, based on what I would have to pay to get what I want in a cord cutting option, I would be even worst off. These alternatives are only beneficial for single TV homes.
For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.
Charter Cable TV: Charter operates in 28 states, and now also runs Time Warner Cable TV and Bright House Networks. In fact, Charter Cable TV and Time Warner Cable TV services are both being marketed now under the Spectrum brand. Charter is spread across the U.S., with notable gaps throughout the middle part of the Midwest, some western and southwestern states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho, as well as Florida and some states along the eastern seaboard. We offer guides for the entire Charter channel lineup, as well as the Time Warner Cable channel lineup.
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.
The Fire TV Cube adds voice controls to your TV, sound bar and even (ahem…) a cable box — if you’re into that sort of thing. Being able to turn on your TV, or even start a show on Hulu while you’re TV is still off really feels like a luxury coming from a more expensive television. I just reviewed the new Fire TV Cube and thought that Amazon did a really great job.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Sling TV, you’ll still be more than $200 ahead. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option and subscribe to Showtime through Hulu and save another $72. Or you can drop Sling TV for Showtime and save an extra $108.

As part of this switch over, we installed an over-the-air antenna. This allows us to pick up a large number of local channels. We live close enough to the Des Moines metro area that we can pick up strong signals from a lot of stations in Des Moines. (It’s worth noting that this is aided by the fact that there’s a repeater tower within five miles of our house, which means the signals are strong.) This includes the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS – and a large number of additional channels of varying quality, including an all-children’s channel and a channel that seems to be nothing but a loop of the weather forecast.
You do need to have Internet in order to take advantage of a lot of streaming options like Netflix, Playstation Vue, Direct TV Now and others. If, however, you only need broadcast channels you can get an antenna and/or an over-the-air DVR, and watch broadcast TV only. As far as finding cheap internet, a lot of the time you’re subject to what options you have in your area. IN my area I have two providers that I usually go back and forth between finding the best deal and sticking with it for a couple of years. Good luck!
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!
I live in the country and the only thing I can get is Hughes Net. I also have DIRECTV service. my bill is out of this world. I tried the fire stick but I had to up my Hughes net, and that was too expensive cause I had to buy more mgs. I need some help on getting rid of my DirectTV and Hughes net . I also have 4 TV’s. What do you suggest that I can do ? I don’t know nothing about this stuff but I do know that I’m paying way too much to watch tv !! I also have WIFI thru Hughes net. Can you help?
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.
I don’t know about that with the resolution and picture. I only have experience with Vue and Sling. I have been using Vue for about a year and a half. I don’t know what it streams at but it has always been a very good picture for me using my firestick. Even when my net goes down to 6m, but lower will bring on some stutters. Sling on the firestick or browser was definitely lower quality. Fuzzy for smaller items and hair looks like dark blobs. Much harder to make out say race car #’s. Still decent, but I need better for a lot of what I do. With Vue the problem I have is tons of goofy glitches and molasses operation with the firestick. I understand other devices like the fire box work better. Using either firefox or chrome has lots of player crashes and some stuttering that I am trying to fix on my pc. May be my setup but I am suspicious with the fact that all other streaming is fine. I know the firestick worked much quicker and better with Sling and any other content provider. So I believe that Vue’s setup is not working well with the firestick or with browsers. They are using adobe flash, the one that has always had these kind of problems and is dying a slow death as everyone moves away. They need to ditch that. I wish I could get YouTube TV to try that, but I am afraid that all of these services are going to end up finding a way to insert commercials that there is no way to get around. So we pay and still are forced into lots of loud obnoxious rude commercials. I really wish that cable would bring their prices in line and let me keep my real dvr. Near perfection with a wired connection and no need for extra speedier expensive net service and all of the glitches with that. At this point video and even phones are much better wired. Need lots of work to ever get that all working reliably.
During the 1990s, the pressure to accommodate the growing array of offerings resulted in digital transmission that made more efficient use of the VHF signal capacity; fibre optics was common to carry signals into areas near the home, where coax could carry higher frequencies over the short remaining distance. Although for a time in the 1980s and 1990s, television receivers and VCRs were equipped to receive the mid-band and super-band channels. Due to the fact that the descrambling circuitry was for a time present in these tuners, depriving the cable operator of much of their revenue, such cable-ready tuners are rarely used now - requiring a return to the set-top boxes used from the 1970s onward.
A "cable channel" (sometimes known as a "cable network") is a television network available via cable television. When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network and Sky, as well as via IPTV providers such as Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse is referred to as a "satellite channel". Alternative terms include "non-broadcast channel" or "programming service", the latter being mainly used in legal contexts. Examples of cable/satellite channels/cable networks available in many countries are HBO, Cinemax, MTV, Cartoon Network, AXN, E!, Fox Life, Discovery Channel, Canal+, Eurosport, Fox Sports, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, CNN International, ESPN, GMA Pinoy TV and The Filipino Channel.
DirecTV Now offers a generous number of channels across four different packages, and it doesn't cost all that much, considering how much you get: $35 per month for more than 60 channels, up to $70 per month for more than 120 channels. While it's a good deal on paper, DirecTV Now itself has inconsistent video quality, a suboptimal interface and a haphazard selection of on-demand content. DVR options are still in their infancy, and platform availability is all over the place. If you want the largest amount of stuff to watch for the least amount of money, DirecTV Now works; otherwise, it's not the best choice.

No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.


If you’re cutting cable, that means you’re most likely going to use streaming services as cable TV alternatives to watch your shows, so you’ll need a solid Internet connection. Most streaming services work fine with the lowest tier (10 Mb), preventing buffering while you stream content, but a higher-speed service (25 Mb) will perform even better. Check the offerings with your Internet provider.
What you get: The Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu now also offers a combined plan, priced at $13 per month, that bundles a Spotify subscription with Hulu’s entry-level on-demand service.
So for part of the year, Dick and Jane might subscribe to Sling TV because Dick wants to watch baseball on his regional sports network. Jane may want to check out Viceland on the weekend because she’s a huge fan of “Huang’s World”. Later in the year, Hulu with Live TV makes more sense because Jane wants Smithsonian Channel and Dick wants to catch up on episodes of “Atlanta” and “Baskets”.
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.
Some people use a game console for accessing streaming services and even as a solution for live TV and a DVR, such as Xbox One or the Sony Playstation Vue streaming service. The reason we do not recommend these as live TV, DVR or streaming options is because using a game console in the always-on manner that is required for watching TV uses a LOT of power. It is the equivalent of adding another refrigerator to your household and you can expect your electric bill to go up about $8-$10 per month. It's just not a responsible way to watch TV.
Update: Been using PSVue for a couple months now. Overall just okay. TV guide / listing is below par and very hard to navigate but my biggest irritation is trying to use my phone or tablet while traveling. The constant re-entering of passwords and 2nd phone text verification is overwhelming. They also use one of the picture verification codes that is such a pain that I am now considering switching to something else. Also, you need to make sure you sign on with your portable device prior to leaving home, if you don’t you will NOT be able to watch anything on it as it must first “sync” to your home account before you can use is away from home. It is a nightmare constantly signing into the service when you are not at home.
Many cord-cutters say that they canceled their cable TV plan and opted for online streaming services to save money. In reality, you might actually end up paying more money or dealing with more hassle than the small savings are worth. Each streaming service has its own library of shows and movies. In order to get all of the shows that you watch on TV, you'll probably have to purchase several different streaming service memberships. Let's say your favorite things to watch are Game of Thrones, the ESPN Network, This is Us, and Jane the Virgin. You'll need HBO Now, the ESPN+ app, Hulu, and Netflix to watch all of these programs. That adds up to a cost of about $40 a month. Plus, you'll have to manage 4 different accounts, which is such a headache. DIRECTV's Entertainment TV package lets you watch all of these shows and networks at the same price of $40. Plus, you'll have access to over 160 live channels and thousands of On Demand titles on a single platform. You can even stream content from your phone, tablet, or laptop on the go.

Offer ends 12/3/17, and is limited to new residential customers. Must subscribe to Starter TV or above and a post-pay subscription to a residential XFINITY Internet service. Limited to new XFINITY Mobile residential customers adding a new account with purchase of a qualifying mobile device. Port of existing mobile number required. Mobile order required within seven days of installation of XFINITY Internet. Cards issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa® U.S.A. Inc. Cards will not have cash access and can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
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.
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