Happily, the NFL has remained committed to airing local market and national games on free broadcast TV networks, so your TV antenna is going to provide ample football coverage! You'll get Sunday games, Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. The only thing missing is Monday Night Football, which is only available on ESPN. There's now a great solution for cord cutters to get ESPN at a low cost and we'll explain more in the Streaming Services section below.
But if you are serious about cutting the cord, you might want to invest in less-expensive, dedicated solution called a dongle. Smart TVs are great, but technology updates so quickly that it doesn't take long before the "smart" functionality becomes a bit antiquated and you probably don't want to switch out your TV every few years. Dongles include:
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.
The best way to pick the right TV package is to first set your budget. Next, ask yourself which channels you'd like to be included in your package. Most providers offer a similar set of core channels for every plan. With each plan upgrade, the provider adds either more HD or premium channels to justify the added cost. Some of these channels may be foreign networks that you can't normally get in the U.S. or even commercial-free movie channels. None of us want our favorite movie to be interrupted by an annoying commercial break. Most providers also offer access to On-Demand libraries filled with hundreds or even thousands of titles for you to enjoy at any time. Make sure to check out the free perks included in your chosen package. For example, Spectrum gives its subscribers free HD channels on some of its plans. Premium packages from Spectrum also include movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, and STARZ, as well as the NFL Network and NFL Redzone at no extra cost. Now that's what we call a deal!
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.
This is a little hard to answer because I don’t know the make and model of your TV. That said, your antenna should be plugged in to your ATSC input, and you will need to scan for channels once the antenna is plugged in. Your QAM input is not for your antenna. It’s for a cable hookup. If you have a quality TV, I imagine the picture-in-picture should work with OTA channels unless your tuner has some kind of restriction.
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.
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.
If you want to take advantage of streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth — you'll need a way to display them on your TV. If you have a recent TV from a major manufacturer, you may not need to get anything at all. Smart TVs usually have these apps built in, and almost every high-end TV sold within the last two years or so has smart capabilities.
So yesterday when I started out by saying I no longer wanted any TV or phone, they said they had done their best in March and could only give me internet only for $75 – a very minor $3 savings since the boxes were coming off anyway. I said I was canceling to go with Frontier DSL (24 MBPS) for internet only at $35/mo for 2 year guarantee (no contract). (I had already lined that up subject to a confirming call the following day “after I talked with my wife.”)
Some companies like XFINITY from Comcast give you the option to choose a self installation kit. Depending on your technical skills, this may save you time and money. So, if you think you can handle setting up the system on your own, you can avoid paying as much for an installation service from the company, and you can install the system on your own time whenever it is convenient for you.
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.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
If you prefer to self-install and troubleshoot your own technology, Cox Communications’ website makes that possible. Its vast resource library offers educational how-to videos on setting up, using, and troubleshooting your services. If you have a problem, just select your issue in its search tool, and it’ll direct you to the right instruction manual.
Satellite providers like DISH and DIRECTV host service in all 50 states. The only clear differentiator between satellite and cable TV, is that satellite requires a dish on your roof. Unlike the slow speeds that come with satellite internet service, there are no restrictions on your television service. In fact, both DISH and DIRECTV offer a vast range of channels and exclusive sports packages like NFL Fantasy Zone and MLB Network Strike Zone.
The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.
I’ve been following this cord-cutting trend for a while and have read many articles. This is the best, clearest how-to I’ve read. Our DIRECTTV contract is up in April, and we will probably cut the cord. We’re tired of playing the promotion game with Cox, Dish, Direct TV. But the real issue is the internet promotion game with Cox and Centurylink here in Phoenix. The thing is, my 6 and 7 year old already find the shows they want on Hulu and Netflix (one paid and one trial account). So I figure we can get broadcast via OTR, record to Tivo OTR (my wife and I had Tivo years ago and loved it) and stream the popular services through it. I’ve also invested in AppleTV devices for a few years (this is an Apple ecosystem household) and that service is getting better and better (competes with Roku and Sling, to a lesser degree) at having channels available via Apps. Great article!
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.
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.
The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.
Picking the right cable TV provider can be a challenge, but we've done our best to make the process as easy as possible for you. Some factors to consider when choosing a provider are your monthly budget, which channels and programs you want in your package, length of contract, and availability of TV and internet bundles or discounts. Let's say you're a movie fanatic and you want to have access to all the best movie channels without breaking the bank. Spectrum may be your best option for cable TV. If you're a die hard sports fan, you'll want channels like ESPN, the Big Ten Network, and the NFL Network. DIRECTV has the largest variety of these sports networks, along with NFL Sunday Ticket, so this provider's satellite TV packages are a great option.
When I cut the cord last year, it was so refreshing! Anyone that is looking to do it, just needs to rip off the band-aid, because it will sting a little bit. I missed not having the option to DVR my shows, but the end result was not watching as many. Right now, I have an antenna (which I bought for about $60), and I pay monthly for CBS All Access ($9.99/month, no commercials). Let’s just say I am a fan of All Access. If anyone is looking for shows to watch on CBS – try Salvation, Elementary, or NCIS:LA for prime-time shows, and Big Brother, Survivor, and Amazing Race for reality TV.
Is it better to go with a long term commitment or a “no contract” option? There are pros and cons to both alternatives. Typically, a long-term contract comes at a discounted monthly rate, so that you can save over time. Contracts may also come with perks like free installation, free equipment, or extra premium channels. If you know exactly what service you want and that you'll need cable TV for the next few years, the contract is worth it. However, for those that are unsure of how long they'll want TV service, a no contract option is the way to go. You might end up paying a bit more a month on average, but you'll be able to cancel whenever you want. Many providers will make you pay early termination fees if you decide to cancel your TV service before your contract is up. The easiest way to compare your contract options is to type in your zip code!
If you have a landline phone service through your TV provider, it's time to ask yourself whether you really need it. The vast majority of cord cutters rely on their mobile phones and do not have a landline in the home. For people who require a fax line, services such as eFax provide everything you need through a mobile app on your PC, phone or tablet and you don't have to be home to send or receive faxes.
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.
We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
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.
NFL RedZone, produced by NFL Network, whips around every NFL game on Sunday afternoons delivering the touchdowns and most exciting moments as they happen. When a team goes inside the 20-yard line, NFL RedZone takes fans there. The channel keeps fans up-to-date in real time, switching from game to game with live look-ins, highlights and a chance to see the key plays. NFL RedZone also delivers up-to-the-minute fantasy stats, extended highlights, and much more.
In the most common system, multiple television channels (as many as 500, although this varies depending on the provider's available channel capacity) are distributed to subscriber residences through a coaxial cable, which comes from a trunkline supported on utility poles originating at the cable company's local distribution facility, called the "headend". Many channels can be transmitted through one coaxial cable by a technique called frequency division multiplexing. At the headend, each television channel is translated to a different frequency. By giving each channel a different frequency "slot" on the cable, the separate television signals do not interfere with each other. At an outdoor cable box on the subscriber's residence the company's service drop cable is connected to cables distributing the signal to different rooms in the building. At each television, the subscriber's television or a set-top box provided by the cable company translates the desired channel back to its original frequency (baseband), and it is displayed onscreen. Due to widespread cable theft in earlier analog systems, the signals are typically encrypted on modern digital cable systems, and the set-top box must be activated by an activation code sent by the cable company before it will function, which is only sent after the subscriber signs up. If the subscriber fails to pay their bill, the cable company can send a signal to deactivate the subscriber's box, preventing reception.
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.
Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
Liverpool, congratz on the new found freedom. You are off to an excellent start. I live in TX and had spectrum triple play up until July 2016. I still have internet with them at a rate of $57 monthly tax included. I initially had the same setup as you with PSvue and Roku on 6 TVs as we have 4 kids and living room; also powered antenna on roof for all local content with over the air single line DVR to record CBS shows my spouse watches. AS of this monthly, I cut PSvue as well. Since last year, they lost several channels, added taxes and starting in September 2017, increased the rates. AS a result of this, I had to search deeper for better savings and cord cutting. Roku is proprietary and restricts many open source options available to cord cutters. I have now switched all TVs to Amazon Firestick, but not running kodi as many would say. Kodi is 2016, and the new available apps for cord cutters is Terrarium TV, and Mobdro. You can youtube both to see how they easily work. Find you a couple of teens in your area who can help you locate someone to assist you with this firestick project. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
By 2015, Wall Street had changed its tune. With about 40 million U.S. subscribers, Netflix was becoming a clearer threat. Analysts started pushing media companies to reclaim those old episodes from Netflix to make cable TV more attractive, which could slow the rise of cord-cutting. That year, Todd Juenger, an influential analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, estimated that big media companies, including Viacom, Fox, and CBS, would have been worth a total $45 billion more if they hadn’t done business with Netflix in the first place.
It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.
Sometimes called "TV Everywhere" apps, these are the apps for individual networks or cable channels that provide video-on-demand of their current shows (usually a day or two after they air). All of them have wildly different interfaces. Almost all of them require you to sign in using existing credentials for a cable or satellite TV subscription. And even then, almost all force you to watch commercials while viewing shows, with no way to skip them.
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.
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.