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.
Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in Hi-Def for free? It’s called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little leg work to set it up, but I’ll guide you through it.
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.
Where Mediacom really suffers is its customer service. It consistently ranks at the bottom, a worrisome practice in an industry with an already poor reputation. Consumer Reports readers gave it 58 out of 100, ACSI gave it 56 out of 100. If you choose Mediacom as your cable provider, keep a keen eye on your billing statements and confirm any deals your promised.
Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available online for web site visitors.
DirecTV Now. DirectTV Now offers a package that is very competitive with PlayStation Vue, and as you might expect, delivers a very cable-like experience without the actual cable. However, it does have one of the worst interfaces, especially on Apple TV, and lacks the ability to pause live television. One big bonus of DirecTV Now is access to very cheap subscriptions for premium channels like HBO and Starz, so if you load up on all of these, DirecTV Now might come out as the cheapest service. They also don't charge for their DVR service.
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.
If you haven’t heard of Tablo, it is a clever little box. You plug it into your wall socket, connect your over-the-air TV antenna to the Tablo, and then download the sister app to your phone or tablet. The Tablo can connect to your house router via WiFi or by using the included Ethernet cable. I used the cable. Then the app brings up an easy-to-use TV guide on your phone. You can record shows and series as you would with any other DVR, and you can watch live TV through it. Its playback functions and interface are awesome -- much easier to traverse than the one I pay for with ATT -- and let me zip through commercials in seconds. In another part of my home, I have a smart TV with Roku built in. It has a Tablo app on it that allows me to watch my recordings or live TV on the big screen. And I also have a Chromecast on my other TV to do the same.
What do you do when your cable box is more useful for telling the time than delivering movies and TV? A decade-plus after Netflix added streaming video the internet is ready to take over for cable and satellite, offering more options and lower rates. Now that you're ready to pull the plug, there's a lot to consider, like who has what, what works where and how much everything costs.