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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.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
Amazon Fire TV. Similar to Roku, Amazon Fire TV comes in both box format and stick format and runs on the Amazon Fire OS that is built on top of Android. This gives it access to Amazon's app store, and while it doesn't have quite the ecosystem of Apple TV, you can use it to both play games, watch TV and boot up other useful apps like Pandora Radio, Spotify, TED, etc.
In theory, the partnership between Comcast and Amazon is a win-win for both parties. Tammy Parker, a senior analyst at GlobalData, echoes that view in a press release about the deal: “It further helps position Comcast as a preferred content curator in the minds of consumers, many of whom are growing fatigued with the dizzying number of choices they have for watching multiple video services over a myriad of devices,” she says. “The deal is also a positive for Amazon, which wants to get as many people watching its content as possible.”
Vue is the most comprehensive offering by far and with its price drop to $29.99 it’s now started to finally differentiate itself from other offers. Sling TV is a smaller offering for only $10, so it really comes down to what channels you use and how many channels you want access to. Since Vue is so similar to Sling TV, you really can’t go wrong, though.
In broadcast television, cord-cutting refers to the pattern of viewers, referred to as cord-cutters, cancelling their subscriptions to multichannel subscription television services available over cable, dropping pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media available over the Internet such as Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube Premium. This Internet content is either free or significantly cheaper than the same content provided via cable.
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month.
This streaming service basically revolutionized the whole cable TV alternative thing and still stands as one of the best in the market. Sling TV’s subscription fee kicks off at ($20 per month), and it’s unlikely that you’ll get charged more for your add-ons. This service offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue) and allows subscribers to select smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. Sling TV has something for everyone, kids, foreigners, and sports enthusiasts. Oh, and their DVR features are too shabby either.
With the Digital Starter package starting at $49.99 per month, Xfinity comes in with the best all-around package out of all our recommended TV providers. The channel selection for Xfinity’s entry package is pretty similar to DISH’s base-level package (including channels like ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Discovery). It’s also a better bargain than the satellite service (and the next-closest cable TV provider, Spectrum) by about $10 per month.
Keeping recordings on a server has its benefits, like making them available on different devices or a backup when your connection (or the service itself) fails, but it can also complicate things. Sling TV adds an extra $5 for DVR access, and on certain services you'll find that recording doesn't work with channels like HBO. Some YouTube TV customers have complained that the system points them to video on-demand copies of shows that include unskippable ads instead of their recordings, so read the fine print and check user reviews first.