It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
If you (and your significant other) are comfortable with a larger, more industrial design, the $100 ClearStream 2 is an indoor/outdoor antenna that boasts a 50-mile range. The benefit of the more powerful Clearstream 2 is that I could place it anywhere in the room and pull in 70 channels, ranging from the major networks to PBS affiliates and local Spanish and Chinese language broadcasts.
If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.
A la carte TV is basically already here. It may not be in the exact form you want it. But if you can’t find something to watch these days between your TV antenna and streaming box, then I suggest you sell your TV and stick with books. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Even though I pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and Philo every month, I still love free apps like YouTube.
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.
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.
Nothing is perfect. I can easily imagine more flexible user interfaces and certainly look forward to more customer friendly and consistent licensing rights for TV episodes. Long term, the good news is that content creators are essentially carrier agnostic. "They've learned the lessons of the music industry and want to get their content in front of viewers on whichever platform they choose to consume it," says Robin Diedrich, media analyst at Edward Jones.
Even if you’re only going to watch a few of these shows, the only way to do it is with a subscription, so buying just the programs you want to see isn’t an option this time. The same is true for another prestige network, HBO, which offers its shows exclusively through cable or a new $15 per month streaming option called HBO Now (unless, of course, you don’t mind waiting months to buy the latest of Game of Thrones episodes on iTunes). With these three services in hand, you should be able to fill in any gaps with a few single-season purchases.
Over the last few years, however, I’ve noticed that I barely watch any television at all. I just generally prefer to read books or to play a board game in the evening rather than watching television. So, for me, the cost of a cable bill is kind of excessive. I could justify spending $10 or $15 a month on Netflix, but paying $80 or $100 a month for a bunch of channels I don’t watch just isn’t worth it.
For vast libraries of movies and TV content prior to the current season, I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. Another big reason to get Amazon Prime is the option of adding Showtime and Starz with your subscription. For just $8.99 per month, you have every TV show and movie offered by Starz and Showtime just as if you had the network with a cable provider.
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
I would like to start cutting the cord. I am under a contract with Comcast and have a year to go. I have 5 TV’s connected at a rental of $10 each. I would like to find a way to return at least 4 of the boxes back in. What can you recommend that will still allow me to access the channel content that I am paying for? I do have a Amazon Fire box. Thanks for your help.
Top-rated HDTV indoor antennas include the window-mountable Moho Leaf Metro ($17, above) or the tower-like Terk Omni ($60), both non-amplified antennas that plug directly into a TV tuner. Outdoors, you could try the roof-mountable Antennas Direct ClearStream 2Max or 4Max models, with 60- and 70-mile ranges, respectively. Other antenna makers include 1byOne and View TV.
The first thing you may want to consider is an HD antenna. This doesn't provide a way to watch streaming videos, but if you want to watch live TV, it's the cheapest and simplest solution. You may remember having rabbit ears on your hand-me-down TV as a kid — an HD antenna is basically the modern-day version of that. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and watch as the free channels roll in.
Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
Our family of four has been using a Roku 3 for a few weeks now and we've had no problem finding relevant content to watch. It's quite a traditional TV viewing experience, with of course the bonus of being able to pause and rewind. The latest version of the Roku interface is much improved over previous iterations and you can even download an app to use your Android or iOS device as a remote which can save time when typing in search queries. The Roku remote has a built-in headphone jack for late night viewing and in a nice touch, plugging in the headphones immediately mutes the sound on the TV.
For the base price, you get on-demand stuff from almost all of the networks (but not The CW) and even get them live in some markets. There are lots of basic cable stations (minus Viacom-owned stations like SyFy and Comedy Central). Each new tier of service adds more channels, going up to $44.99 to add some sports programming, and $54.99 for 90 channels, ending with $74.99—that Ultra package has those 90 channels plus paid cable services HBO and Showtime (but no Starz) for a little less than adding them separately.
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.
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.
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
Before canceling your cable or satellite service, make sure your planned cord-cutting options will work for you. For the antenna option to work well, you need to be in a location where it is easy to receive over-the-air TV broadcast signals. A good idea is to connect an antenna to your TV and see what local channels you can receive. Also, check your smart TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or media streamer to see if they offer the streaming channels and services you desire.