Up until a couple of years ago I had never paid for cable or satellite tv. I wrote in one post about how I still got all of my favorite shows via streaming alternatives, and how I wasn’t really missing anything by not having cable. I realized after we got cable (at my wife’s behest) that I HAD been missing watching all of my favorite sports teams because for the most part sports is one of the biggest things you can’t really get in all the free streaming options. Now that I’ve had the sports for a couple of years, I’d have a hard time dropping it I think. At the very least, however, we’re making sure to not pay too much for our TV. We just switched from Comcast cable to Dish Network when our promo deal expired and we had to pay $85/month for cable alone. When they wouldn’t droip our rates we switched to Dish Network and got more channels for about $40. I’m sure we’ll have to do the same again in a year or so when our new deal runs out. *sigh. If only all the sports teams streamed their games live for free!
On either device, using just Netflix and Hulu Plus (each require $8 per month subscriptions) gives you a good variety of popular programming. Between the two you can binge on previous seasons of everything from Breaking Bad to Downton Abbey, watch current episodes of The Daily Show and Parks and Recreation and make a dent in your bucket list of must-see film classics.
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
To receive cable television at a given location, cable distribution lines must be available on the local utility poles or underground utility lines. Coaxial cable brings the signal to the customer's building through a service drop, an overhead or underground cable. If the subscriber's building does not have a cable service drop, the cable company will install one. The standard cable used in the U.S. is RG-6, which has a 75 ohm impedance, and connects with a type F connector. The cable company's portion of the wiring usually ends at a distribution box on the building exterior, and built-in cable wiring in the walls usually distributes the signal to jacks in different rooms to which televisions are connected. Multiple cables to different rooms are split off the incoming cable with a small device called a splitter. There are two standards for cable television; older analog cable, and newer digital cable which can carry data signals used by digital television receivers such as HDTV equipment. All cable companies in the United States have switched to or are in the course of switching to digital cable television since it was first introduced in the late 1990s.
However, if you’re a more casual sports fan or a supporter of an out-of-market team, cord cutting is still a worthwhile option. Sling TV—assuming it can hold up under the strain of future events—will give you ESPN and ESPN 2 in addition to a handful of basic cable channels for $20 a month, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. Add in an indoor TV antenna and you’ll also have access to network sports.
Committing to a long term contract can be scary, especially when you're not sure what your budget is going to look like in the next few months. Luckily, there are providers that offer “no commitment” options, so you won't be tied down by a contract. Providers like Spectrum even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide the service isn't worth the price, they'll give your money back: no questions asked and no hassle. If you're already stuck in a long-term contract from a previous cable provider with early termination fees, not to worry! Spectrum even offers to buy you out of your previous contract for up to $500, so you can get out of your commitment at no extra cost.
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.
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.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
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.
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Step 3: Cancel your pay TV subscription. Even if you are unsure that you have all your shows covered without cable, cancel anyway. Like me, you will realize a lot of the stuff we watch is simply because it’s on. You’ll also discover there is a lot higher quality TV shows are not on traditional TV. Cancel now and start saving today. If you don’t like being a cord cutter, your pay TV company will gladly take you back.