In the face of rising prices, poor customer service and ever more frequent blackouts over fee disputes, many consumers yearn for a way out of the grip of their cable TV subscription. Though companies such as Google, Intel, Sony and Apple are all working on Internet-delivery TV platforms, none have yet secured the content deals needed to launch a credible service. And while industry analysts point out that the number of cord cutters has yet to reach the critical mass needed to force changes to the cable TV business model, the fact is that today there are viable TV options to the triple digit cable bill.
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.
During the 1990s, the pressure to accommodate the growing array of offerings resulted in digital transmission that made more efficient use of the VHF signal capacity; fibre optics was common to carry signals into areas near the home, where coax could carry higher frequencies over the short remaining distance. Although for a time in the 1980s and 1990s, television receivers and VCRs were equipped to receive the mid-band and super-band channels. Due to the fact that the descrambling circuitry was for a time present in these tuners, depriving the cable operator of much of their revenue, such cable-ready tuners are rarely used now - requiring a return to the set-top boxes used from the 1970s onward.

There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).


IMPORTANT: If you regularly watch sports on a Regional Sports Network, such as Fox Sports, Altitude, SportsNet, Pac-12, Big 10 or Mid Atlantic Sports Network, and you don't want to give up that programming (largely MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and College Sports), you should think twice about cutting the cord. Trying to duplicate that content in its entirety from streaming services will end up costing you as much as your current pay-TV service.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
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*Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter. Standard rates apply after yr. 1. Price for TV Select, Internet and home phone is $99.97/mo for yr. 1; standard rates apply after yr 1. Installation, equipment, taxes, fees and surcharges extra; additional services are extra. General Terms: TV: TV equipment required, charges may apply. Channel and HD programming availability based on level of service. Account credentials may be required to stream some TV content online. INTERNET: Available Internet speeds may vary by address. Home phone: Unlimited calling includes calls within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and more. Services subject to all applicable service terms and conditions, subject to change. Services not available in all areas. Restrictions apply. Enter your address to determine availability.


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.
Since the advent of streaming online video, industry insiders have wondered what impact it would have on the future of television. As more companies move toward launching their own proprietary subscription streaming services, the future hasn’t been entirely decided yet, but new clues are emerging, pointing toward a potentially surprising answer: all this disruptive new media is just gradually re-creating familiar old-media models.
A couple years ago, some services decided it wasn't enough to just provide some a la carte streaming of shows. They wanted to provide what is pretty much a full cable-television subscription experience over the internet. These are those services. They won't necessarily give you super-granular control over content like you'd have with a regular streaming service, or even moreso with a DVR recording stuff off the air, but they give you access to a lot of content you might not otherwise get without a cable subscription—especially news and sports.
IMPORTANT: Pay attention to your Internet provider's data allowance cap. While many people don't have a data cap for Internet service today, data caps are coming for all of us. Major providers like Comcast have begun rolling out data caps in certain parts of the country and the trend will continue. This is especially true if your Internet service is provided by a pay-TV company.
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
There are a lot of options out there to stream your favorite shows. Don’t feel overwhelmed. They all offer free trials and no contract. There is no risk to try them out. Don’t overthink ditching your traditional pay TV provider.  Try cutting the cord. If you discover it isn’t for you, I’m sure your cable company will be more than happy to take your money again.

Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting did its first deal with Netflix that year. Another transaction the following year brought in more than $250,000 per episode for reruns of shows like Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, according to the former executive. Time Warner figured Netflix’s money would make up for any lost advertising revenue from viewers who watched on Netflix instead of a cable box.


As I kept vague tabs on everyone’s television habits over the spring and summer, a few patterns emerged. The biggest one was that YouTube and Netflix were watched on the television far more than the actual cable service. The second was that most of what was actually watched on the cable service were series that could easily be found on other streaming services for far less money. By subscribing to Netflix and Sling TV, with occasional subscriptions to other services for a month to binge watch a particular series or two, we cover virtually everything that we had watched on television throughout the spring and summer.

Sling TV is the streaming service that also offers live TV over the internet. It’s essentially cable TV without the contract or the massive bill. Currently, if you sign up for Sling TV you get a Free Roku. They also offer a free 7-day trial membership to try out their service. The service works on every major OTT streaming device and recently began offering a cloud DVR. Sling TV also streams NBC live online along with Fox and ABC in select markets.

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Let's not fool ourselves, the media companies go where the money is, and right now that's still the cable/satellite/telco providers by a wide margin. But according to Steve Shannon, Roku's General Manager of Content and Services, the tide is turning in negotiations between content providers and cable distributors with more rights becoming available for streaming services. "As each contract comes up for renewal, digital rights are becoming more valuable," he says. "Content creators recognize that there's value there and as cable companies are looking to reduce programming costs, some are giving up the digital rights."
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.
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