The market is full of streaming devices and sticks that offer viable cable TV alternatives. Some of the more popular devices are Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. Investigate each option to compare prices and offers and see what works best for the shows and needs you have. These are the splurges that may actually end up costing more than you thought.
To be honest, if you've got a decent laptop and a nice TV, with an HDMI cable between them you have all you need to be a cord cutter. Stream on your laptop and watch on the big screen. Or use your phone; the apps out there for casting or mirroring what you see on the phone to the TV are too numerous to mention. (Read How to Connect Your iPhone or iPad to Your TV for more.)
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.
Way back when, cable and satellite TV were initially sold to consumers as an add-on: Get all of your local channels, along with uncut movies, more televisions programs and additional sports. But pulling the plug on cable doesn’t necessarily mean you can just go back to broadcast networks only. Modern homes and apartments are no longer wired-up with antennas the way they were 30 years ago. Indoor HDTV antennas are available at prices ranging from under $20 to move than $150, but the quality of the signal and the number of channels that come in clearly vary depending on external factors, like whether you live near mountains or skyscrapers.
I’ve been using some battle-tested strategies to pay as little as possible for Internet service. Right now, I’m paying $35 per month for an Internet connection with 50Mbps download speed. I saved just under $800 after kicking my cable subscription to the curb. In 2018, I’ll save hundreds of dollars more compared to my first year of cord cutting. And I’ll have even more to watch than before. Meanwhile, the “you can’t save money” narrative will continue.

What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company recently hiked prices by $5 on its various plans. The company's Live a Little plan, which provides 60 channels, now costs $40 per month, and the Just Right package has gone to $55 per month. Go Big jumped to $65 per month, and the top 125-channel plan, Gotta Have It, costs $75 instead of the previous $70. The good news is that the NFL Network has been added to all DirecTV Now's packages starting with Just Right and above, at no additional cost. Also, you can add HBO for just $5 per month. The company will be launching a next-generation version of the service this spring that bumps up the number of simultaneous users from two to three.


I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.


Cord cutting simply means canceling your pay-TV service. Cord cutting has been a growing trend since 2009, when over-the-air broadcast signals switched from analog to digital. People began to realize that they could now get the vast majority of their favorite TV shows in beautiful HD using a simple television antenna rather than paying monthly fees to a TV provider.
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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.

I agree with you that “net tv is simply not ready”. We’re still in relatively new stages of how these all shake out. NOTHING out there now can match the simplicity we’re accustomed to with dedicated cable boxes and one interface for all our TV watching. We all have our gripes about the various interfaces offered by Comcast, FIOS, Charter, who have you, but in the end for the “average user” even with their downsides they are “better” than the myriad of interfaces you have to deal with combining the likes of Amazon Video with Netflix with (Hulu/YouTube/DirecTV/etc), alongside the convenience of a single remote with consistent buttons. I do think a LOT of people WANT to switch to streaming-only TV, they try it out before they “cut the cord” and don’t like the inconsistency, or they try it after “cutting the cord” and end up going back. Like for me, I already cut the cord and went with PS Vue, but like I said it’s missing half the live TV I want to watch, so now on my FireTV boxes or my PS4’s I have to use some other app (with totally different controls, user interface, etc.) to get those other channels, then I hop over to Amazon Video or Netflix to watch a movie and that’s all different too. Then if my kid wants to watch something, he’s got to hop between 3 or 4 or 5 different “apps” to find something of interest.

Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
If you want—or need—to see a significant number of your local teams’ games, I’m going to stop right here. This is one area where streaming services can’t yet fully deliver. Local games are generally exclusive to regional sports networks, and you’ll still need cable for that. There’s also the issue of some online services being a little more unstable than die-hard fans might like. Dish’s Sling TV failed for many customers during this weekend’s NCAA Final Four action, leading the company to issue an apology.
I don’t see on here the fact that Sling only allows you to stream on one device. I have contacted them and they seemed to have no clue that this is an issue but it is. We need to stream on 3 like Netflix does; Sling offers that as a “Family” pack but not in the U.S. That makes no sense to me. Do you know if they plan to remedy that? The service rep I spoke to seemed to have no clue.

They also have a Canada-wide digital TV service for only $4.99 per month. No activation charge or anything. Its called Storm Digital TV. You can get it anywhere in Canada if you have high speed internet. Its the most advanced TV software I’ve ever seen so far!! It runs directly inside a web browser so no trouble with downloading and all the other trouble. I’ve been using it just for a week and i am in love! You can more info at storm.ashiqur.com.
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.
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.
History appears to be on your side if you're ready to cancel your traditional paid TV subscription. The Video Advertising Bureau released a report suggesting that the number of households without a cable or satellite service in the United States has just about tripled since 2013. As the report doesn't take cable replacement services into account, the actual number might be even higher.
We mentioned before: YouTube TV is not YouTube Red. Red is more like an advanced, commercial-free version of regular ol' YouTube. The YouTube TV option costs more and has a lot of catching up to do to rival the other live TV streaming services. It's in limited cities, has limited channels, and is available on limited devices (Chromecast, Android, iOS, LG and Samsung TVs, Xbox One, and browsers on PCs). It doesn't even bundle in YouTube Red as part of the service—you'd have to spend another $10 a month on Red to keep ads out of your regular YouTube streaming. Premium channel add-ons include $11-a-month Showtime, $5-a-month Shudder, and $7-per-month Sundance. The big plus: unlimited storage in the cloud-based DVR option.
The cost to networks of paying huge sums for sports rights get passed on to customers in the form of higher monthly bills. Broadcast channels like Fox, CBS, and NBC are also shelling out billions of dollars on sports because it’s one of the few things consumers still watch live, which helps the companies sell advertising. Those broadcasters are raising the prices they charge cable operators, leading to higher consumer bills. Congress handed that new-revenue stream—known as retransmission consent fees –to broadcast channels in the early 1990s.

This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.

Having bundles, also helps. While with DTV and AT&T, you still get access to DTVN streaming content, but also 15 channels of HBO and HBO GO. After the bundle rebates, the cost is $50/mo, for the lowest tier. Certainly not cable, and your money is going to the same company, but you do get the best of both, full 5 tuner DVR whole home DVR service, plus on the go streaming. What I am trying to say, Satellite service isn't Cable or Streaming. They traditionally were the rebels against Cable TV prices. However after some time they turned into nothing under $110/mo, a lot like cable. But while there's a lot of customer churn, the prices and business modeling has changed. I am liking it, while it lasts.

Roku ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).

Great article, thanks for all the food for thought! We originally got a great deal from Comcast, the triple play: $99/mo (plus taxes) for the first 2 years, for cable, land line and internet. But now the bill has crept up to around $175/mo. Getting ready to cut the cord, but we have two dilemmas: 1) we didn’t buy a Smart TV so because of some goofy issue with my laptop, I have to reboot it after connecting it to the TV in order to watch anything. A pain in the butt. Have searched extensively and not found a workaround. Are these fire sticks USB devices that would cut out the laptop connection entirely? And 2) we are middle agers with the same land line for 25 years, and it’s like a member of the family… lol. We’re afraid to let it go! It’s been part of our identity for so long, literally (for ID purposes with accounts and such) and figuratively speaking. But I think we’re going to rip the band aid off soon. About all we watch on our 700+ channel Comcast package consistently is Law and Order and Frasier reruns, and the occasional movie. Otherwise it’s just pointless channel flipping.


Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.
For original programming, it started weak, but upped it a notch with Casual, which got the critics interested and earned Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination. Now it's got a real cool factor thanks to the multi-award-winner A Handmaid's Tale. It's also made itself the exclusive place to watch the entire back catalog of classic shows like Star Trek, South Park, Seinfeld, the original CSI, and a bunch of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows. It has a smattering of movies, but really, Hulu is all about the TV shows.
History appears to be on your side if you're ready to cancel your traditional paid TV subscription. The Video Advertising Bureau released a report suggesting that the number of households without a cable or satellite service in the United States has just about tripled since 2013. As the report doesn't take cable replacement services into account, the actual number might be even higher.
Great article ! I live just south of Pittsburgh and am thinking of cutting the cord with Comcast. I have a question since I did not see it specified in your article. Over the weekend I saw PS Vue streamed at my daughter’s house in Sacramento but I did not like the video quality. I believe they streamed it through an iPad. One of the things with my X1 Infinity box is the high definition crisp picture. Can you specify if Sling or PS Vue can deliver such crisp 1080 definition if streamed through a Rocky Ultra or an Amazon Fire box? Thanks
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.
The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.
I then subscribed to Playstation VUE $ 55/mo with sports pkg , that I can connect natively with my Droid SONY smart TV, I connected that app to my apple 4 TV as well as a spare ROKU I had lying around that was never used. My grown kids can use the playstation vue account remotely while at college, and one child working in NC. I have $ 8 netflix, and $ 8 hulu so those totaling at home: $ 111/mo. vs. old spend of $ 240. I will get dinged with a $ 10/mo increase for FIOS interent month #13…

Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
Offer(s) valid with 12 month Promotional Discount. Local TV regularly $25.95/month.Wave digital equipment required on every connected TV. $2.72/month Interactive Equipment Fee on first digital or HD receiver. STARZ and STARZ ENCORE regularly $12/month each or $17/month for both. MOVIEPLEX regularly $5/month. After 12 months, Roku regularly $5/month. $100 Visa gift cardand Free Installation offer good with online order of High Speed 100 and up at 12-months, with offer code “CYBER100”. Customers must be in good standing for 90 days in order to be eligible for the Visa gift card. After 90 days, customers will receive an email with instruction on how to redeem the gift card online. Free Installation, regularly $60, is good for online orders with offer code “CYBER18”, and includes set-up for up to 2 TVs on existing outlets. Additional outlet and special wiring fees may apply. Serviceable areas only. Prices subject to change. Not valid with other offers. Certain restrictions and additional fees may apply. Call for complete details. WASHINGTON RESIDENTS: The base rates listed are subject to a 2% Regulatory Recovery Fee, which added together determines the total price.

Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
Cable TV was once the ultimate entertainment necessity. The over-the-air days of VHF/UHF television signals couldn't keep up with voracious viewers who needed more, more, more channels. Having a cable directly pumping all that content into your home became the norm, and the cable providers—which likely provide your high-speed broadband internet access as well—knew they had you on the hook.
Cable ISPs leverage some of the bandwidth they use to bring people television service to deliver data - thankfully without any noticeable negative impact to the former, in most cases. Cable is an always-on connection, which means that your modem is always in communication with your ISP, and it tends to be faster than DSL because your distance from the service provider isn't an issue. The only drawback of cable internet is that service delivery is sometimes less reliable during peak usage hours, as cable customers local to one another share their bandwidth.

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.
The streaming service ESPN+ shouldn’t be mistaken as a straight out replacement of ESPN that’s available on cable TV, and some of the live TV streaming services listed above. But there’s a lot of live sports you can get for $5 per month. That includes daily coverage of Major League Baseball during the regular season. You’ll also get daily games during the regular season of the NHL.

Hulu with Live TV. You can now get your Hulu with live television. This is a full package that contains local stations in many areas along with the usual suspects when it comes to entertainment, sports and news. The channel selection doesn't quite reach what you can get on PlayStation Vue or DirecTV Now, but because it basically comes with free Hulu, it can be slightly cheaper. Hulu with Live TV is great if you already subscribe to Hulu and want to save money, but that savings might get eaten up by extra fees such as buying more Cloud DVR storage or expanding the number of screens you can watch the service on from the limitation of 2 for the standard service.
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