Maybe you first heard the term whispered in hushed corridors at work or in a back-alley near your house, but now there’s no escaping the fact that “cord cutting” has gone mainstream. And it’s no wonder why. The monthly cost of cable TV in this country now averages more than ever before: a whopping $123 per household. But thanks to à la carte streaming services and the disruptive technology that’s taken over the living room in recent years, it’s easier than ever to save serious cash. Cancel your cable subscription, and join the growing ranks of cord-cutters streaming their shows.
Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.
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.
Google Chromecast ($35 or $69): As part of the Google family of products and services, Chromecast devices (standard and Ultra) offer an impressive library of apps that treat the TV screen as a tool for more than just passive viewing, including games, music and viral videos. Chromecast also takes part of its name seriously, allowing users to start watching something on their phone or tablet and then “cast” it to a TV. The devices are often discounted at the Google Store, online.
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Later, the cable operators began to carry FM radio stations, and encouraged subscribers to connect their FM stereo sets to cable. Before stereo and bilingual TV sound became common, Pay-TV channel sound was added to the FM stereo cable line-ups. About this time, operators expanded beyond the 12-channel dial to use the "midband" and "superband" VHF channels adjacent to the "high band" 7-13 of North American television frequencies. Some operators as in Cornwall, Ontario, used a dual distribution network with Channels 2-13 on each of the two cables.
Now there are some things about Tablo TV I need to get used to. When I bring up the app on the Roku box, I oddly have to remind it every time which Tablo TV box I’m tapping -- even though I only have one. And when I go to watch live TV, it takes a good 20-to-25 seconds to load each channel. This makes channel surfing rather impossible, especially when I have to return to the Live TV menu first before selecting another channel. And I’ve also had several scheduled recordings not record because the reception was too weak, according to the error message. As I mentioned, that’s a problem with our home and not Tablo.
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
This used to be by far the most expensive cable-cutting service out there for it’s base $49.99/ month cost, however with the drop to $29.99 and it’s offering of probably the most comprehensive channel lineup, it’s definitely worth considering. And if you’re a sports fan, something to note is that there is now ESPN and ESPN2. Fox has their sports channels there (FS1, Fox College Sports, for example) but that’s it.
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Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
Right, the library! Those wonderful institutions still exist, and most of them stock entire series of popular contemporary shows, documentaries, movies, and more. Log on to your local library network to see their offerings. If you don’t see what you want, you can usually request materials from other libraries within the network for free. Here are more tips on how to save money every day without even thinking about it.
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.
Even when it comes to internet TV, it seems like some things never change. Similar to the cost creep we've seen on cable packages, cheap introductory rates from internet TV provides have recently crept higher. Sling, PlayStation, DirecTV and YouTube have all instituted recent price hikes, as they're not immune from the same bundling and price pressure from networks that pushes prices up on traditional TV.