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.
Showtime has made itself an add-on with just about any service that offers the option. It's available through Hulu, Amazon Prime, and CBS All Access, plus the live TV streaming services (below). Or use the apps on Apple TV, iOS, Android, Roku, and Xbox One. The price to get Showtime those services is generally a couple buck lower per month, a $24 a year savings.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
Let’s get some of bad news out of the way. If your goal in cord-cutting is to save money — but you’d prefer not to lose access to anything you’re currently watching via your cable or satellite subscription — then you should be aware that the money you save on one bill may be immediately redistributed to another. Additionally, unless you want your “Game of Thrones” episodes to look blurry and choppy, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper internet package.
If you have unpredictable tastes, but only focus on one show at a time, it might be most cost efficient to just buy all your television a la carte. For the price of a year of cable, the average viewer can buy 26 seasons of TV. Assuming these are all 45 minute shows with 14 episodes, that’s almost 300 hours of content. If you can’t ever imagine yourself watching more than that, then this plan is for you. Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching prime time now and then.
Now we need to determine which current season Cable TV shows you can't live without. Current season means that you want to watch the episodes of the show as they air. Cable TV shows are anything not available on the broadcast networks that you looked at in the section above. They are shows on AMC, USA, HBO, Showtime, History, etc. For example, The Walking Dead, which airs on AMC, is a Cable network show. Mr. Robot, which airs on USA, is a Cable network show. Vikings, which airs on History, is a Cable network show.
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.
Keeping a wired connection to your media streamer will always give you the best reception possible. I have zero interest in a wireless connection for my main television. But we don’t live in a wired world that much anymore. If you have a second (or third) television that streams off of a media stick or gaming console, it’s a good time to check the strength of your wireless router.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.
You’ve already read stories in The Wall Street Journal and other respectable publications suggesting that you can’t really save money by ditching cable. The argument, the experts say, is that cable providers like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and AT&T will just make your Internet subscription more expensive once you cancel your cable subscription.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
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.
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
While some services like Hulu live TV provide NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS to many, you may still want to look into getting a TV Antenna. It allows you to watch free broadcast TV, with access to networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and more. The over the air broadcast TV available changes depending on where you live in relation to your closest TV towers. Thankfully, antenna maker Mohu has put together a tool that shows you which TV channels are available in your area. They also show which channels you should expect to receive for each of their antennas.
It’s a critical issue since Sling TV had more than 2.3 million subscribers as of the most recent quarter while DirecTV Now serves more than 1.8 million clients. AT&T recently launched an even skinnier bundle called AT&T Watch that appeals to viewers not interested in sports. Other companies including Verizon and T-Mobile may get into the skinny bundle business, which UBS expects to represent 25% of all pay-TV subscriptions by 2022.
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I bought your recommended budget Motorola/Arris SB6141 certified/refurbished surfboard modem for $30 off Amazon. 8 channels are plenty for me. I have to take the 2 cable boxes back anyway so their modem goes along for the ride. I wanted to offer to buy their modem off them for $30 but they wouldn’t have accepted that for sure…and I bet my modem return gets trashed.
DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
Here at Providers By Zip, we’re fully aware that analyzing and comparing television and internet service providers can be a lengthy, complex process. With so many different television and internet providers per zip code, it can be an incredibly tough choice to make. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to make the decision easier for you and eliminate any unnecessary hassle. Your days are busy enough without the additional stress of having to conduct research into numerous different service providers. Our helpful service is now known to be one of the leading internet and television comparison tools.
No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.
If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)
Streaming wouldn’t exist without Youtube TV for it’s the most popular streaming-video platform online. Youtube even tried to provide live TV at some point, and for 35$ per month, you get 40 channels. Although the number of channels is not that impressive, there are good networks for sports enthusiasts like ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports. YouTube TV offers an unlimited DVR feature, which enables you to record content and keep it for up to nine months.
Smart TVs are great until they are no longer smart. Not all makers of Smart TVs keep the services updated after the TV comes off the manufacturing line. In addition, Smart TVs contain just a small amount of Flash memory, which means they are very limited to the number of streaming services they can put on the TV. It's possible that the streaming services included with your Smart TV at purchase could end up being the only ones you'll have for the duration of ownership. Since most Americans keep TVs for 7-10 years (longer than we keep automobiles), a Smart TV is not necessarily a "smart" long-term solution for cord cutters.
Apple TV. This could be considered the luxury car version of streaming devices except for a couple of snags. Apple went all in with Apple TV when it placed some of its fastest processors in the unit and opened up an App Store for Apple TV. Apple has done a good job of opening up the system and adding great features like the TV app, which compiles much of your streaming library together in one spot.