As part of this switch over, we installed an over-the-air antenna. This allows us to pick up a large number of local channels. We live close enough to the Des Moines metro area that we can pick up strong signals from a lot of stations in Des Moines. (It’s worth noting that this is aided by the fact that there’s a repeater tower within five miles of our house, which means the signals are strong.) This includes the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS – and a large number of additional channels of varying quality, including an all-children’s channel and a channel that seems to be nothing but a loop of the weather forecast.
Navigate Computer With Mouse & Keyboard: You connect your computer to the HDTV (for the big screen) and then proceed to go to your favorite websites like hulu.com, Netflix and others (see some options above) to view your shows. You can use the Hulu Desktop application. You can also watch shows that you've downloaded from Amazon, Itunes or other online video sources – or your own videos. You will most likely need a wireless keyboard and mouse to make this easy – although it isn't required.
But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
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This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
What you get: The sports-centric Fubo now offers about 75 channels for the base $45-a-month package, or more than 90 channels with the new $50-a-month Fubo Extra plan. With Fubo you get a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (A&E, Bravo, FX, SyFy, USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, NBA TV). You also now get Turner channels, plus sports programming such as the MLB on TBS and the NBA on TNT. Also in the mix: a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. The service comes with a free cloud DVR that lets you store 30 hours of shows, movies, and games.
Picture this. It's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you want to rewatch your favorite show for the tenth time. You log into your Netflix account and realize to your horror that your show has been taken off of the service. How are you supposed to binge watch now? Stand alone streaming services are notorious for adding and removing titles from their library abruptly and without explanation. Your favorite show or movie might be there one day and gone the next. With cable TV, you can set up a series recording for your show so you can watch every episode. While Netflix might stop airing your show mid-series, the show's TV network won't. Many providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum also offer On-Demand features with thousands of titles that you can watch from any of your devices at anytime. This means you can still binge watch your favorite shows at no additional cost. You'll also be able to watch your shows as soon as they air with a cable or satellite TV connection. With streaming services like Netflix, you might not be able to watch the season for several months after it airs on live TV. By the time the latest season shows up on Netflix, your friends will have spoiled all the important plotlines and shocking moments.
Is it better to go with a long term commitment or a “no contract” option? There are pros and cons to both alternatives. Typically, a long-term contract comes at a discounted monthly rate, so that you can save over time. Contracts may also come with perks like free installation, free equipment, or extra premium channels. If you know exactly what service you want and that you'll need cable TV for the next few years, the contract is worth it. However, for those that are unsure of how long they'll want TV service, a no contract option is the way to go. You might end up paying a bit more a month on average, but you'll be able to cancel whenever you want. Many providers will make you pay early termination fees if you decide to cancel your TV service before your contract is up. The easiest way to compare your contract options is to type in your zip code!
Then find service provider for Internet only, make sure you get high quality/speeds, download and upload. You can install Speedtest.net in you PC to check the speed so you know you are getting what you are paying for. Spectrum charges $45/month, but I found out they do not include Wi-Fi which you need for your TV, that will cost an extra $5/month. I kept Frontier, my provider (it was Verizon before they sold) so it was easy to cancel phone & TV, no need to change equipment, just returned the TV boxes.
All the cable-replacement services offer some type of free trial period, so you can try before you buy. Because most require a credit card number, you’ll have to keep track of when the trial period expires and cancel if you don't want to continue the service. And remember that package details can change often, so check the latest offers before signing up.
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.
If you haven’t heard of Tablo, it is a clever little box. You plug it into your wall socket, connect your over-the-air TV antenna to the Tablo, and then download the sister app to your phone or tablet. The Tablo can connect to your house router via WiFi or by using the included Ethernet cable. I used the cable. Then the app brings up an easy-to-use TV guide on your phone. You can record shows and series as you would with any other DVR, and you can watch live TV through it. Its playback functions and interface are awesome -- much easier to traverse than the one I pay for with ATT -- and let me zip through commercials in seconds. In another part of my home, I have a smart TV with Roku built in. It has a Tablo app on it that allows me to watch my recordings or live TV on the big screen. And I also have a Chromecast on my other TV to do the same.
You should investigate two things. Figure out what channel(s) broadcast your team games. If it’s the local FOX or NBC affiliate, then an antenna might solve that problem pretty quick. If you need a regional sports network, there are lots of live TV streaming platforms like fuboTV and DirecTV Now that carry those networks. Check out my how to watch MLB guide on the front page of the site.
There are drawbacks, most having to do with content licensing restrictions. Netflix still has a good number of films in its vast library that are unavailable for streaming. With Hulu Plus, TV shows are generally embargoed until at least the day after their original network air dates. And there can also be restrictions on which seasons of a show are available. Perhaps most frustrating, licensing terms for some shows stipulate that while they can be watched on a computer or mobile device for free on Hulu's website, they are prohibited from being viewed on the TV even with a paid Hulu Plus subscription. But remember, an antenna gets you free OTA network channels, so if you're able to work your schedule around the networks' (like in the old days) you can minimize this inconvenience.
Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
With the exception of Sling TV and HBO Now, the latter of which is available for $15 per month, prices for these services start at under $10 apiece. It’s easy to mix-and-match providers as none of these companies require contracts. You can even share login info with a friend down the block or sibling on the other side of the country, without worrying about anyone getting on your case.