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!
2010 was the first year that pay television saw quarterly subscriber declines. In the second quarter of 2012, Sanford Bernstein determined that losses took place in five quarters. Leichtman found that the decrease in pay subscriptions was not happening in large numbers. One reason was that some sports events, as well as other types of television (such as series airing on cable-originated networks), could not be seen online. Sanford Bernstein said the number of pay television subscribers increased by 677,000 during the first quarter of 2010, and a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News showed that 88% of people surveyed had such a service, and only 15% had considered going exclusively to web services. People under the age of 45, the survey said, were four times more likely to use the Internet only. To combat the trend, pay television providers were allowing people to stream television programs on desktop, laptop and tablet computers. Craig Moffett of Sanford C. Bernstein still stated that high prices and other methods would eventually drive customers away, calling cord cutting "perhaps the most overhyped and overanticipated phenomenon in tech history."
Since current seasons of CBS aren’t available on Hulu, CBS All Access is one option to get CBS Shows the day after the initial broadcast as CBS isn’t a part of Hulu. The basic service costs $5.99 per month and does air commercials. However, they offer a commercial-free plan for $9.99 per month. The service also offers live local CBS in over 150 markets. For more details, check out my review of CBS All Access.
I've tried all the formentioned services except Hulu Live so far. Found the $35 DTVN package to be the perfect channel line up (especially that $5 HBO!) and user interface for me. However the technical issues cause me to long for something better. I had such high hopes for YouTube TV but the limited channel and device selection is a deal breaker. I'll be trying Hulu Live very soon (when my YouTube TV trial is over). This process of finding the best deal on high speed internet and the best streaming service is hard work. I also have a couple of Mohu antennas as my security net. Having choices is great!
Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.
The Fire TV Cube adds voice controls to your TV, sound bar and even (ahem…) a cable box — if you’re into that sort of thing. Being able to turn on your TV, or even start a show on Hulu while you’re TV is still off really feels like a luxury coming from a more expensive television. I just reviewed the new Fire TV Cube and thought that Amazon did a really great job.
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.
*XFINITY Digital Starter TV: Offer ends 09/30/14. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Limited to new residential customers. Requires subscription to Digital Starter TV service. Equipment, installation, taxes, and fees, including Broadcast TV Fee (currently up to $1.50/mo.) extra, such charges and fees subject to change during and after the promotion. After 12 months, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Pick a Premium offer limited to Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and HBO. Not available to customers who previously subscribed to the selected premium or with any packages which include the selected premium. After 12 months, the regular monthly service charge for each selected premium channel applies. Comcast's current monthly service charges range, based on area, as follows: Digital Starter TV, from $50.99 to $71.99, and Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and HBO, from $14.95 to $19.99 each (pricing subject to change). TV service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. Limited Basic service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand™ selections subject to charge indicated at the time of purchase. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month's recurring service charge and standard installation up to $500. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2014 Comcast. All rights reserved.
If you had to pick a character, who would you rather be? The corrupt senator played so skillfully by G.D. Spradlin? Or are you the Godfather? Spradlin’s character sure reminds me of my old cable company. I think we’d all like to believe we’re Al Pacino’s character. Confident. Taking no bullshit whatsoever. Do you really act that way when you’re on the phone with your customer service rep from Comcast? Nah, I don’t think so. I’m sticking with some tough love here. You really don’t.
Unless you’ve been held captive in an Indiana bunker for the past 15 years, you likely already know about the three biggest names in streaming: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Each of these services lets you watch hundreds of movies and television shows plus tons of original content you won’t find anywhere else. Both Hulu and Amazon offer a large selection of TV shows—with new episodes available a day after they air on cable—while Netflix has a vast library of movies and binge-worthy original series awaiting your eager eyeballs.
I hate to be a downer but I think I see some things coming that are a continuation of manipulation of the content consumers (us) get, with how we can view and how we will still have what we pay maximized over us. I think that the content providers are likely going to give us a complete on demand service so we won’t have to mess with a dvr system. But guess what, that then gives the providers full control over what exactly is provided. What I mean is they are going to make sure we cannot move to where we want timewise in a program easily and we certainly can only avoid some of the commercials if any of them. The content providers are going to make sure any deal they make requires this kind of thing and allows for no in house dvr systems. I have to watch some programming on the nbc sports site (on demand) and it is an eyeopener as to how awful and controlled that viewing experience is.
I would like to start cutting the cord. I am under a contract with Comcast and have a year to go. I have 5 TV’s connected at a rental of $10 each. I would like to find a way to return at least 4 of the boxes back in. What can you recommend that will still allow me to access the channel content that I am paying for? I do have a Amazon Fire box. Thanks for your help.
Many broadband providers require a cable modem with DOCSIS 3.0 so if you decide to go for a used modem, be sure you’re getting one that’s recent enough to be compatible with your local broadband provider. Your cable modem is the foundation of your Internet connection. Somehow, the importance of it is often overlooked by many people. There’s another building block also often overlooked, but worth re-visiting if you are entering the land of cord cutting.
As for Kodi, it can be useful if your are using something like HDHomeRun, or PLEX. But I think if you’re just starting out with streaming, you should try a Roku or Fire TV device. They both have easier interfaces for platforms like Netflix or Amazon Video. They also have apps for live TV streaming services like PlayStation Vue or Sling TV if you want a bundle of cable channels. Good luck!
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.
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.
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.
There isn’t a single offering out there that makes any sense for most family homes. None. 5 TVs can easily get the complete Comcast lineup of TV stations, including all of their premium channels, plus anywhere DVR hardware to boot. Additionally, if the cost was itemized apart from the Comcast Voice, and GB internet they give me, I am paying WAY, WAY less than any streaming service out there. That just plain sucks because not one other provider is available where I am, so the competition is non-existent. I, for one, think Comcast is over-priced. But, based on what I would have to pay to get what I want in a cord cutting option, I would be even worst off. These alternatives are only beneficial for single TV homes.
Netflix molded itself into an alternative to cable early on. One way the company accomplished this was by frequently acquiring rights to popular TV shows. So you’ll find all past seasons of “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” from AMC there. You’ll notice that seven seasons of “Shameless”, a Showtime produced series is there as well. With a broad selection of genres, Netflix aims to be all things for most people. And currently it’s doing a better job at it than any other streaming service on the market. You can even try out Netflix free for a month. The most basic plan is $7.99 per month. A subscription with HD quality costs $10.99 per month. Ultra HD (4K) will cost you $13.99 per month. You can try out Netflix free for a month.
Just because you subscribe to cable or satellite doesn't mean you have to use the provided set-top box. In an effort to become part of the cord-cutting landscape, many of the major cable and satellite providers, who double as internet service providers, let users subscribe and then access all programing via apps rather than the cable box or even the tuner in the TV.
Know when special pricing ends. If you're taking advantage of an introductory offer with limited time pricing, set a reminder in your calendar for one month before the offer expires. This way you have plenty of notice to call your provider and negotiate a new deal with them. Failure to do so could result in your bill going up by as much as double when your offer expires.
Not everyone thought this was a good service when it debuted, but it's so far stuck with that "introductory" price that would put it in line with icky cable subscriptions. If you've got an AT&T phone plan, you can add DirecTV Now for just $10 a month; HBO is included if you've got an AT&T Unlimited Choice or Plus plan. You can watch DirecTV Now on your PC via browser, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, ChromeCast, Roku devices, iOS, and Android—it's not on any game consoles. Lacking however: DVR options. There's plenty of video on demand, but not for every show.
First, the most buzzed-about TV moved from networks to premium cable and then to basic cable. Now a similar transition is moving top programming from cable to the streaming world. Netflix has House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, while Amazon isn’t too far behind with crime drama Bosch and the Golden Globe–winning Transparent. Close the loop with HBO and Showtime subscriptions—for your Game of Thrones and Homeland fixes—and you’ve got access to some of the best TV content around.
Although early (VHF) television receivers could receive 12 channels (2-13), the maximum number of channels that could be broadcast in one city was 7: channels 2, 4, either 5 or 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13, as receivers at the time were unable to receive strong (local) signals on adjacent channels without distortion. (There were frequency gaps between 4 and 5, and between 6 and 7, which allowed both to be used in the same city).
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.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
The newest leg of CBS’s digital effort is a free sports streaming service called CBS Sports HQ. There is no games or any other sporting events. CBS Sports aims to be a destination for game highlights and talk about your favorite teams. It will be interesting to see where CBS takes this platform in the months ahead. CBS Sports HQ is available on the web or within the CBSN app.
Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.
You may still need cable or satellite: Access to some streaming channels require that you are also an active cable/satellite subscriber. What this means is that although some of the channels you enjoyed on your cable or satellite service are available via streaming for free, when you try to access some streaming channels, you may be required to provide verification that you also receive that channel via a cable or satellite service.