When it's time to shop around for your cable TV provider, you may not have a choice at all. The industry is made up of regional monopolies, which means the cable companies that service your specific address are often limited. But fear not: We’ve taken a close look at the nation's largest cable companies and each of their features, so you can evaluate the most common options — and find the best cable TV company for you.
Now here’s the golden nugget of it all: We live in a very hilly area of Southern California. Over-the-air reception is awful in most of our house -- especially where our TV sets are positioned. I’ve tried many of the latest, over-the-air antennae and they are all incapable of mastering our topography. Although we’re closer to San Diego, we mainly get Los Angeles stations -- when we get stations at all. But because I don’t need to plug the antenna directly into a TV by using Tablo -- remember, I plug it directly into the Tablo box, which by the way has its own internal amplifier that strengthens incoming signals -- I can move the antenna to anywhere I want. In my case, it’s at the back window of our home upstairs where it receives just about every LA station. Then Tablo transmits wirelessly to all of my devices. And unlike other over-the-air arrangements I’ve considered, I don’t need to buy a separate antenna for each TV. One will do for the house with Tablo.
The crown jewel driving this premium streaming service is Star Trek: Discovery (which isn't even that good a Star Trek show), plus other originals like The Good Fight, which can only be seen via All Access, at least in the US (ST:D is on Netflix in other countries). You can also add Showtime programming to watch in the All Access interface for $14.99 per month.
I tested a number of indoor antennas, my community doesn’t allow outdoor antennas. I get all the OTA channels, perfectly clear, ABC, CBS & NBC plus others. You will need a “streaming device” like Roku (which has a lot of free channels & content) or Fire Stick. and eventually if you want, you can subscribe to the numerous services available, Hulu, Sling, Netflix, etc. They are all different prices and have some offers to try for free .
I thought the whole point in cutting the cord was to save money? I'm not sure how PS Vue is attacking this issue with their prices...I'm also not sure why you would pay extra for local channels, when you can get them for free with an antenna? We tried almost all of the free trials to see which one we liked best and I ended up choosing DirectTVNow. It just had the most channels we wanted to watch. I thought the SlingTV Blue and Orange things were inconvenient and confusing. I do hope they get the DVR and On Demand updated though. DirectTVNow was like the only one that had a normal "Guide" that you are used to with a cable package. This was another reason we chose them.
One of my personal favorites is Amazon Prime, which gives you access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, and documentaries, and there are thousands of other movies and shows available on a pay per view basis. There is a monthly fee to use Amazon Prime, but it is much more than just a TV subscription as you can also get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, borrow Kindle books for free, and more – all for less than $8 a month (Amazon Prime is one of the best deals in the tech world, in my opinion!).
Let’s get caught up on the full story of our use of cable television over the last several years. We’ve always been a one-television household with just a single TV that resides in our family room. I rarely watch it aside from the occasional live event, on family movie night, or when Sarah and I are cuddled under a blanket binge-watching something.
Fiber-Optic TV is one of the newest types of television technology. Light travels through glass or plastic cables to deliver all of your favorite channels. These cables are much stronger than the copper cables used for cable TV, and they can transmit data across further distances while still maintaining the same high quality picture and sound. Fiber is typically the most reliable option, because the connection isn't affected by power outages or bad weather like cable and satellite TV are. Many fiber TV providers offer bundles with fiber internet, which is extremely fast. One of the downfalls to fiber television is that it has limited availability because it's a newer technology, so it may not be offered in your area. These fiber cables must also be installed perfectly by a professional to function properly, which is part of the reason that availability is limited. Fiber TV tends to be a more expensive option, but its incredible HD quality and reliability are worth the price!
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. If you sign up and link up an investment account with $1,000+ within 40 days, you get a $20 Amazon gift card. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.
Don’t let them tell you that you need more! If you buy the Rokus(maybe the firestick works too?) and hook them up to tvs in your house, you can avoid the fees for the stupid little boxes that you have to rent now for digital cable. You just download the time warner app on the roku and enter your timewarner/spectrum id and password and all your channels are there!
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.
PlayStation Vue. Why is PlayStation Vue not a household name? It's probably because Sony stuck the "PlayStation" label on it. Despite the name, you don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it. And when it comes to cable-over-internet, PlayStation Vue is clearly one of the best and most affordable solutions. Similar to any cable service, Vue has multiple plans. It also has one of the best Cloud DVRs that will automatically save all shows of a type, so you can record every football game or all showings of that TV series.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
Sling is a good deal for serious TV fans, but if you’re not going to watch at least eight different shows on those channels per year, it’s cheapest to just get your Mad Men/Walking Dead fix by buying individual seasons on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video. That strategy, ironically, is pretty much what Dish Network’s chairman recommended back in 2012—before his company owned its own streaming business.
Take Spectrum for example. You can get cable TV for as cheap as $30 a month when you bundle with internet and home phone service. The total cost of your bill for all three bundled services would be cheaper than purchasing cable TV by itself from some other providers. Now that's what we call a deal! There's no need to go through the hassle of paying three separate bills every month, when you could just bundle them on one bill AND save at the same time. If you already have an internet provider that you love but you still want to experience the perks of a bundle, check out DIRECTV. This provider partners with most major internet providers, so you can keep the high-speed internet service you love, get all of your favorite TV networks, and save!
So yesterday when I started out by saying I no longer wanted any TV or phone, they said they had done their best in March and could only give me internet only for $75 – a very minor $3 savings since the boxes were coming off anyway. I said I was canceling to go with Frontier DSL (24 MBPS) for internet only at $35/mo for 2 year guarantee (no contract). (I had already lined that up subject to a confirming call the following day “after I talked with my wife.”)
For Dennis Joyce, the decision to cut the cord came down to a surprising realization: he and his wife only watched three cable channels. For $160 a month, he received basic cable and internet from Spectrum. But when Spectrum announced that its new digital rollout would require extra equipment for Joyce’s three TVs and increase his costs, he’d had enough.
Just like it does with TV service, CableTV.com shows you cable internet providers in your area along with any competing fiber, DSL, or satellite internet providers. You can even see which providers in your area offer to bundle both TV and internet service. This helps you identify potential savings because almost all companies that provide both services offer discounts for bundling.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
While I’ve listed a few major streaming apps supported by each device, there are other apps available for these devices like Crackle TV, M-Go, Crunchy Roll, etc. I could write for weeks on every available app on these devices. While I personally feel Roku is the best streaming device available today, here is a look at the top options on the market.
Recently, Comcast announced that it struck a deal to add Amazon Prime Video to the online content available through its Xfinity X1 service. Amazon’s original content will join other services available through Xfinity, including Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora. In a statement, Comcast’s president of consumer services, Dana Strong, argued for the addition: “Amazon Prime Video’s growing list of originals, movies, shows, documentaries, and kids’ programming will be an excellent complement to the overall X1 viewing experience.”
You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.
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.
Chromecast and Apple TV are streaming media players that also provide access to streaming services but are not as robust or easy to use as the two devices recommended above. Chromecast requires that the user "cast" the streaming service from their mobile device to the TV, which means that you need to open an app and use a phone or tablet to use the device, rather than a simple remote control. Many first-time cord cutters will likely find this to be an inconvenience.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
Many cord cutters opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
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.
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.
This is hands-down the most important part of your cord cutting solution. If you've never used a TV antenna you're going to be amazed at the value you will discover. Depending on where you live, people will have different requirements for TV antennas. We offer a thorough explanation in our Antenna Selection Guide. Channel Master has been making TV antennas since 1949 and we are the experts.