Local cord-cutting numbers are more difficult to come by. Cable companies hold most subscriber-specific information close to the chest, and generally won’t give out even a ballpark number of customers. That’s because the competition is tight — Spectrum and Frontier Communications are the main competitors for cable and internet customers in Tampa Bay, and every customer counts.
That’s right, Amazon—it’s not just for shopping. It’s a major contender in the online streaming market. A membership to Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a wide selection of popular movies and TV series, plus a bunch of Amazon original series. And if Prime Video doesn’t include the show or movie you want as part of your package, you can usually pay per season or episode, or just rent it.
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!
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
DIRECTV: This satellite provider was purchased by AT&T in 2015. Their package prices tend to be higher than Dish Network, but you do have a choice of six different packages as opposed to Dish's four. Football fans will find this choice a no-brainer as DIRECTV is the only one of the two companies which offer NFL Sunday Ticket. Check out the full DIRECTV channel lineup here.
However, please note that I'm not advocating doing ALL of these! If you did, you'd wind up spending more than you were paying for cable. That would be dumb. We currently subscribe to Sling TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We are switching over to DIRECTV NOW starting next month because we have one AT&T phone and can use the data from that phone to watch for free.
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.
On November 28, 2011, a report by Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger said that young people who grew up accustomed to watching shows online would be less likely to subscribe to pay television services, terming these people as "cord-nevers". Anninger predicted that by the end of 2012, the industry's subscriber count would drop by 200,000 to 100.5 million; Anninger's report also stated that consumers were not likely to return to paying for television. In the case of land-line telephones, people had believed younger people would eventually get them, but now numerous subscribers only have mobile phones. Anninger predicted that the same would hold true for pay television, and that providers would need to offer lower-priced packages with fewer channels in order to reverse the trend. Also using the term "cord-nevers" was Richard Schneider, whose company Antennas Direct was selling antennas through the Internet. After a decade in business, the company was selling 600,000 antennas a year. However, Schneider said some people only knew of the Internet and services such as Netflix and were not even aware broadcast television even existed. In a speech on November 16, 2012, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said "cord nevers" did not see anything worth paying for.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
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In an effort to entice cord cutters and cord nevers, some cable television providers have begun offering Internet-only streaming services. Cablevision began to offer "Cord Cutter" packages that include a free digital antenna and access to its Optimum WiFi network, as well as the option to add HBO Now to the service, making it the first ever cable provider to do so. In 2015, Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) began to trial television services delivered via their managed internet infrastructures; Comcast's "Stream" service offered access to broadcast networks, HBO, Xfinity StreamPix, and their respective TV Everywhere services. Outside of TVE apps, the service can only be accessed via Comcast home internet on supported devices. In October 2015, TWC began to trial a service under which subscribers are given a Roku 3 digital media player to access their service via the supplied TWC app, rather than a traditional set-top box. A TWC spokesperson emphasized that this offering would provide "the same TV and same packages delivered to the home today", but delivered over TWC-managed internet rather than a cable line. This service has since been transferred to the current Spectrum service after Time Warner Cable's merger with Charter, with an equivalent Apple TV app forthcoming.
PlayStation Vue is a streaming service similar to Sling TV, offering channels like AMC, TBS, Syfy and much more. However, this service starts at $39.99 per month. Check out this comparison of Sling TV Channels vs. PS Vue for the difference in each services channel lineup. You don’t need a PlayStation gaming console to use the service either. While the service is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, you can also use the service with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Android, iPad, and iPhone. Check out my review of PlayStation Vue for more details.
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.
I couldn’t tell you for sure since I don’t watch many of those shows, but you may want to double check before moving forward. The more obscure the channel or show – probably the harder it is to find. I do know one friend downloaded a plugin for the playon software that allows you to search and find just about any show you might want, so that might be something to look into.
Same as when they came in with cable in the 70’s, they told us we would now pay for tv, but there would be no or limited commercials. That lasted a very short time until we were paying and getting more than ever commercials. The standard is over 20 minutes of each hour, used to be 12. I don’t know what the answer is but how many billions do some need to amass on the backs of average and well manipulated people?
I called Direct TV about 4 months ago asking for a better deal. Bill at $115.00 a month and was told no better deal was available since a special $20.00 per month discount had just run out. I mentioned cancelling and rep said she would transfer me to the cancellation department. I said no thanks and hung up. They provided me the “opportunity” to find something better. Purchased high gain outside antenna and due to , ground terrain, distance of 35 miles from transmitters , many trees and 30 year old coaxial in house, had to add preamp for strong enough signal. Total about $200.00 for antenna and amp. Still a few freezes in bad weather, but nothing I cant live with. Then I tested Hulu with live TV with local channels. Would have to pay additional fee for static ISP to get local, but with outside antenna get those plus the subchannels. HULU works great and two receivers can be on at same time for $45.00 which includes taxes and othe minor government fees. What a good feeling telling Direct TV they provided the impetus and opportunity for me to find a way to save $70.00 a month and get everything I watch. All sports channels etc. And if you have static ISP, you might get local channels without antenna depending on location. I dont pay much for internet and static ISP was $20.00 additional a month. With OTA channels, no need for that cost. And I am tech illiterate, so someone knowing more might do better than I did.
Most of you reading this probably already have Netflix. That’s because this streaming service has turned itself into a must-have entertainment platform. That won’t be changing anytime soon. Netflix has committed millions and millions of dollars to create original movies and series. I’m a huge fan of “Black Mirror”. Just about all the Marvel Universe series “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage” are very entertaining even if you didn’t read about these characters when you collected comic books decades ago.
Streaming live TV is an effective cable TV alternative, but it does have some drawbacks. While it doesn’t have contracts or equipment costs, it requires a strong internet connection. You’ll want to get an internet download speed of 50 Mbps or more to avoid buffering. But before you sign up, just make sure all this doesn’t end up costing more than a cable and internet bundle would.
For vast libraries of movies and TV content prior to the current season, I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. Another big reason to get Amazon Prime is the option of adding Showtime and Starz with your subscription. For just $8.99 per month, you have every TV show and movie offered by Starz and Showtime just as if you had the network with a cable provider.
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.
Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in Hi-Def for free? It’s called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little leg work to set it up, but I’ll guide you through it.
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.
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As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.
Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
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.
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.
With HBO Now, however, the need for a pilfered password is removed. It's the only option if you don't have someone from whom to pilfer. Anyone with internet and supported hardware can subscribe and watch original HBO programming like GoT, Divorce, Big Little Lies, Insecure, Westworld, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, plus the entire back catalog of shows: The Sopranos and The Wire forever! Try it free for an entire month.
A library card can be a powerful thing. With hoopla, you can use your library card to borrow movies and TV shows each month. The selection might not exactly be as current as what you’ll find in your local Redbox parked outside the grocery store, but it’s a massive resource to watch free movies online. It’s worth considering since it’s right in front of you.
The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time.