A couple years ago, some services decided it wasn't enough to just provide some a la carte streaming of shows. They wanted to provide what is pretty much a full cable-television subscription experience over the internet. These are those services. They won't necessarily give you super-granular control over content like you'd have with a regular streaming service, or even moreso with a DVR recording stuff off the air, but they give you access to a lot of content you might not otherwise get without a cable subscription—especially news and sports.
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So how does satellite TV work? Satellite TV transmits signals from a satellite up in space to a dish on the roof of your home. This communication between the two satellites is what gives you the ability to watch television. Satellite TV is a great option for those that live in rural areas, because it's much more widely available than other types of TV. Cable and fiber TV require wires and cables, and this infrastructure is often not present in remote areas. Virtually anyone can get satellite TV, unless the signal is hindered by a foreign object, or the resident can't install a dish. Satellite also offers better picture quality and has the most HD channels available out of all types of TV. Not only is the quality great, but satellite TV packages are typically cheaper than fiber or cable TV. One drawback to satellite is that it usually requires a long term contract. Make sure you're ready to commit, because most providers will charge an early termination fee if you decide to cancel before your contract is up. Also, the quality of your satellite TV programming can be hindered by extreme weather conditions.
For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.
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.
I had called my cable company once to see if I could get a better deal after being a loyal subscriber for three years. For many months, I loved the service that I got for the price I paid. Then one day, that price wasn’t so great anymore. All of these fees started showing up on my bill. The customer service rep I spoke with on the phone listened as if a grave matter of national importance was being discussed.
The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
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Those who want to see non-British foreign television have ample options, too. In addition to the aforementioned Acorn (which also features programs from Canada and Australia, among other countries), both MHz Choice and Walter Presents have well-curated collections of European series, with a particular emphasis on the many great Scandinavian crime dramas. And the increasingly popular TV coming out of South Korea is available on DramaFever, Viki, and Kocowa.
Happily, the NFL has remained committed to airing local market and national games on free broadcast TV networks, so your TV antenna is going to provide ample football coverage! You'll get Sunday games, Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. The only thing missing is Monday Night Football, which is only available on ESPN. There's now a great solution for cord cutters to get ESPN at a low cost and we'll explain more in the Streaming Services section below.
CBS All-Access is a good example of a single channel app that offers live television. However, CBS All Access doesn't contain CBS's complete library so don't go in expecting you'll be able to stream the entire Big Bang Theory series. Other networks, like HGTV, Smithsonian Channel, History Channel, etc. also offer varying degrees of access to content through their apps.
A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere. It’s easier than you may think, and you don’t have to give up much in the process. Here’s a series of guides to help you cut the cord and start saving money now.
The best way to pick the right TV package is to first set your budget. Next, ask yourself which channels you'd like to be included in your package. Most providers offer a similar set of core channels for every plan. With each plan upgrade, the provider adds either more HD or premium channels to justify the added cost. Some of these channels may be foreign networks that you can't normally get in the U.S. or even commercial-free movie channels. None of us want our favorite movie to be interrupted by an annoying commercial break. Most providers also offer access to On-Demand libraries filled with hundreds or even thousands of titles for you to enjoy at any time. Make sure to check out the free perks included in your chosen package. For example, Spectrum gives its subscribers free HD channels on some of its plans. Premium packages from Spectrum also include movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, and STARZ, as well as the NFL Network and NFL Redzone at no extra cost. Now that's what we call a deal!
This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.
If you’re cutting cable, that means you’re most likely going to use streaming services as cable TV alternatives to watch your shows, so you’ll need a solid Internet connection. Most streaming services work fine with the lowest tier (10 Mb), preventing buffering while you stream content, but a higher-speed service (25 Mb) will perform even better. Check the offerings with your Internet provider.
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!
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
An antenna is your means of access to local programming when cutting cable TV. If you want an in-depth guide for the information required for an optimal antenna solution, you should check out my antenna guide. Setting up an antenna may be seamless, or it may be the most difficult thing you do when canceling cable. There are numerous variables involved in television signals and antennas. If you are having a difficult time with this, the antenna guide makes this task easier.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.