We’re not talking about those adjustable rabbit ears of the 1950s, but a modern antenna that sits atop your roof or behind a picture in your living room—wherever you get the strongest signal—to deliver live TV (but not streaming videos) without cable. “One of the best cable TV alternatives is the tried-and-true antenna,” says Chris Brantner, known as Mr. Cable Cutter from the website Cut Cable Today. “Most people don’t realize just how many free TV stations they can get with a quality antenna.” According to Brantner, chances are good that you’re in range of dozens of great over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, PBS, ION, and other regional stations. “Many of the most popular TV shows, local sports games, and local news come on OTA TV in crystal-clear high definition,” he adds. “And get this: The broadcasts you can pick up with an HD antenna are higher quality than what cable provides, because their broadcasts are compressed!” Did we mention that these channels are totally free? Remember these money-saving tips that don’t actually pay off in the long run.
Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.
Even if you get your local CBS station with an antenna, it’s still a good service to plumb the huge on-demand library. That’s especially true if you’re a diehard Star Trek fan. You may already know that Star Trek: Discovery is exclusively produced for CBS All Access. But the streaming service also has 79 epsiodes of the original series, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Enterprise, The Next Generation, Voyager and Star Trek: The Animated Series.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
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Now there are some things about Tablo TV I need to get used to. When I bring up the app on the Roku box, I oddly have to remind it every time which Tablo TV box I’m tapping -- even though I only have one. And when I go to watch live TV, it takes a good 20-to-25 seconds to load each channel. This makes channel surfing rather impossible, especially when I have to return to the Live TV menu first before selecting another channel. And I’ve also had several scheduled recordings not record because the reception was too weak, according to the error message. As I mentioned, that’s a problem with our home and not Tablo.
While bundles are often a great deal - especially for people who love sports or movies - it's important to be aware that some companies' ultra-competitive bundle pricing is valid for a limited time only (e.g., six months or a year), after which time the cost of the bundle goes up. In some cases, customers are able to extend the duration of the promotional pricing just by calling the cable company and speaking with a representative.
Keeping recordings on a server has its benefits, like making them available on different devices or a backup when your connection (or the service itself) fails, but it can also complicate things. Sling TV adds an extra $5 for DVR access, and on certain services you'll find that recording doesn't work with channels like HBO. Some YouTube TV customers have complained that the system points them to video on-demand copies of shows that include unskippable ads instead of their recordings, so read the fine print and check user reviews first.