Those who end up cutting the cord never go back. That wouldn’t be hard to believe considering all the great services offered by some major online streaming services. We’re talking about youngsters mainly who don’t even bother and sign up for cable, to begin with. As they delve deeper into the world of video-on-demand subscription, 10-15$ becomes an amount worth the spend. Every service has something different to offer, and before you sign up for any, you might want to investigate which channel suits your preference best. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month for you to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them include contract signing. The worst case scenario is that you’ll be stuck with a service you wish you hadn’t subscribed to for just a month. There’s no such thing as forced long-term commitment with streaming services. Now with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives for Cable TV. Most of these stand-alone streaming services allow users to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, TNT, TMC, Discovery, History, Disney, National Geographic, NBC, ESPN and popular cable networks.
To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2018’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
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.
Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.
But if you are serious about cutting the cord, you might want to invest in less-expensive, dedicated solution called a dongle. Smart TVs are great, but technology updates so quickly that it doesn't take long before the "smart" functionality becomes a bit antiquated and you probably don't want to switch out your TV every few years.  Dongles include:
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.

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So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
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.
I have started cutting the cord by adding antenna outside that is bringing in 34 channels. I use netflicks, hulu and fire tv. All 4 tvs using different devices. Dish reduce my bill and I keep 200 channels as I have no contract for 77.00 a month with one joey. looking forward to learn more from your website to get more value from the services I use.
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.
The commercials are still there—and repetitive to the extreme. Each break may show the same commercials over and over, sometimes the same ad back-to-back, as if they couldn't find any sponsors who believe in streaming. Or perhaps it's to torture you into using regular cable and a DVR (if you get a DVR from Spectrum, the app can be used to program it.)
This is a little hard to answer because I don’t know the make and model of your TV. That said, your antenna should be plugged in to your ATSC input, and you will need to scan for channels once the antenna is plugged in. Your QAM input is not for your antenna. It’s for a cable hookup. If you have a quality TV, I imagine the picture-in-picture should work with OTA channels unless your tuner has some kind of restriction.
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
I have a samsung FPT5084x/xaa. It has just an NTSC/ATSC input (antenna), and a Clear QAM (cable) input. My tv requires the PIP to only work PIP if it’s coming from 2 different sources. So PIP will not work by pulling 1st and 2nd from the same source. They have to be different sources. ? This means my tv’s PIP will not function unless you or someone else knows of some type of equip that you can hook up to the Clear QAM input to allow it to receive ATSC signals (decoder/transponder?)? I have no intent of having cable any longer. Thanks.
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.
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.
Parks Associates estimated that in 2008, about 0.9 million American households relied entirely on the Internet for television viewing; by 2017, this figure had increased to 22.2 million.[2] Leichtman Research Group found that six percent of Americans watched at least one show online each week in 2008, a figure that grew to eight percent in 2009. The number of Americans subscribing to cable service increased two percent in 2008, but the growth had slowed. Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. found that in the fourth quarter of 2008, the increase was seven-tenths of one percent, or 220,000 homes, the lowest ever recorded.[3] A Centris report showed that 8% of Americans expected to cancel their pay television service by the third quarter of 2009. About half of Americans tried to get a better deal from a provider other than the one they were subscribed to. Amazon Video, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube, made cancelling service possible for those who would be unable to see their favorite programs over the air. Sports programming was a big reason for not cancelling pay television service, although online options existed for many events. Another problem was the inability to watch many programs live, or at least soon enough in the case of a television series.[4]

Offer ends 12/3/17, and is limited to new residential customers. Must subscribe to Starter TV or above and a post-pay subscription to a residential XFINITY Internet service. Limited to new XFINITY Mobile residential customers adding a new account with purchase of a qualifying mobile device. Port of existing mobile number required. Mobile order required within seven days of installation of XFINITY Internet. Cards issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa® U.S.A. Inc. Cards will not have cash access and can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

Sports first is the goal at fuboTV, even if it's not sports exclusive. You get 82 channels of live TV with a intense focus on sports-related channels—even though the service doesn't include any ESPN networks (those are on Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV). But you do get stations like MSG, FS1, NBCSN, NBATV, BTN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, and a lot more—including many entertainment networks like Fox, History Channel, HGTV, FX, E! and others. Add-ons include Showtime for $10.99 a month, plus even more sports channels from different countries for $8.99 a month. It comes with cloud-DVR capability and works on a PC, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku devices; it's in beta on Amazon Fire TV. The first month is only $19.99 before it goes up to full price.


We’re not going to make you jump through hoops either—we know it’s a timely decision to make and one that you have to be confident in. We keep our comparison service quick and easy to use by allowing you to find the right provider in your local area. Simply enter your zip code, view and compare the plans and deals across a range of providers, and then select the one that best suits your needs. We also provide all the contact details that you’ll need in order to call and set up your service.
There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).
Thank you Stephen! I actually contacted Roku via ‘chat’, the associate recommended to send it back for a replacement, stating that there was something wrong with it, yes it would get hot but not at the very high temp as to not been able to touch it. That exchange would take a week or more, so I decided to just return it to the store I purchased it from just a few days ago.

But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.
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.
Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.
My plan is to use sling and alternate between Amazon Prime and Netflix for certain things. I don’t need them all year. Amazon Prime will be a month around xmas, and then 6 months later. Then 1 month for Netflix to catch things I want to watch there in between. No need for a full year. I may use sling. Depends on what all channels and shows I can find there. I have never had much luck cutting a deal with comcast though, and I will still be dependent on them for internet.
Recent data released by the Philadelphia-based company indicates that most cord-cutters don't stray far because many have no other viable alternatives given the poor state of broadband competition in many markets. An average Comcast customer uses 150 gigabytes per month and has 11 connected devices in their homes thanks to the proliferation of online video.
Thank you Stephen! I actually contacted Roku via ‘chat’, the associate recommended to send it back for a replacement, stating that there was something wrong with it, yes it would get hot but not at the very high temp as to not been able to touch it. That exchange would take a week or more, so I decided to just return it to the store I purchased it from just a few days ago.
Great article, thanks for all the food for thought! We originally got a great deal from Comcast, the triple play: $99/mo (plus taxes) for the first 2 years, for cable, land line and internet. But now the bill has crept up to around $175/mo. Getting ready to cut the cord, but we have two dilemmas: 1) we didn’t buy a Smart TV so because of some goofy issue with my laptop, I have to reboot it after connecting it to the TV in order to watch anything. A pain in the butt. Have searched extensively and not found a workaround. Are these fire sticks USB devices that would cut out the laptop connection entirely? And 2) we are middle agers with the same land line for 25 years, and it’s like a member of the family… lol. We’re afraid to let it go! It’s been part of our identity for so long, literally (for ID purposes with accounts and such) and figuratively speaking. But I think we’re going to rip the band aid off soon. About all we watch on our 700+ channel Comcast package consistently is Law and Order and Frasier reruns, and the occasional movie. Otherwise it’s just pointless channel flipping.
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.

FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most  of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
I like new Roku Streaming Stick+ quite a bit and have one set up on the TV in my bedroom. I spent several days testing it out with a couple of TVs around my house. The Streaming Stick+ is geared for 4K HDR, but can be used with TVs that only stream 1080p. I found it to be really solid with streaming Netflix and Amazon Video even when far away from my WiFi router. If you’re looking for lower priced streamer, then check out the new line of Roku media players. If any of them are out of stock at Amazon, you can buy them directly from Roku. Roku is currently offering a free trials of DirecTV Now and HBO Now with an activation of a new Roku device.
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.

Thank you Stephen! I actually contacted Roku via ‘chat’, the associate recommended to send it back for a replacement, stating that there was something wrong with it, yes it would get hot but not at the very high temp as to not been able to touch it. That exchange would take a week or more, so I decided to just return it to the store I purchased it from just a few days ago.
My plan is to use sling and alternate between Amazon Prime and Netflix for certain things. I don’t need them all year. Amazon Prime will be a month around xmas, and then 6 months later. Then 1 month for Netflix to catch things I want to watch there in between. No need for a full year. I may use sling. Depends on what all channels and shows I can find there. I have never had much luck cutting a deal with comcast though, and I will still be dependent on them for internet.
As far as content goes, Spectrum is relatively expensive for what it offers with one key exception. The Silver TV package gives you access to premium channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and Cinemax for a better entry price than any other competitor ($84.99 per month). So if you’re really into premium channels, Spectrum might be your go-to for the best bargain.

These do require additional hardware, running extra cables from your TV, and waiting at least a day to watch the newest episodes of cable network shows. And if you're hoping to sever all ties with your cable provider, that's not going to be an option in many regional markets, as you'll still need them for the high-speed Internet service that makes this all work. But the cost savings of dropping the TV package can be substantial, and there have never been as many good choices available as there are today in both hardware and content. Here's what you'll need.


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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Comcast reported a loss of 275,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, bringing the total for the calendar year to 625,000. The company said most of these losses were not from people leaving for another service. Moffett pointed out that cable companies needed to offer lower-cost packages,[7] but a survey by Strategy Analytics revealed financial considerations were not the primary reason. People were not satisfied with what they could get, and online sources had a wider array of content. The survey showed that 13% of cable subscribers intended to cancel service in the next year. Slightly more than half were under the age of 40, and nearly all had a high school education. Two-thirds had or planned further schooling, and just over half earned at least $50,000 a year.[8]
For example, imagine what the science fiction fan of 2019 will need to do to keep up with the genre’s most prominent franchise content. Star Wars will live on Disney’s new proprietary service, but new episodes of Star Trek (both Star Trek: Discovery and the upcoming Next Generation sequel) are only available on CBS All Access. Meanwhile, The Expanse is exclusive to Amazon Prime. If fans want to watch DC’s superhero shows, as well, that’ll require a DC Universe subscription — although the CW shows featuring DC characters will only be available via the CW app — or, for patient fans who want a commercial-free option, Netflix. If they want to catch up on classic Doctor Who, they’d better have a Britbox membership.

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.
Plan for how you’ll watch TV without cable. “If you want to take advantage of streaming services—such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and so forth—you’ll need a way to display them on your TV,” according to Tom’s Guide, a popular unbiased technology product review site. The top strategies are to buy a smart TV or a streaming device for cable TV alternatives. Netflix is what you want if you like to binge-watch entire seasons of previously aired shows. Hulu is best for the latest popular shows, and Amazon Prime has many of the same titles as Netflix and Hulu but, because it’s newer, lacks the extensive library of shows. Sling TV is another option, and it streams live cable shows.
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.
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!
Before you close your account for good, it may be worthwhile to reach out to your cable provider, who doesn’t want to lose your business. If you’re comfortable negotiating, you can often get a hefty discount for a year or longer. You can usually get a better price if you sign up for a service bundle with internet and phone. Use these tricks to get deals on just about anything.
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FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most  of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
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