The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
Usually, the apps themselves are free. However, some networks offer paid subscription options to access certain shows or old episodes. But that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t potentially reasonable, depending on how many shows you may watch. For example, CBS All Access is available for as little as $5.99 per month (plus tax), which isn’t bad in comparison to the cost of cable.
You’ll have a better chance in bigger TV markets, where the networks own their own stations, says Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at research firm Frost & Sullivan. “Outside of the major cities, many live streaming services don’t have all the local channels due to licensing restrictions,” he says. “While some streaming services are adding more local channels each month, there are still a large number of local stations not available via streaming services for many consumers in the U.S.”
Here’s what I’m excited about: I have been recording all of my favorite shows on a Tablo Dual digital video recorder that hasn’t cost me a dime in subscription fees. And I’m loving it. It has truly opened my eyes to the fact that ATT can take its $100/month U-Verse TV service that keeps crapping out on us and stay away. I may never look to cable again.
Other important factors include cloud DVR and the interface itself. Yes, most of the services above allow you to record and play back shows, just like a traditional cable or satellite DVR, but they often come with restrictions. Some services have a traditional, cable-box-like menu system, while some are more experimental (read: they have a steep learning curve).