I used to have “can’t miss” shows, but then my wife and I started talking about cable TV and whether or not we really need it. We were getting ready to move to a new state, so we did what many people would think is impossible – we cut cable and sold our TVs. That might be a bit extreme for some people, and I’m not saying you should do that. We have since bought a new TV (we have one in our home), but we have not subscribed to cable TV again, and we have no plans to do so.
Television manufacturers have been moving toward “smart TVs” that connect to the internet and provide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and the like. The selection of apps on these sets vary depending on licensing agreements made between the manufacturers and the O.T.T. services. (O.T.T. is short for “over the top,” a term applied to any streaming media provider to which a consumer can subscribe directly.) Also, not all of them will let you plug in and get a seamless, cable-like TV experience without any other hardware. The technology and interfaces are certain to improve in the years ahead, but for now, for the best results, you’re better off just investing in a set-top box.
Some consumers argue that they don't need cable TV subscriptions because they can just subscribe to a streaming service from a certain network and watch their shows from streaming ready devices. However, the 200 million Americans that still have cable would disagree. Did you know that your cable TV subscription probably includes these streaming services? Why limit yourself to one network or pay for and manage multiple accounts when you could stream all of your favorite shows in one place? Providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum offer these services and apps at NO additional cost. Watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
If cutting the cord means my wife can't watch the true crime shows she likes or the cooking programs we both like, price may not be the overall deciding factor. Yes, we pay around $300 a month for cable and streaming services, but my wife and I watch about 90 minutes of TV together at night, and at least an hour separately while getting ready for work and/or preparing dinner during the week. On the weekend, we probably each add three hours of solo viewing for sports (me) or whatever she watches when I'm out.
A cancellation or early termination fee is a charge that occurs when you cancel your service before your contract is up. Usually, early termination fees are prorated, which means the amount you’ll pay depends on how many months are left in your contract. For example, if you cancel service six months into a 12-month contract and have a $120 cancellation fee that’s prorated at $10 per month, you’ll have to pay $60.
Even if you’re only going to watch a few of these shows, the only way to do it is with a subscription, so buying just the programs you want to see isn’t an option this time. The same is true for another prestige network, HBO, which offers its shows exclusively through cable or a new $15 per month streaming option called HBO Now (unless, of course, you don’t mind waiting months to buy the latest of Game of Thrones episodes on iTunes). With these three services in hand, you should be able to fill in any gaps with a few single-season purchases.
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.
HBO GO®, which offers more than 2,000 titles online, allows authenticated students to instantly watch every episode of every season of the best HBO® shows. This includes current series like Game of Thrones®, Girls®, and True Detective®and classics like The Sopranos®, Sex and the City® and Deadwood®, as well as HBO original films, miniseries, sports, documentaries, comedy specials, and hundreds of the latest blockbuster movies.
Some providers have both TV and internet available to bundle. Other providers sell TV only or internet only. Companies that offer only one service often partner with TV-only or internet-only counterparts to provide a complete service. For example, satellite TV can be paired with DSL or fiber internet to save you time and money. Using our handy comparison tool, you can look at all TV-only, internet-only, and TV-and-internet options available in your area.
Where Mediacom really suffers is its customer service. It consistently ranks at the bottom, a worrisome practice in an industry with an already poor reputation. Consumer Reports readers gave it 58 out of 100, ACSI gave it 56 out of 100. If you choose Mediacom as your cable provider, keep a keen eye on your billing statements and confirm any deals your promised.
XFINITY TV offers more contract options than most TV providers, so you can select the one that works for you. These options vary by location but may include no-contract plans, 12-month contracts, and 24-month contracts. A 12-month contract will save you $10 per month over a no-contract plan, but if you’re a student or renter who might move soon, the month-to-month option will prevent an early termination fee down the road.
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
Although early (VHF) television receivers could receive 12 channels (2–13), the maximum number of channels that could be broadcast in one city was 7: channels 2, 4, either 5 or 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13, as receivers at the time were unable to receive strong (local) signals on adjacent channels without distortion. (There were frequency gaps between 4 and 5, and between 6 and 7, which allowed both to be used in the same city).
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR. Its channel count is solid, but YouTube TV at $5 less is a better value if you don't care about Hulu's catalog.