Satellite providers like DISH and DIRECTV host service in all 50 states. The only clear differentiator between satellite and cable TV, is that satellite requires a dish on your roof. Unlike the slow speeds that come with satellite internet service, there are no restrictions on your television service. In fact, both DISH and DIRECTV offer a vast range of channels and exclusive sports packages like NFL Fantasy Zone and MLB Network Strike Zone.
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!
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.”
Yes, Amazon Prime requires an internet connection to stream video. I recommend getting cable internet vs. dial up or DSL. DSL may be fast enough, but dial up will not be. A basic cable internet package should be enough for streaming video. Try the minimum plan, but if it isn’t fast enough, then bump up the service one level, try that, and repeat if necessary. But you should be fine with the basic package. Also be sure to check how much data streaming you have to be sure you don’t go over the plan limits, as that may be expensive, depending on your internet provider (many plans offer unlimited downloads, but it’s still a good idea to check).
Picking the right cable TV provider can be a challenge, but we've done our best to make the process as easy as possible for you. Some factors to consider when choosing a provider are your monthly budget, which channels and programs you want in your package, length of contract, and availability of TV and internet bundles or discounts. Let's say you're a movie fanatic and you want to have access to all the best movie channels without breaking the bank. Spectrum may be your best option for cable TV. If you're a die hard sports fan, you'll want channels like ESPN, the Big Ten Network, and the NFL Network. DIRECTV has the largest variety of these sports networks, along with NFL Sunday Ticket, so this provider's satellite TV packages are a great option.
Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
What you get: With recently updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package is now $25 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $25 per month, supports three users and a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences: Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9. Sling is currently running a promotion that gives you either the Blue or Orange plans for $15 a month, or the combined plan for $25 a month, for the first three months.
Fios TV is #1 in customer ratings in HD picture quality and signal reliability, according to the 2017 American Customer Satisfaction Index. In fact, every major customer satisfaction study ranked Fios higher overall than cable TV providers like Comcast, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable), Cox and Cablevision. If you’re wondering what is the best alternative to cable, then check out how Fios compares to Cable TV, download and upload speeds as well as using video streaming services.
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.
This is the big issue for me, too. If you’re not into watching sports: good for you, cutting the cord is pretty easy. If you are, there are no real viable alternatives. ESPN streams online, but you have to have a cable subscription to access it. You can get pirated streams, but they’re very poor quality and not great for your computer, obviously. You could go to a bar, but then you’re forced to buying food and drinks for the length of a game, which could end up being close to what you’d pay for a month of Comcast.
So, what’s the catch? The ads. You can’t escape them. But if you’re looking for a free library of curated TV shows, movies, music, and internet video content, you can’t go wrong with this cable alternative. PlutoTV is also very compatible with supporting devices including Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablets, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Web browsers, and select Sony, Samsung, and Vivio Smart TVs. Bottom line: If tight budget is your name, PlutoTV is your game.
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
The pioneer in this technology is Roku, which offers several boxes and streaming sticks to choose from. Additional options including Apple TV and Chromecast. I use a Chromecast myself, which is compatible with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, Google Play, and local media players Avia, and Plex. A Chromecast can also stream anything from a tab in the Chrome browser or any screen on an Android phone, opening up virtually the entire world of streaming video with a $35 HD streaming stick.
Top shows include: Mad Men, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Nurse Jackie, Bloodline, The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Halt and Catch Fire, Damages, Narcos, Master of None, How I Met Your Mother, Archer, Arrested Development, Louie, 30 Rock, Portlandia, Parks and Recreation, Orange is the New Black, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Girl, Californication, The League, Star Trek, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Sons of Anarchy, Daredevil, Lost, Dexter, and many more.
Amazon Fire ($39.99 - $74.99): Amazon’s set-top box and its cheaper stick have the advantage of syncing well with any other Amazon devices you may have. You can ask your Alexa to find a show for you, and after you start watching it, you can pause it on your TV and pick it up later on your Fire tablet. As with the Roku, the Amazon Fire’s features have also been integrated into a smart TV. The most expensive version of the box adds an HD antenna for picking up free over-the-air local broadcast signals. One common complaint about Fire devices is that they push Amazon Prime Video content over that of other streaming video companies, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. Netflix and Hulu shows are still easy to access with this interface.
Television has changed remarkably over the past few years. It might be time for your viewing habits to change as well. Unless you enjoy paying more than $100 a month for a cable or satellite subscription you only half use, you’re probably considering joining the growing ranks of consumers who have “cut the cord” and are now getting their favorite TV shows, movies and even live sports through the internet and streaming services. Making this change requires some preparation, though. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the cord-cutting process. And once you're set up, hop on over to The New York Times's site Watching for personalized TV and movie recommendations.
We bought the adapter boxes for our old analog TV’s and watch broadcast digital. Our favorite channel is Retro TV. They broadcast old TV series (we’re old, too). Some good stuff. We have been disappointed in the quality of broadcast digital, however. The picture is constantly breaking up. We get “No Signal” way too often. Maybe it’s the cheap adapter or cheap antenna. Anyway, “not as advertised” by the government. The quality and reliability of broadcast analog was much better.
Internet speeds vary by type of internet, location and ISP provider. The fastest internet speeds come with fiber internet from providers such as AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, and can reach up to 1,000 Mbps or higher. Unfortunately, these speeds are only available in select markets for now. That means cable internet and DSL internet providers are the best choice for most internet users in the U.S. who need high-speed internet plans.
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.
The only major broadcast channel to offer a live channel a la carte, this service offer live local TV from just one channel -- CBS, duh -- in some cities, in addition to video-on-demand and exclusive content such as Star Trek: Discovery. The on-demand stuff had ads, but you can get an ad-free option for $10 a month. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by CBS.)