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We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
Most cable companies require a set-top box to view their cable channels, even on newer televisions with digital cable QAM tuners, because most digital cable channels are now encrypted, or "scrambled", to reduce cable service theft. A cable from the jack in the wall is attached to the input of the box, and an output cable from the box is attached to the television, usually the RF-IN or composite input on older TVs. Since the set-top box only decodes the single channel that is being watched, each television in the house requires a separate box. Some unencrypted channels, usually traditional over-the-air broadcast networks, can be displayed without a receiver box.[1] The cable company will provide set top boxes based on the level of service a customer purchases, from basic set top boxes with a standard definition picture connected through the standard coaxial connection on the TV, to high-definition wireless DVR receivers connected via HDMI or component. Older analog television sets are "cable ready" and can receive the old analog cable without a set-top box. To receive digital cable channels on an analog television set, even unencrypted ones, requires a different type of box, a digital television adapter supplied by the cable company. A new distribution method that takes advantage of the low cost high quality DVB distribution to residential areas, uses TV gateways to convert the DVB-C, DVB-C2 stream to IP for distribution of TV over IP network in the home.

You don’t have to give up TV entirely to put some savings away. If you like traditional cable, satellite, or fiber TV, consider bundling or going with a smaller channel lineup. If you need only basic local channels, try out OTA TV. And if you’re looking for more flexibility than cable television can offer, see if you can affordably go the streaming live TV route.


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.

Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
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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.
Some people make the assumption that cable or satellite TV limits you to watching live programming from your television set at home. However, most of the nation's largest TV providers offer SO much more than that. Seriously, the perks are endless. Let's say you're Drew. Drew watches all sorts of different networks: sports, reality TV, sitcoms, HBO, you name it. He also hates dealing with commercials. Every Friday Drew has a movie night with friends and family, so he wants lots of on demand options. He travels often and likes to watch TV on his tablet in the hotel room while he's away. Sometimes he misses his favorite premieres while he's on the road. So what can a TV package do for Drew?
A "cable channel" (sometimes known as a "cable network") is a television network available via cable television. When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network and Sky, as well as via IPTV providers such as Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse is referred to as a "satellite channel". Alternative terms include "non-broadcast channel" or "programming service", the latter being mainly used in legal contexts. Examples of cable/satellite channels/cable networks available in many countries are HBO, Cinemax, MTV, Cartoon Network, AXN, E!, Fox Life, Discovery Channel, Canal+, Eurosport, Fox Sports, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, CNN International, ESPN, GMA Pinoy TV and The Filipino Channel.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
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.
I ended up cutting the cord about a little over a year ago. I watch a couple comedies (modern family, the office) before going to bed via a free app on my phone. The programming for the kids on Netflix is perfect. They usually watch that on a rainy day. I am however contemplating cutting Netflix as well since we could almost as easily use our library card to rent a couple DVDs every so often and not have “TV” so easily accessible.
What you get: The Hulu With Live TV service offers about 60 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu is joining most of the other cable-style services with a $5-per-month price hike. When it kicks in at the end of February, the service will cost $45 per month. A second option, without ads, goes up to $51 per month, a $7 increase. Both services combine everything you get in the regular Hulu plan with the additional channels available on Hulu With Live TV. 
If we wanted to bike ride, do some writing, getting some form of exercise, or etc then we would be doing that already..and many people already do those things along with watch television. The real issue is replacing cable with a better and more cost effective form of television watching. Unlike most of the “non tv viewing” alternatives you have posted..with the exception of travel, television allows us to see the “whole” world without us having to spend extra money on a plane ticket. That fact actually opens the door to more people wanting to travel. The real questions are at what cost are we willing to pay, which tv shows are best in showing us the treasures of the world (which will actually persuade us to travel more and learn about places to travel to that we have not heard of before) and which provider gives us the best options for cable alternatives. You mentioned Roku, and that is a great option although a bit pricey. Check out Google Fiber at https://fiber.google.com/about/, and also Google TV.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
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In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.
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Already mentioned in another thread, but, SlingTV has good sports coverage -- otherwise, we use OTA for, e.g. PBS -- but, beware that the SlingTV WebOS client (runs on LG 4K TVs) is unreliable with some sports channels. (With others, it works fine ?!) The SlingTV WebOS client needs to be robustified. SlingTV works fine via web/chrome/Windows10 and on IOS.
Diagram of a modern hybrid fiber-coaxial cable television system. At the regional headend, the TV channels are sent multiplexed on a light beam which travels through optical fiber trunklines, which fan out from distribution hubs to optical nodes in local communities. Here the light signal from the fiber is translated to a radio frequency electrical signal, which is distributed through coaxial cable to individual subscriber homes.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
Charter isn’t alone in squeezing TV holdouts for more revenue. In its most recent earnings statement, AlticeUSA reported flat year-over-year video revenue for its SuddenLink brand despite losing 31,800 TV subscribers. And while Altice’s Optimum TV customers declined year-over-year by 3.2 percent, TV revenue only fell by 1.9 percent over the same period.
We watch hulu and subscribe to Netflix for the streaming video, and have not had cable in about 6 years. We have an antenna to pick up the local channels and we also make the most of our library card (so that’s what our $70/year property tax bill library line item is paying for!). I really like the Netflix just for kids channel, it makes it a no-brainer to decide what is/isn’t age appropriate for little ones. We are not big sports fans (would rather be out playing them than inside watching it on TV), but if there’s ever a game worth watching like the Superbowl or Olympics we can either go to a friend’s house or the sportsbar down the street to watch some of it.
Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.
Usually, providers’ TV packages are set in stone. Oftentimes that means you end up paying for channels you don’t even watch. Verizon Fios’s entry-level Custom TV plan offers 155+ channels and lets you choose your programming from seven unique packages. The options include everything from Action & Adventure to Home & Family, so you can get the types of channels you and your family want, without the fillers.
After the 1-week free trial, the service costs $44.99 per month. You can opt to just subscribe to the Hulu library instead of the Live TV service for just $7.99. Hulu also offers loads of original content and a decent back catalog of many past seasons of cable and network TV shows. You can test the live service or the on-demand service by using this 1-week free trial to Hulu Live TV. For more details check out my full review of Hulu.
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.
In March 2019, DirecTV Now became much, much less appealing than it was previously. Not only did corporate owner AT&T jack the price from $40 to $50 per month, it cut numerous key channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery and HGTV, from its base package. The upside is that HBO is included as part of the price. Getting a standalone HBO Now subscription costs $15 per month, so an increase of $10 to get HBO included is technically a $5 monthly discount. But it locks you into a bundle, just the kind of thing cord cutters want to avoid. On top of that, its DVR and app are a step behind most competitors.
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