To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t 100% committed to cutting ties completely when I dialed those digits. I don’t live in an area with decent over the air reception for the networks, which makes fall weekend football viewing more challenging without paid television. I thought I might try a free month of Sling TV. At least you can get ESPN channels on that, and at least a dozen other decent channels.
The reality, however, is that cord cutting does not make sense for everyone. There are some individuals -- and even more families -- that still benefit from the traditional cable package. And while it seems expensive compared to paying for a few popular streaming services, it's a question of value and how much you actually use (or don't use) what you pay for.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Make sure all of the TVs that you want to be connected are in the house at the time of installation. Keep the area around your TV open so that the technician has room to work. If you're getting satellite, make sure the technician will have easy access to your balcony or roof where the dish will be mounted. Set aside enough time in your schedule for the technician to complete the entire process. Keep your phone on hand in the days and hours leading up to your appointment, so that the technician can call and confirm or alert you to any changes.
Pay-TV aggregation is a worse business than high-speed broadband distribution, and it's been this way for years. In 2013, James Dolan, then CEO of Cablevision, told The Wall Street Journal "there could come a day" when his company stopped offering TV service altogether, relying on broadband for its revenue. Dolan would later sell Cablevision to Altice for $17.7 billion in 2015.
As the name suggests, cable internet works by using the same analog cables traditionally used to deliver cable television. These copper coaxial cables travel from your home to the a neighborhood node, and then to your service provider. Cable internet has a wider bandwidth than DSL, and unlike fiber, it’s already installed in most homes, which makes cable service convenient for getting high-speed internet with minimal installation. And if you’re interested in getting cable TV as well, bundling cable services can often save you money over getting the services separately.
In the most common system, multiple television channels (as many as 500, although this varies depending on the provider's available channel capacity) are distributed to subscriber residences through a coaxial cable, which comes from a trunkline supported on utility poles originating at the cable company's local distribution facility, called the "headend". Many channels can be transmitted through one coaxial cable by a technique called frequency division multiplexing. At the headend, each television channel is translated to a different frequency. By giving each channel a different frequency "slot" on the cable, the separate television signals do not interfere with each other. At an outdoor cable box on the subscriber's residence the company's service drop cable is connected to cables distributing the signal to different rooms in the building. At each television, the subscriber's television or a set-top box provided by the cable company translates the desired channel back to its original frequency (baseband), and it is displayed onscreen. Due to widespread cable theft in earlier analog systems, the signals are typically encrypted on modern digital cable systems, and the set-top box must be activated by an activation code sent by the cable company before it will function, which is only sent after the subscriber signs up. If the subscriber fails to pay their bill, the cable company can send a signal to deactivate the subscriber's box, preventing reception.
Not quite, but close. What many people don’t realize is the NFL has a robust streaming service that broadcasts NFL games outside of the US. Anyone that’s lived abroad is familiar with it, but it’s still pretty rare for someone in the US to have heard of it. Since the NFL is selling it directly, they’re more than happy to let you sign up if you’re outside the US (and that’s the trick for you as the consumer to figure out). Is the NFL violating their license agreement with Dish Network who has exclusive rights over the NFL 1s and 0s broadcast in the US? Perhaps. The Supreme Court didn’t buy Aereo’s argument that an individual DVR recording live TV and sending it seconds later to the consumer didn’t violate copyright law. But this is a bit different since you’re paying the NFL directly, so they’re not going to complain about having their copyright violated. Again, it’s only Dish Network that likely feels their license is being violated. When the license expires, it’ll be interesting to see if the NFL thinks they can get more money from a provider like Dish or through selling the service directly themselves.
What you don’t get: Sling lacks CBS, and Fox News is available only in some markets. Also, Sling includes some Viacom channels as part of its plans, but others require you to purchase a $5-per-month add-on pack. But the service recently added Discovery Channel. The cloud DVR is now more widely available and includes more channels and some new features, such as the ability to protect recordings from being deleted.
Aside from sports-free options Philo and AT&T Watch TV (see below), Sling is the cheapest multi-channel live TV streaming service out there. That's because it carries few local stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC). It has two base packages, Orange and Blue. Orange doesn't offer any locals, while Blue has Fox and NBC but only in a handful of cities. That's why Sling makes a good complement to OTA antenna TV. Sling's interface isn't much to look at, but it offers all of the options you need without cluttering the screen. The only real letdown is its arcane live pause and DVR exceptions (you can't record Disney-owned channels like ABC, for example). Its options are myriad, so check out Sling TV: Everything you need to know for all the details.
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