Customers in areas with lots of ISP options don't get very far by searching ‘cable providers in my area'. Choosing between internet service providers can be overwhelming because there are a lot of cable companies with several service options that include not just internet delivery but also bundled TV packages and sometimes even telephone service. That's because cable providers leverage the existing underground cable television infrastructure to deliver digital data into your home via a specialty modem, which means they can offer a number of different services at once. So how to choose?

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.


As more and more people cut the cord, the hunt for the best alternatives to cable TV heats up. If you’ve already weighed the pros and cons between streaming services and cable TV, and are leaning towards a cordless lifestyle, you’re certainly not alone. With no hidden fees, easy cancellation, and even DVR Cloud storage, it’s easy to see why people are making the switch to streaming alternatives. Yet, with so many exciting and affordable options, it can be hard to break through the clutter and find what’s best for you.

For when I have the urge, I have the Network stations, youtube, and Netflix. When I get done with these, I’m often struck with a visual hangover. I’m finding that when it comes to actually getting something of substance, it’s really hard to beat the good old fashioned library book (unless you have a specific question, and then Youtube can work its magic). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book from the 80s or 90s, and then the same concepts explained in the books I’ve chosen to read are explained without being updated very much on the news or in the current memes (ie: The income inequality gap has been unacceptably large for decades, and that was mainstreamed just a few months ago. Also, a lot of the fiscal meltdowns we faced recently were predicted for our times in the ’90s.) Not to mention: In my city, all the art museums are free, and typically smaller museums are only $5 to $7 for a few hours of entertainment.


Amazon Prime is a membership program that gives you access and benefits to Amazon's full list of services and products, such as free shipping, access to their Kindle and Prime Music library, as well as other Amazon-specific deals and services. Prime Video on the other hand, only grants access to their video library. Subscribing to Amazon Prime automatically includes Prime Video as part of the subscription.
Before canceling your cable or satellite service, make sure your planned cord-cutting options will work for you. For the antenna option to work well, you need to be in a location where it is easy to receive over-the-air TV broadcast signals. A good idea is to connect an antenna to your TV and see what local channels you can receive. Also, check your smart TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or media streamer to see if they offer the streaming channels and services you desire.

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.


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.
First, the best TV moved from networks to cable. Now a similar transition is moving top talent from cable to the streaming world. Netflix ($8.99 per month for HD streaming) has House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—all of which have received almost universal acclaim—and Amazon ($99 per year for video and a variety of other services) isn’t too far behind with comedy Alpha House, crime drama Bosch, and the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
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The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
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.
K.C. That’s a great way to save money, especially if you aren’t much of a TV watcher. I don’t personally watch much TV, but the shows my wife and I watch tend to be on cable – often the Travel Channel, Food Network, Discover, History, ESPN, and The Disney Channel for our little one. That said, I don’t think we would be heartbroken to cut the cord and go without – just as long as I can keep my fast internet connection! 😉
DIRECTV also offers more full-time high-definition (HD) channels than anyone, and it has the ability to record up to 200 hours of HD video content. So whether you’re tuning in to see Tom Brady’s piercing baby-blue eyes or just want to marvel at the realistic zombie makeup on The Walking Dead, you can expect a crystal clear picture for both live TV and recorded shows off your Genie DVR.
Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage, and you can have up to six individual accounts. Thanks to a recent expansion, the service is now available in most national markets. With YouTube TV you also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. You can add Showtime for $7 per month, Starz for $9 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.
I have just started disability retirement. After figuring out the bills, I come up short. I called Spectrum to drop the HD channels and was informed that starting next month, all tvs must have a digital box. That forced me to drop one of the tvs. I have been paying Time Warner for 100mps for years but did a speed test to discover the speed is below 50 so I figure I will negotiate with them for the lower speed. My main question is: Blu Ray players have come way down in price and I know they have wi-fi capability. What options should I look out for? Will I have to buy a player for each tv? Are there conversion cords that will work with 20+ year televisions to connect blue ray?
That means all you need is an antenna to start grabbing these network TV signals to display on your television. Now I know what you’re thinking. If you were born before 1985, you probably have vivid memories of static all over the screen as mom or dad adjust the antenna. Digital doesn’t work that way. If your antenna can pick up the channel, then you get the picture as clear as it can be. Otherwise, you don’t get the picture.
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You will instantly get over 100 channels, and there are tons more that you can add along the way. PlayLater is software for your computer or mobile device that records streaming media, saving it to your device for future viewing.  If you already have a streaming device or gaming console, you've already got most of the features offered by this software, but for $39.99 for lifetime access, you won't waste a lot of money trying it out.
Last year, the company’s VP of customer service, Tom Karinshak, detailed some steps Comcast is making to overhaul its customer service, including; expanding digital care teams, a callback feature that allows you to schedule a time for Comcast to call you (rather than wait on hold), and an ETA feature that messages customers on the arrival status of service technicians (for installation and troubleshooting).
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month. 

I teach financial planning to Soldiers transitioning out of the Military. I always bring this up when discussing how to cut expenses. While there are always people who cannot fathom living without their cable, I am always surprised to see how many in class have already started to do this. In the past 10 years, I have only paid for cable for a year, although I have had it provided free for a few others. I love being cable-free and with HD antennas, Netflix, and Hulu, I am never without something to watch when I want. And I don’t find myself watching the “best of the worst” since I have no qualms with shutting off the tv and doing something else.


For $40 per month, you get access to 60+ channels including locals, news, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, Syfy, National Geographic and more. Now, channel lineups will change slightly depending on where you live (local and regional sports being the ones that will be different). You can see exactly which channels are available in your area by visiting TV.YouTube.TV and entering your zip code.


You forgot Playstation Vue. It’s way better than Sling (Sling’s app is terrible), has full function cloud DVR and OnDemand access, and has access to local Comcast SportsNet channels (DirecTV Now doesn’t in Philly). I’ve been using Vue for 6 months and I did a trial of DirectTV Now and Sling. DirecTV probably has the best app (Amazon Fire), but Vue has the best content if you’re a sports fan. Sling is a distant 3rd, worst app and worst performance.
Wow, you took it a step further. Even though cutting the cable is temporary, I don’t think my husband would allow it. I think TV is overrated and was paying the $90/month for Internet and cable. I didn’t completely cut cable, but lowered the package to $15/month and supplement with Netflix, which we LOVE! We are still saving about $30/month, so I’m happy.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
Note: Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn't offer its full library with the susbscription. Only content marked as 'Prime' is available for viewing, and you'd have to pay to access other premium content. Still, you can try out their 30-day free trial, and watch some of Amazon's critically-acclaimed original content such as 'Transparent', and 'The Man in the High Castle' before deciding if its worth it.
YouTube TV ($40/mo.): YouTube’s newest venture entered the market as one of the cheapest and simplest. Its channel package is small, there aren’t that many add-ons at the moment, and the service isn’t even available in every city or town in the United States yet (although the range is expanding every day; check here for updates). But if watching local stations live matters a lot to you, then you should know that YouTube TV is making that the cornerstone of its business — along with unlimited DVR cloud storage and enough portability that you should be able to shift easily from one device to another while watching a show you’ve recorded.

When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.


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.
An HD antenna won’t give you all of the channels you would have access to if you purchased a cable subscription. However, it will increase the number of channels you can watch on local TV. And the one-time cost (as opposed to an ongoing monthly fee) means you’ll save money. It can be another attractive feature of using antennas to expand your viewing choices.

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.


For the technically competent, I’d recommend setting up a Home Theater PC. A $70 AMD A6-5400K should handle all of your HTPC needs. If you’d like to game as well, consider a more expensive A8 or A10. Of course, you need to couple this with a case, PSU, motherboard, RAM, HDD, wireless 802.11n adapter, wireless keyboard/mouse, and OS. Most people who go this route aren’t starting from scratch, but if you are, it’s a significantly more expensive option than a set top box.
After Charter Communications recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, it rebranded as Spectrum and has worked to simplify its services. Unfortunately, that means you’ll only have one option if you just want cable TV. That one TV-only plan is called TV Select. It comes with at least 125 channels and about 46% of the most popular channels. Notable absences include E! and the Travel Channel, but otherwise you’ll be getting a fair number of major networks.

Depending on the service, you may find that not everyone in your household will be able to use it at the same time. Every streaming service we’ve reviewed has some limits on the number of separate devices that can be streaming content at the same time. For example, Sling TV’s Orange plan, $20 per month, allows for only one user at a time. The pricier Blue service, $25, allows access for three simultaneous users; adding a fourth user boosts the price to $40.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so  if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
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