Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.
We've been using our Playon media setup for years now, and it works great. In fact we just watched all the seasons of Walking Dead in the past few months using this setup. I highly recommend it. It works well because using this setup we don't need to have a computer directly connected to the TV, and we can use our regular Logitech Harmony remote to navigate shows, pause and play, etc on the console.

Is it better to go with a long term commitment or a “no contract” option? There are pros and cons to both alternatives. Typically, a long-term contract comes at a discounted monthly rate, so that you can save over time. Contracts may also come with perks like free installation, free equipment, or extra premium channels. If you know exactly what service you want and that you'll need cable TV for the next few years, the contract is worth it. However, for those that are unsure of how long they'll want TV service, a no contract option is the way to go. You might end up paying a bit more a month on average, but you'll be able to cancel whenever you want. Many providers will make you pay early termination fees if you decide to cancel your TV service before your contract is up. The easiest way to compare your contract options is to type in your zip code!

Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
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. 
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.

Credit: ShutterstockTom's Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)
At the outset, cable systems only served smaller communities without television stations of their own, and which could not easily receive signals from stations in cities because of distance or hilly terrain. In Canada, however, communities with their own signals were fertile cable markets, as viewers wanted to receive American signals. Rarely, as in the college town of Alfred, New York, U.S. cable systems retransmitted Canadian channels.

When you’re looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s important to narrow down your search by zip code because coverage may vary depending on your location—even within a service area for a single provider. However, don’t assume that a narrow search means limited options. In addition to cable providers, there are likely DSL, fiber, and satellite providers available at your address. We’ll help you compare all your options so you get the best service at the right price. Enter your zip code below to compare plans and choose the best fit.
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.
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.
The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.
It’s not just the price of the DVR that bums us out—the total price of Cox’s TV service is higher than other cable TV providers. By the time we got to check out, we were looking at monthly DVR service fees and receiver fees, as well as an installation fee.. And that did NOT include the broadcast surcharge, regional sports surcharge, or “other fees.” We didn’t even get any of the add-ons (“paks”), which range from $10.00 a month to $15.99 a month.

Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.

The cheapest TV provider in Maine is not necessarily the cheapest TV provider in Missouri or New Mexico. Availability relies on infrastructure (for cable) and signal access (for satellite). Some providers may only service a couple of states, while others are available nationwide. When a company has a foothold in a given market, you’re more likely to see plan flexibility and options. To make this review helpful to the most readers, we focused on providers that cover large sections of the country or service highly populated areas.
Premium Channels: NFL RedZone © 2019 NFL Enterprises LLC. Team names/logos/indicia are trademarks of the teams indicated. All other NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. SEC ESPN Network is a trademark of ESPN, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO®, Cinemax® and related channels and service marks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc. SHOWTIME and related marks are trademarks of Showtime Networks Inc., a CBS company. STARZ and related channels and service marks are property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. ENCORE and related channels and service marks are the property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Visit encoretv.com for air dates/times.
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller communities.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.

Tip: You might hear the term 'analog' and 'digital/HDTV' antennas, although there isn't any real difference between them. All antennas operate the same way - however, antennas that are designed to capture both UHF and VHF signals are generally bigger. When choosing an antenna, make sure that it can receive both UHF and VHF signals to ensure you can receive all the channels available.


If you are going to bookmark one page on cord cutting, it should be this one. Grounded Reason has over 300 pages on cutting the cord and getting rid of pay TV. The links in the cord-cutting guide below are either the most important articles on cutting the cord, or articles that answer questions I’m often asked. This page is your one-stop shop for cutting the cord.

×