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.
YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.
One last point on what to watch: If you really want to pay only for what you want to watch and nothing else, don’t forget that iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Cinema Now, Google Play and others will gladly sell or rent you movies and episodes of TV series to watch on your computer or TV. If you’re thinking of your various subscriptions as an analogue to cable, then think of this option as akin to the old-fashioned “pay per view.” The fees can add up if you watch a lot, but these vendors have some free videos, too.
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Just like it does with TV service, CableTV.com shows you cable internet providers in your area along with any competing fiber, DSL, or satellite internet providers. You can even see which providers in your area offer to bundle both TV and internet service. This helps you identify potential savings because almost all companies that provide both services offer discounts for bundling.
Some of AT&T U-verse’s channels may not be what you expect. With almost 80 music channels and a smattering of lesser-viewed channels, like Hot Buy and Jewelry Television, the listed number of channels feels a little overhyped. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get your favorites: Carefully compare packages to ensure you’re getting the programming you and your family want.
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.
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.
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Now here’s the golden nugget of it all: We live in a very hilly area of Southern California. Over-the-air reception is awful in most of our house -- especially where our TV sets are positioned. I’ve tried many of the latest, over-the-air antennae and they are all incapable of mastering our topography. Although we’re closer to San Diego, we mainly get Los Angeles stations -- when we get stations at all. But because I don’t need to plug the antenna directly into a TV by using Tablo -- remember, I plug it directly into the Tablo box, which by the way has its own internal amplifier that strengthens incoming signals -- I can move the antenna to anywhere I want. In my case, it’s at the back window of our home upstairs where it receives just about every LA station. Then Tablo transmits wirelessly to all of my devices. And unlike other over-the-air arrangements I’ve considered, I don’t need to buy a separate antenna for each TV. One will do for the house with Tablo.
Most cord cutters seem to focus on TV as cord cutting and not home Internet. Yet there is a growing trend toward not only cutting the cable TV bill but also the cable Internet bill. Almost every day someone asks how to lower their Internet bill or if they can use their cellphone for home Internet. The good news is there is a growing push to help you cut the cord on home Internet.
We just started using PlayStation Vue. So far we really like it. I looked into Sling TV when we were getting ready to cut the cord, but then I came across PlayStation Vue and it had more channels and more of the channels we as a family wanted. My husband gets a ton of his sports channels, including the Golf channel and we still get Disney Jr. for our son. We also have Netflix and a HD antenna for local channels. PlayStation Vue was only $5 more a month so it was worth it for us. We access it through the Amazon Fire stick.
What you don’t get: Live TV still isn’t available in some smaller markets, and the new plans eliminate some popular networks that were available under the older plans, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, and Viacom. Those who subscribed before the change are allowed to keep their current plan and channel lineup, but are subject to the $10-a-month price hike.
You simply can't get the live sports experience with internet based streaming services that you can get from cable TV. Don't believe us? We'll give you an example. Let's say you're watching the Super Bowl on your favorite streaming service. There's 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and your team is about to score the winning touchdown. Suddenly, the screen freezes. Now you're stuck screaming at your laptop or TV, not knowing if your team won the biggest game of the entire season. (And yes, this has actually happened before).
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over the air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10. See our comparison of indoor antennas here.