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?
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.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in Hi-Def for free? It’s called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little leg work to set it up, but I’ll guide you through it.
Whether the price is worth it is in the eyes of the beholder. Vue may not be the cheapest, but many users feel it is the best value according to anecdotal reports in various forums. That assessment is based on features, channel selection, user interface, DVR, etc. Regardless of which streaming service is chosen, the vast majority of cord cutters claim they are saving a bundle compared to traditional cable/satellite. As for Vue's competitors, by the time you include add-ons (e.g., sports and/or movie packages) and premium channels, are you really saving much? Some of the competition also charges extra for DVR usage, but not with Vue.
FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.