With just an antenna, you'll lose out on having a DVR to record shows, which is a cable perk, but there's ways around this. You can buy a stand-alone DVR. The AirTV sells for $120, but you'll need the antenna, a streaming player and an external hard drive to make it work, and that will bring the price to over $200. Amazon's own Fire TV Recast DVR is $229, and again you'll need a Fire TV or the Echo Show speaker as well to make it work. The unit has a built in hard drive, but you'll need to have a streaming player and/or antenna as well.
This type of service is also used to circumvent sports network blackouts or simply to mask your identity online from would-be identity thieves. Of course, check with your content provider’s terms of service to make sure you are not breaking any end-user agreements. To learn the differences between a Smart DNS and VPN check out my post on VPN vs Smart DNS.
Skinny bundles like DISH Network's (NASDAQ:DISH) Sling TV and Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube TV offer a lot of cable-like choices, but they don't offer a similar viewing experience. Sling, for example (which we subscribe to for our second home), does not really make it easy to "flip" channels. It's great when you want to watch something end to end, but even "flipping" during a commercial is awkward and both have incomplete channel lineups compared to traditional cable.
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.
For more package options (and more channels) with Charter Spectrum, you’ll have to bundle with internet and phone service. Those bundles come at a fair price though, and include free installation (normally $35), WiFi set up (typically $10), and DVR service ($13 per month). That’s a potential savings upwards of $200 in one year. Spectrum also includes HD channels free of charge.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
Now that you're a "smart" viewer, you're probably staring at this new menu of choices on your home menu, like Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access and streaming varieties of HBO, Showtime and others. They would like you to spend anywhere from $6 to $15 monthly for their services. And with new services in the wings from Apple, Disney and Warner Media, you could imagine that monthly streaming bill rising even more, as we order more and more services.
You don’t have to give up TV entirely to put some savings away. If you like traditional cable, satellite, or fiber TV, consider bundling or going with a smaller channel lineup. If you need only basic local channels, try out OTA TV. And if you’re looking for more flexibility than cable television can offer, see if you can affordably go the streaming live TV route.
Philo ($16/mo. - $20/mo.): This new cut-rate service is cheap for a reason: It eliminates all sports, major networks and premium movie channels, delivering instead what amounts to a stripped-down basic cable package with the likes of History Channel, A&E and TV Land. Philo also has limited DVR storage and can be watched on multiple devices simultaneously. It’s a good starter option for people who want a solid array of traditional cable channels to supplement with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now and others.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.