Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
Let’s get some of bad news out of the way. If your goal in cord-cutting is to save money — but you’d prefer not to lose access to anything you’re currently watching via your cable or satellite subscription — then you should be aware that the money you save on one bill may be immediately redistributed to another. Additionally, unless you want your “Game of Thrones” episodes to look blurry and choppy, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper internet package.
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.
Even your wireless router can affect video performance. Older routers may be slower or use only one frequency band, which can lead to interference from baby monitors, cordless phones, and even microwaves. Newer dual-band routers have two bands—2.4 GHz and 5 GHz—to provide you with a second option. If there are dead zones in your home where WiFi doesn’t reach, routers that create a mesh network could help.
By cutting the cord, you're also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies.
The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
What we don't like about Hulu are the ads on their on-demand library. However, they do offer an ad-free version for $4/month extra. Also, there are a few big channels that Hulu doesn't have. AMC is the biggest one, as well as channels from Viacom (which means no Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, Nickelodeon, and so on). Starz and Discovery channels aren't included either.
Their ESPN and ESPN2 are already available with their CHOICE package and above, but if that's not enough, you can subscribe to their Sports Pack add-on ($13.99/month). This gives you access to 30 regional sports networks, like the MLB Network Strike Zone and Outdoor Channel. You also get specialty sports channels that cover fly-fishing and horse racing, as well as international soccer.
Some 33 million people ditched their cable or satellite subscription in 2018, according to researcher eMarketer, up from 24.9 million in 2017. People got tired of paying to watch so many channels they didn't care about or being stuck in bundles that didn't matter to them. And need we mention the ever-rising prices of cable and new fees like $10 a month for broadcast TV, $8.50 for sports and more?
Grasshopper provides a business number for your cell phone that delivers the business phone functionality you need and more at an unbelievable price. Just mentioning the 2nd number for your cell phone doesn’t really explain what they do. Their service turns the personal phones of you and your employees into a full blow PBX. Read my review of their small business phone system for more information.
Only televisions with a QAM digital tuner will be able to receive the broadcast channels. Most televisions produced after 2009 are digital compliant and have the necessary tuner, however some less expensive television models may not. Please check the specifications in your television's manual, or visit the manufacture website for details. Televisions without a QAM digital tuner will require a digital QAM converter box (available at most electronic retailers) to receive the broadcast channels after the upgrade.
Many cord cutters opt for online streaming services to save money on TV. But in reality, those cord cutters often end up spending more money than they would for a cable TV package. To get all of your favorite shows and networks, you would probably need to get subscriptions from multiple streaming services. Add up the combined costs of Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV, and you're at about $40. For the same price, you could get a DIRECTV package with over 155 channels and thousands of on demand titles to access on the go. Why limit yourself to just a few networks and deal with the hassle of paying for multiple streaming services?
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.
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
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!
Google Chromecast ($35 or $69): As part of the Google family of products and services, Chromecast devices (standard and Ultra) offer an impressive library of apps that treat the TV screen as a tool for more than just passive viewing, including games, music and viral videos. Chromecast also takes part of its name seriously, allowing users to start watching something on their phone or tablet and then “cast” it to a TV. The devices are often discounted at the Google Store, online.
If consolidating your monthly fees and needs into one location sounds ideal, try Amazon Prime Video. This is an especially valuable option if you’re already an Amazon Prime member as it comes at no additional cost. Not yet an Amazon Prime member? Then this cable TV alternative costs $99 for a full year. At $8.25 per month, it’s a small price to pay for all the Prime Membership benefits.
This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.