Some seven years ago, we ditched the typical landline phone line. Cut that cord right in two. Being a physician on call about 10 to 12 nights a month, I didn’t want to be without a backup to the cell phone, and we don’t love giving out our cell phone numbers for everything, so we kept our home number. We picked up an Ooma box, ported the number, and have kept that number to this day, despite moving to a new state twice in the interim.
My husband and I have looked into ending our cable service and moving to one of the many options presented here. However our challenge is that we haven’t found a great alternative to access a wide variety of sports events that are currently shown on cable channels like ESPN2, ESPNU, etc. ESPN3 online does have some events, but not the variety we would be looking for. Has anyone else addressed this challenge and found a suitable alternative?
I hope you’ll forgive me, or at least not ostracize me. Ultimately, my cord cutting attempt, much like any attempt I’ve made to withhold my rage at the interim head coach for terrible clock management, or the defense’s unfathomable inability to recover a forced fumble, has failed. But I did cut the Dish bill by over 60%, which will save me over $600 in the next ten months. It’s not a $1,000 savings, but it’s a start.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t 100% committed to cutting ties completely when I dialed those digits. I don’t live in an area with decent over the air reception for the networks, which makes fall weekend football viewing more challenging without paid television. I thought I might try a free month of Sling TV. At least you can get ESPN channels on that, and at least a dozen other decent channels.
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.
Antenna: The antenna is the way TV started. You connect an indoor or outdoor antenna to your TV and receive programs from over-the-air local and network affiliate TV channels. This is a great way to receive free programming from the major TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, and PBS). It is important to note that older analog TVs, and many HDTVs made before 2007, will require the use of a digital converter box that is placed between the antenna and the TV.
Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
But seriously, DIRECTV is where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à la carte programming for most major sports leagues, including MLB EXTRA INNINGS®, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLS Direct KickTM, and NHL® CENTER ICE®. Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.
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.
We cut the cord a few years back but I haven’t written about it yet. A year or so after we did that, we bought a vacation condo that includes cable as part of the association fees. We were then able to have online access to our account so we can watch it when we are not at the condo! We don’t use it that often, but we certainly have more channels than we could ever need now. We also have a roof antenna and pick up all the local network stations in HD without any trouble.
The first thing you may want to consider is an HD antenna. This doesn't provide a way to watch streaming videos, but if you want to watch live TV, it's the cheapest and simplest solution. You may remember having rabbit ears on your hand-me-down TV as a kid — an HD antenna is basically the modern-day version of that. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and watch as the free channels roll in.
So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
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.
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
Having bundles, also helps. While with DTV and AT&T, you still get access to DTVN streaming content, but also 15 channels of HBO and HBO GO. After the bundle rebates, the cost is $50/mo, for the lowest tier. Certainly not cable, and your money is going to the same company, but you do get the best of both, full 5 tuner DVR whole home DVR service, plus on the go streaming. What I am trying to say, Satellite service isn't Cable or Streaming. They traditionally were the rebels against Cable TV prices. However after some time they turned into nothing under $110/mo, a lot like cable. But while there's a lot of customer churn, the prices and business modeling has changed. I am liking it, while it lasts.
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Where Mediacom really suffers is its customer service. It consistently ranks at the bottom, a worrisome practice in an industry with an already poor reputation. Consumer Reports readers gave it 58 out of 100, ACSI gave it 56 out of 100. If you choose Mediacom as your cable provider, keep a keen eye on your billing statements and confirm any deals your promised.
Such stations may use similar on-air branding as that used by the nearby broadcast network affiliate, but the fact that these stations do not broadcast over the air and are not regulated by the FCC, their call signs are meaningless. These stations evolved partially into today's over-the-air digital subchannels, where a main broadcast TV station e.g. NBS 37* would – in the case of no local CNB or ABS station being available – rebroadcast the programming from a nearby affiliate but fill in with its own news and other community programming to suit its own locale. Many live local programs with local interests were subsequently created all over the United States in most major television markets in the early 1980s.
There are now only two choices—down from five—for new subscribers: The $50-a-month DirecTV Now Plus plan has about 40 channels, and the $70-a-month DirecTV Now Max has about 50 channels, plus Cinemax and a number of sports channels, including regional sports. Both plans now include HBO, which had been a $5-a-month add-on. You get a free cloud DVR with 20 hours of free storage, and two users can stream at the same time. You can get a third simultaneous stream for an extra $5 more a month.
ISP’s vary by location. I’m maintaining a list of providers with affordable internet only plans you can use to cut the cord. If you can’t find one on that page, try your existing provider. Now I know the “big” internet providers seem only to offer “triple play” packages bundling phone, TV, and internet. However, if you dig around on their site you should be able to find an internet service offering.
Also, a little note, because my family uses ATT Unlimited for their cell phone service. I only pay $10/month for DirecTV Now. And every other package that I may want to try is $25 less than the general public (e.g. the "Just Right" package for me would cost $25, vs. $50 for the general public; the "Go Big" package is $35 for me, $60 for most others). Also, the premium channel HBO only costs me and anyone else just $5 more per month. I haven't experienced the "inconsistent video quality [and] a suboptimal interface" that you describe, but then again, I have 1 Gbit speed for my Internet connection. Even if I didn't have that speed, I think for the price of $15/month with live TV, and HBO to boot, it's a great deal, and DTV Now is getting better month-by-month. Yes, DVR is in beta, but it is going to happen.
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.