As more and more people cut the cord, the hunt for the best alternatives to cable TV heats up. If you’ve already weighed the pros and cons between streaming services and cable TV, and are leaning towards a cordless lifestyle, you’re certainly not alone. With no hidden fees, easy cancellation, and even DVR Cloud storage, it’s easy to see why people are making the switch to streaming alternatives. Yet, with so many exciting and affordable options, it can be hard to break through the clutter and find what’s best for you.
By comparison, traditional TV providers face a huge risk in diverging from the status quo. Just look at what’s happening with DirecTV and Dish Network: Both companies dove headfirst into streaming with DirecTV Now and Sling TV respectively, yet those services aren’t drawing enough subscribers to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of customers now fleeing satellite TV every quarter.
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.
In broadcast television, cord-cutting refers to the pattern of viewers, referred to as cord-cutters, cancelling their subscriptions to multichannel subscription television services available over cable, dropping pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media available over the Internet such as Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube Premium. This Internet content is either free or significantly cheaper than the same content provided via cable.
During the 1990s, the pressure to accommodate the growing array of offerings resulted in digital transmission that made more efficient use of the VHF signal capacity; fibre optics was common to carry signals into areas near the home, where coax could carry higher frequencies over the short remaining distance. Although for a time in the 1980s and 1990s, television receivers and VCRs were equipped to receive the mid-band and super-band channels. Due to the fact that the descrambling circuitry was for a time present in these tuners, depriving the cable operator of much of their revenue, such cable-ready tuners are rarely used now – requiring a return to the set-top boxes used from the 1970s onward.

The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.

Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are  HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.). 

Other TV providers are now putting similar compensational price hikes in place. This year, Comcast is raising its regional sports fee by an average $1.50 per month, and its broadcast TV fee by $2 per month, Bloomberg reports, while DirecTV and Dish are both raising prices by $3 per month or more for all packages. DirecTV is also pulling back on the discounts it once offered to new subscribers as roughly two million customers reach the end of their two-year contracts, The Wall Street Journal reports, because there’s little point in offering unprofitable promo deals if those customers end up leaving.
If the shows available streaming services like Netflix and Hulu aren’t enough for you, consider PlayOn. It’s another streaming video service with more than 60 channels, including Disney, ESPN, Comedy Central, HGTV and many other popular channels. It works with Roku and most of the other streaming video players. PlayOn has frequent “lifetime license” sales where you can get a lifetime license for $39.99, and you can record anything for playback later — even streaming content. (Reviewed by Jody Mace)
If the primary purpose of your cord cutting is to cut back on spending, why not watch for free? Yes, you heard that right. With PlutoTV you can watch live TV, On Demand movies, and trending videos on the internet for free. Although this cable alternative doesn’t offer any major network channels, it does offer more than 40 live channels including live sports, and 15+ music streaming channels. You can also enjoy their exclusive PlutoTV sitcoms and even a Spanish language channel. 

Roku: The original streaming box, Roku now comes in several shapes and sizes and is even built in to some smart TVs. The the Roku box and Roku streaming stick play a long list of “channels” including Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, and others. For users looks to keep a traditional TV viewing experience with a remote, the Roku box is the best option. The streaming sticks currently costs around $30 while the 4k enabled Roku Ultra runs around $120. Both are available at Amazon and other retailers. On a personal note, I used to use Roku players on both TVs, but have since replaced them with Chromecasts.
You forgot Playstation Vue. It’s way better than Sling (Sling’s app is terrible), has full function cloud DVR and OnDemand access, and has access to local Comcast SportsNet channels (DirecTV Now doesn’t in Philly). I’ve been using Vue for 6 months and I did a trial of DirectTV Now and Sling. DirecTV probably has the best app (Amazon Fire), but Vue has the best content if you’re a sports fan. Sling is a distant 3rd, worst app and worst performance.
Amazon Prime Video: The "other" major streaming service, which is included as part of a $99 annual Prime Membership or $9 a month. The interface isn't as user-friendly as Netflix, but the service often offers shows not on Netflix, including originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon Prime also has the ability to add channels (HBO, Starz and more), making it a potential one-stop shop.
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