Diagram of a modern hybrid fiber-coaxial cable television system. At the regional headend, the TV channels are sent multiplexed on a light beam which travels through optical fiber trunklines, which fan out from distribution hubs to optical nodes in local communities. Here the light signal from the fiber is translated to a radio frequency electrical signal, which is distributed through coaxial cable to individual subscriber homes.

PlayStation Vue: PlayStation Vue is Sony's equivalent of Sling TV. It's an app which you can install on your smart device, and it relies on the internet to deliver content. While it does come from PlayStation, you don't need the gaming console to run it. You can install the app on most smart devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and most Windows and MacOS web browsers.
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
Here's how the pay-TV business works: Traditional distributors such as Comcast (which owns CNBC parent company NBCUniversal), Charter, Altice and Cox — the largest U.S. cable TV distributors — pay a per-subscriber rate for the right to broadcast a channel. Little-watched networks don't cost much — say, 5 cents per month per subscriber. The popular broadcast networks and cable stations, such as ESPN and Fox News, cost more.
A TV package may be cheap, but if it doesn’t include the channels you want, is it worth any money at all? To sift through channel line-ups, we set a base level expectation for what we should receive when paying for standard packages. We compared available channels in entry-level plans, highlighting when a provider doesn’t reserve popular channels for upper-tier packages and giving bonus points to those that offer customizable programming or deals for bundling with other services.
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.
Neither of us have ever watched sports, so that make it easier. I didn’t have cable growing up. The first year or two we were married, we would get the 3 month trials. We haven’t had it at all for the last 12 years. Beings we never had it for more than a few months, I can’t really say I miss it. Our company keeps calling us because it would only be $10 a month more to add channels. But there is no way I would want to fight that battle with my kids. After our 6 week trip (with no netflix), I have managed to keep screen time for the oldest two under 25 minutes a day. And my youngest have forgotten about it all together! At this point, I don’t know if they could pay me to get channels.
Clearly, the current model of inflicting higher prices on a shrinking subscriber base is not sustainable, but it’s hard to see the traditional TV business—including both cable providers and networks—changing their ways until they have nothing left to lose. I can’t say exactly when that’s going to happen. But if history’s any guide, it’ll probably be sooner than they expect.
Take Spectrum for example. You can get cable TV for as cheap as $30 a month when you bundle with internet and home phone service. The total cost of your bill for all three bundled services would be cheaper than purchasing cable TV by itself from some other providers. Now that's what we call a deal! There's no need to go through the hassle of paying three separate bills every month, when you could just bundle them on one bill AND save at the same time. If you already have an internet provider that you love but you still want to experience the perks of a bundle, check out DIRECTV. This provider partners with most major internet providers, so you can keep the high-speed internet service you love, get all of your favorite TV networks, and save!
One of the great dreams of cord-cutting is that it will allow consumers to pick only the channels they actually want, rather than paying for programming they never watch. But the services above essentially operate more like traditional cable, providing packages of channels, not all of which are widely desirable. It’s unlikely that any one of these subscriptions will offer everything that a given consumer is looking for, and it will require viewers to scroll past a lot that they don’t.
Even if you’re only going to watch a few of these shows, the only way to do it is with a subscription, so buying just the programs you want to see isn’t an option this time. The same is true for another prestige network, HBO, which offers its shows exclusively through cable or a new $15 per month streaming option called HBO Now (unless, of course, you don’t mind waiting months to buy the latest of Game of Thrones episodes on iTunes). With these three services in hand, you should be able to fill in any gaps with a few single-season purchases.
Because Fios TV travels into the home via fiber-optic cables, you’re required to have a router to receive service. You can rent or buy one through Verizon, but both options can get pricey. Verizon does list two compatible routers (the Actiontec MI424WR Rev. 1 and Verizon Fios Quantum Gateway, Model G1100) at checkout, so if you already own one of those, you’re in luck.
While some services like Hulu live TV provide NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS to many, you may still want to look into getting a TV Antenna. It allows you to watch free broadcast TV, with access to networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and more. The over the air broadcast TV available changes depending on where you live in relation to your closest TV towers. Thankfully, antenna maker Mohu has put together a tool that shows you which TV channels are available in your area. They also show which channels you should expect to receive for each of their antennas.
As equipment improved, all twelve channels could be utilized, except where a local VHF television station broadcast. Local broadcast channels were not usable for signals deemed to be priority, but technology allowed low-priority signals to be placed on such channels by synchronizing their blanking intervals. Similarly, a local VHF station could not be carried on its broadcast channel as the signals would arrive at the TV set slightly separated in time, causing "ghosting".[citation needed]
Bundles are the glue that keeps many of us stuck to a pay-TV package, especially from cable companies or telco services such as AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS. In addition to the convenience of getting just a single bill for your TV, internet, and home phone services, you often get a discounted rate for internet service when it’s part of this type of package.
I found the article interesting. After I lost my job, I spent time looking for cable alternatives. I ended up buying a e-book entitled “Remote Control: Stop Losing Money And Easily Take Control Over What You Watch on lulu.com. I saw someone talking about it on the Breaking Bad facebook page (I am a Fan). It cost me $6.37 and basically taught me how to put a program on my laptop that allows me to access movies, TV shows, anytime I like. I now only pay for my Internet charge. No more cable for us. My kids love it when we have movie night and I love that I don’t spend $160/month any more. Oh, and it also had a money back guarantee, so I figured what the heck. Anyway, hope that helps someone too.
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.
But pay-TV distributors see the writing on the wall. It's not just that digital video providers are offering competitive bundles. It's that nearly every large media company has a direct-to-consumer streaming service that, if aggregated, replace the need for large bundles of channels. This is part of why AT&T, which already owns a giant pay-TV provider in DirecTV, is retooling WarnerMedia, leading to the departure this week of long-time Warner executives Richard Plepler and David Levy.
K.C. That’s a great way to save money, especially if you aren’t much of a TV watcher. I don’t personally watch much TV, but the shows my wife and I watch tend to be on cable – often the Travel Channel, Food Network, Discover, History, ESPN, and The Disney Channel for our little one. That said, I don’t think we would be heartbroken to cut the cord and go without – just as long as I can keep my fast internet connection! 😉
DISH TV has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any TV provider. It scored a perfect 5/5 Power Circle Rating from J.D. Power and this year stole the top spot from DIRECTV. DISH TV also ranks in the top three for customer satisfaction on the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report. Customers like DISH TV for its nationwide availability, two-year price guarantee and good channel variety.
Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.
I've found Sling TV to not offer competitive package. I was an early user and subscriber for a couple of years. However, I felt that I was able to get a basic cable package with what Sling offered. I also had major buffering issues with Sling, especially when a season premiere or big episode of a popular show was being shown. This year, I searched my options for alternative streaming options. I tried Playstation Vue, but, I found them price-y and did not offer Viacom channels. With a majority of channel apps offering episodes of new tv shows within 24 hours, I do not feel it is really necessarily to have a DVR option. Currently, I am with Directv Now and I've been extremely happy with them. I have not had the buffering issues other people have had. I only had buffering when watching NBC. Other than that, I save money on the cheapest package and a movie channel (Live a Little package and HBO) with more channels than what's out there for $40. I was fortunate to sign up when they were offering free, latest Apple TV. Looking forward to when there is an app on Roku so I can watch tv in bed! Btw, in case anyone is wondering, I do use Comcast for internet services on the cheapest option available with no buffering issues.
Like DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse’s rates go up after the first year of promotional pricing. The good news is U-verse contracts are only 12 months long, so there’s no early termination fee if you choose to cancel when your first year of service is up. It’s good to remember that any TV provider’s promotional pricing is usually only guaranteed for the length of your initial contract. Once your contract expires, most will raise your monthly price to a less attractive rate.
The pioneer in this technology is Roku, which offers several boxes and streaming sticks to choose from. Additional options including Apple TV and Chromecast. I use a Chromecast myself, which is compatible with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, Google Play, and local media players Avia, and Plex. A Chromecast can also stream anything from a tab in the Chrome browser or any screen on an Android phone, opening up virtually the entire world of streaming video with a $35 HD streaming stick.

Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes. You can watch episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available for web site visitors.


DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
When it comes to standalone streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV, your viewing experience is completely dependent on your internet connection. So if the internet goes down or there are a ton of people in your neighborhood online at the same time, your speeds might be slow. You'll likely experience buffering, lagging, or even a completely frozen screen. With cable TV, you'll never have to worry about missing a moment, because the connection doesn't rely on your internet. Don't be that guy that misses the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl: NO ONE wants to be that guy.
I’ve been thinking about cutting the cord when my current contract expires. I see that there are definitely savings to be had. The one thing holding me back is access to live sports (mostly college football in the fall). I could see purchasing a digital antenna to pick up the games on the broadcast channels but what suggestions are there in regards to ESPN or Big 10 Network?
When you’re looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s important to narrow down your search by zip code because coverage may vary depending on your location—even within a service area for a single provider. However, don’t assume that a narrow search means limited options. In addition to cable providers, there are likely DSL, fiber, and satellite providers available at your address. We’ll help you compare all your options so you get the best service at the right price. Enter your zip code below to compare plans and choose the best fit.
Usually, the apps themselves are free. However, some networks offer paid subscription options to access certain shows or old episodes. But that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t potentially reasonable, depending on how many shows you may watch. For example, CBS All Access is available for as little as $5.99 per month (plus tax), which isn’t bad in comparison to the cost of cable.
However, even if you do have to pay for internet, that doesn’t mean you can’t save a ton by ditching your television service subscription. Just be aware that cable and satellite companies will tout their service bundles to try and convince you to commit to multiple services. While the promo or introductory prices may look attractive, they will go up when the initial period ends, so think long and hard about the potential consequences, especially if you have to sign a contract.
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.
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