Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
For vast libraries of movies and TV content prior to the current season, I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. Another big reason to get Amazon Prime is the option of adding Showtime and Starz with your subscription. For just $8.99 per month, you have every TV show and movie offered by Starz and Showtime just as if you had the network with a cable provider.
If you haven’t heard of Tablo, it is a clever little box. You plug it into your wall socket, connect your over-the-air TV antenna to the Tablo, and then download the sister app to your phone or tablet. The Tablo can connect to your house router via WiFi or by using the included Ethernet cable. I used the cable. Then the app brings up an easy-to-use TV guide on your phone. You can record shows and series as you would with any other DVR, and you can watch live TV through it. Its playback functions and interface are awesome -- much easier to traverse than the one I pay for with ATT -- and let me zip through commercials in seconds. In another part of my home, I have a smart TV with Roku built in. It has a Tablo app on it that allows me to watch my recordings or live TV on the big screen. And I also have a Chromecast on my other TV to do the same.
Some of the live TV services offer Turner Classic Movies as part of the standard package; some put it in one of the pricier tiers. Check the channel packages available in your area, and if you can get one that offers TCM without charging too much, start there, then add Amazon Prime Video and add FilmStruck, which is also strong on foreign classics.
One of the advantages of unplugging from the physical cable sticking out of a socket in your home is that you’re free to enjoy the entertainment you’re paying for on any screen you happen to have handy, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, keep track of what you’re watching and will let you pause a show or movie on one device, then pick it up later on another device.
Apple TV: Like Roku, Apple TV is a streaming box that plugs into your TV. It has a great integration with iTunes, and supports many additional services including live TV stations through DirecTV Now. Apple TV also works with tons of services including Netflix and SlingTV. Expand on your entertainment with this device’s gaming capabilities, including the ability to work with an external gaming controller. Apple TV comes in two versions that cost $149 and $199 respectively.
Many TV providers only schedule installation appointments on weekdays, and they often can’t guarantee a timeframe for the technician to install your service. This can be frustrating if you work during the week or don’t have time to wait for the technician to arrive. With XFINITY, you can schedule a two-hour window for cable installation, and weekend appointments are available. If the technician is late, you get a $20 credit.
You can easily watch the streamed video on your computer, but if you want to watch it on that big flat-streen TV, you’ll need to connect your computer to your TV or buy one of a growing number of streaming players. Some TVs have streaming capabilities built-in, so check your manual (or Google your TV make and model) before you go out and buy a streaming player.
By the time you factor in functionality, premium channels, etc., most of these cord cutting options fall short in their ability to even keep up with what Comcast can provide a household. People paying over $200 for cable are also paying for their voice lines as well as their high speed internet, which, mind you, is required to even sustain these cord cutting offerings.
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.
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.
YouTube TV is an exciting alternative to cable, but you need to do your homework to make sure it is right for you. It is very possible some of the channels you want are not available on YouTube TV, or the number of streams is not a good fit for you. I would suggest taking advantage of the 7-day free trial to see if the service is right for you before you subscribe.
If we wanted to bike ride, do some writing, getting some form of exercise, or etc then we would be doing that already..and many people already do those things along with watch television. The real issue is replacing cable with a better and more cost effective form of television watching. Unlike most of the “non tv viewing” alternatives you have posted..with the exception of travel, television allows us to see the “whole” world without us having to spend extra money on a plane ticket. That fact actually opens the door to more people wanting to travel. The real questions are at what cost are we willing to pay, which tv shows are best in showing us the treasures of the world (which will actually persuade us to travel more and learn about places to travel to that we have not heard of before) and which provider gives us the best options for cable alternatives. You mentioned Roku, and that is a great option although a bit pricey. Check out Google Fiber at https://fiber.google.com/about/, and also Google TV.
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
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.
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".
If you are going to bookmark one page on cord cutting, it should be this one. Grounded Reason has over 300 pages on cutting the cord and getting rid of pay TV. The links in the cord-cutting guide below are either the most important articles on cutting the cord, or articles that answer questions I’m often asked. This page is your one-stop shop for cutting the cord.