If cutting the cord means my wife can't watch the true crime shows she likes or the cooking programs we both like, price may not be the overall deciding factor. Yes, we pay around $300 a month for cable and streaming services, but my wife and I watch about 90 minutes of TV together at night, and at least an hour separately while getting ready for work and/or preparing dinner during the week. On the weekend, we probably each add three hours of solo viewing for sports (me) or whatever she watches when I'm out.
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.
Last year, J.D. Power ranked DIRECTV as the top provider in the nation for customer satisfaction with a perfect 5/5 Power Circle rating. This year, DIRECTV lost the number one spot to DISH TV, but still received 5/5 for Overall Satisfaction and a host of other key considerations, like cost and communication. J.D. Power now ranks the company second nationwide. DIRECTV also ranked among the top four television services on the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report. With availability in all 50 states, 4K programming and one Genie HD DVR included with purchase, it’s no surprise customers are so fond of the service.
You may still need cable or satellite: Access to some streaming channels require that you are also an active cable/satellite subscriber. What this means is that although some of the channels you enjoyed on your cable or satellite service are available via streaming for free, when you try to access some streaming channels, you may be required to provide verification that you also receive that channel via a cable or satellite service.
There are not any additional steps as you just press the “cast” button on the app you want to show on your TV. This also works with the Google Chrome browser after installing a simple plugin. There are no frills with this one, but it does exactly what we need for cutting cable TV at a great price. If you are comfortable using your phone as your main content delivery mechanism than Chromecast is a good choice. Otherwise, I would look to Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV.
One last point on what to watch: If you really want to pay only for what you want to watch and nothing else, don’t forget that iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Cinema Now, Google Play and others will gladly sell or rent you movies and episodes of TV series to watch on your computer or TV. If you’re thinking of your various subscriptions as an analogue to cable, then think of this option as akin to the old-fashioned “pay per view.” The fees can add up if you watch a lot, but these vendors have some free videos, too.
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.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
Currently, you can try DIRECTV NOW free for 7 days. I find the best option to be their “Live a Little” package. It is priced at $40 per month and contains Fox News, CNN, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, Hallmark Channel, ESPN, Disney, HGTV, USA, ID, TNT, Food, TBS, History, Discovery, Disney Jr, TV Land, Nick Jr, AMC, FX, FXX, Bravo, Lifetime, A&E, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bloomberg, BET, Cartoon Network, CMT, CNBC, Comedy Central, Disney XD, E!, ESPN2, Fox Business, FS1, Galavision, HLN, MTV, MTV2, Paramount Network, Syfy, TCM, TLC, Univision, VH1, and more
There are many differences. SlingTV is the cheapest, but it's missing many channels unless you pay extra for them. And If you're a fan of Nickelodeon or PBS, you won't be able to see the kids' TV favorite on YouTubeTV, SlingTV, Sony PlayStation VUE or Hulu with Live TV, but you can get Nick with DirecTV Now. And if you have an Amazon Fire TV Stick as your streaming device to bring Internet to your TV, you can't see YouTubeTV.
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.
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
Your Local Library: Your local library will most likely have a decent selection of DVD movies that you can check out for a week or more. In fact, many libraries will actually buy copies of new releases that you can reserve. My local library tends to be a bit picked over, but if you get on a waiting list you can usually find movies or TV shows you’d enjoy watching.
◊ To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.
Some providers have both TV and internet available to bundle. Other providers sell TV only or internet only. Companies that offer only one service often partner with TV-only or internet-only counterparts to provide a complete service. For example, satellite TV can be paired with DSL or fiber internet to save you time and money. Using our handy comparison tool, you can look at all TV-only, internet-only, and TV-and-internet options available in your area.
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.
If you’re looking for the utmost flexibility and personalization in your cable alternative plan, Sling TV is the streaming service for you. Sling is committed to breaking free from old cable TV by cutting unwatched channels, long-term contracts, and hidden fees. Sling has two baseline packages starting at $25 a month, and you can do even more with their seemingly endless add-ons. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth with this cable alternative. Read the options below to find out how.
Before you buy an antenna, use this tool from the FCC to see where local stations are broadcasting from. This will help you know what kind of range you need to look for with your antenna. If you don’t purchase a strong enough antenna, you might not be able to watch certain channels. Also, these are only broadcast channels, so be warned that you won’t be able to watch your cable favorites with OTA TV.
Cons: When you record a show on YouTube, it's with the expectation that you can watch it the way a cord cutter would want to – with the ability to fast forward through commercials. But some shows come in as video-on-demand versions – and no functionality to zip through the ads.. YouTube needs to be clearer about what you're getting, as cable DVRs don't put you through this torture.
HBO GO®, which offers more than 2,000 titles online, allows authenticated students to instantly watch every episode of every season of the best HBO® shows. This includes current series like Game of Thrones®, Girls®, and True Detective®and classics like The Sopranos®, Sex and the City® and Deadwood®, as well as HBO original films, miniseries, sports, documentaries, comedy specials, and hundreds of the latest blockbuster movies.
Con: The pricing. The most confusing of all the offerings. What seems like the best rates may not look so good once you've figured out that you have to tack on extras to get what you need. And boo-hiss on the extra charge for the DVR. Additionally, Sling is the only one of the cable alternatives mentioned here that doesn't offer the complete roster of broadcast networks. CBS and ABC are huge omissions. Because of all the negatives, SlingTV would be the last choice on this list.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
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.
I get that some people are super into sports. I totally respect that everyone has the right to their own likes and tastes. Personally I have zero interest in any sport that I or someone I care about is not directly participating in, but I am super into a few things that cost money. Mountain biking, for example. What blows me away is that many people who are into sports can read the above article, blow right past the $1,000,000 lifetime price tag on cable TV and still say “nope, I gotta have my college football / basketball / March Madness / NBA package / whatever. If mountain biking carried a lifetime cost of that magnitude, I would find something else to love as soon as I could sell my bike to the next sucker who came along. It really is that simple. In fact, that’s reason #1 I’m into mountain biking and not sport aviation.
You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.
Slingbox – Originally the only way to enjoy SlingTV, Slingbox offers an integrated television and streaming solution in one package. Serious techies may enjoy the vast abilities of this box, but those with less technology comfort may are likely going to be happier with a simpler option like Roku or Chromecast. Slingbox allows you to stream your local cable TV to your phone or browser while away from home or stream SlingTV and other services. The most popular Slingbox is the M2 for $99. The more powerful Slingbox 500 runs $299.
When we refer to “cable TV,” we think of it as any kind of programmed subscription TV service. That's why you'll find a variety of TV provider types on CableTV.com, including satellite providers like DISH® and DIRECTV; traditional cable companies like Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox; and other wired providers like AT&T®, Verizon, and Frontier. Not all providers are available in all areas, so start your search to see which providers are actually available where you live.
We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
Our comparison tool programming allows you to easily find and compare deals and packages across the largest nationwide providers. Our team has already done the hard work and found all the necessary information for you; all you have to do is review and select. Our comparison tables allow you to see an overview of the deal on offer and what precisely it includes so you know exactly what you’ll be getting and what you’d be paying for. We also make the process much simpler by giving you the ability to sort through providers depending on their recommendation status, ratings, internet speed, and the price of the deals on offer.
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! 😉
Mediacom only offers its cable TV service paired with an internet plan, but that starting bundle comes at a fair rate. You can get high speed internet (60 Mbps or 100 Mbps) with the Local Plus TV plan. It comes with the basic networks like NBC, the CW, and ABC — but not much beyond that. You’ll have to upgrade to the Family TV plan for everything except premium channels.
Top shows include: Mad Men, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Nurse Jackie, Bloodline, The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Halt and Catch Fire, Damages, Narcos, Master of None, How I Met Your Mother, Archer, Arrested Development, Louie, 30 Rock, Portlandia, Parks and Recreation, Orange is the New Black, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Girl, Californication, The League, Star Trek, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Sons of Anarchy, Daredevil, Lost, Dexter, and many more.
With just an antenna, you'll lose out on having a DVR to record shows, which is a cable perk, but there's ways around this. You can buy a stand-alone DVR. The AirTV sells for $120, but you'll need the antenna, a streaming player and an external hard drive to make it work, and that will bring the price to over $200. Amazon's own Fire TV Recast DVR is $229, and again you'll need a Fire TV or the Echo Show speaker as well to make it work. The unit has a built in hard drive, but you'll need to have a streaming player and/or antenna as well.
Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.
Most cable companies require a set-top box to view their cable channels, even on newer televisions with digital cable QAM tuners, because most digital cable channels are now encrypted, or "scrambled", to reduce cable service theft. A cable from the jack in the wall is attached to the input of the box, and an output cable from the box is attached to the television, usually the RF-IN or composite input on older TVs. Since the set-top box only decodes the single channel that is being watched, each television in the house requires a separate box. Some unencrypted channels, usually traditional over-the-air broadcast networks, can be displayed without a receiver box. The cable company will provide set top boxes based on the level of service a customer purchases, from basic set top boxes with a standard definition picture connected through the standard coaxial connection on the TV, to high-definition wireless DVR receivers connected via HDMI or component. Older analog television sets are "cable ready" and can receive the old analog cable without a set-top box. To receive digital cable channels on an analog television set, even unencrypted ones, requires a different type of box, a digital television adapter supplied by the cable company. A new distribution method that takes advantage of the low cost high quality DVB distribution to residential areas, uses TV gateways to convert the DVB-C, DVB-C2 stream to IP for distribution of TV over IP network in the home.
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.
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.
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.