Streaming live TV can be less expensive than traditional cable packages. Sites like Netflix and Hulu are giving traditional TV a run for its money (or your money, rather) but TV is catching up. DIRECTV, for one, now offers live TV streaming packages at competitive rates. When you cut the cord, you typically also cut out contracts and the need for equipment, making for a lower monthly bill. (Thinking of taking the leap? Check out our review of The Best TV Streaming Services.)
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.
This is pretty cool, especially if you are an AT&T member. If you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, DIRECTV will pick up the tab for data to help you achieve all your binge-worthy goals. Data Free TV means you won’t use your AT&T mobile data for watching DIRECTV NOW or FreeVIEW in the App. This means that you can watch Direct TV From ANYWHERE for free if you are an AT&T member. (Think long car trips mommas!)

An HD antenna won’t give you all of the channels you would have access to if you purchased a cable subscription. However, it will increase the number of channels you can watch on local TV. And the one-time cost (as opposed to an ongoing monthly fee) means you’ll save money. It can be another attractive feature of using antennas to expand your viewing choices.

In second quarter 2011, Comcast lost 238,000 television customers, compared to 265,000 a year earlier, though the company was making up for these losses with increases in other services such as Internet. Moffett said the slowing rate indicated that online sources were not making people drop cable as quickly. On the other hand, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications lost more customers in the quarter than in 2010.[9] Time Warner Cable lost 130,000, while Dish Network lost 135,000; by comparison, DirecTV gained 26,000 subscribers, compared to 100,000 the previous year. Nielsen Media Research estimated that the number of households with at least one television set had decreased from 115.9 million to 114.7 million, while also estimating an increase in program viewing by computer, tablets or smartphones. Services such as U-verse were increasing their subscriber numbers by offering special features: U-verse's "My Multiview" option allowed people to watch four channels at once, while Cablevision's "iO TV Quick Views" allowed the display of up to nine channels at once.[10]
Charter Communications (which rebranded as Spectrum after acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House in 2016) offers the perfect example of how customers are feeling the pinch. Last quarter, Charter lost 36,000 residential pay-TV subscribers, yet the company’s TV revenues increased by 3.4 percent. In the quarter before that, Charter lost 66,000 subscribers, but still squeezed out a 2.9-percent increase in TV revenues.
DIRECTV’s promotional pricing is low, but you will see a spike in your monthly rate after your first year of service. The good news is, the company doesn’t hide the price increase, allowing you to budget for it in advance. But because DIRECTV requires a 24-month contract, you are more or less guaranteed to experience it, and with a prorated early termination fee, you’ll have to pay for the months remaining in your contract if you decide to cancel your service. Are you a renter, a student, or just someone who doesn’t like being in long-term contracts? DIRECTV might not be your best cheap TV provider.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
Most of the time, it’s not difficult to find deals on TV packages. Common deals providers offer include discounts on services, Visa® Prepaid Cards, and free premium channels. Though most deals are advertised on providers’ websites, it’s a good idea to call and ask a sales representative if there are any additional deals not offered online. On the other hand, some deals are online exclusives and might not be honored if you order service over the phone.
So, what’s the catch? The ads. You can’t escape them. But if you’re looking for a free library of curated TV shows, movies, music, and internet video content, you can’t go wrong with this cable alternative. PlutoTV is also very compatible with supporting devices including Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablets, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Web browsers, and select Sony, Samsung, and Vivio Smart TVs. Bottom line: If tight budget is your name, PlutoTV is your game.

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.
Cable companies tend to make bundling TV, phone, and internet easy, which means lots of savings for you. Not only are bundles cheaper than buying the services individually, they’re also convenient because you don’t have to deal with more than one supplier—that cuts out hassle and paperwork. Use our site to compare prices and check for providers offering phone, internet, and cable bundles.
Cable, from providers such as XFINITY, Spectrum and Cox, is likely available in your area. DSL is another commonly available internet service, from providers including AT&T, Verizon and Frontier. Fiber technology is available primarily in select metro areas and include providers such as CenturyLink and AT&T. Rural areas will likely have the fewest internet options and may only be eligible for satellite internet providers such as HughesNet. Use Allconnect to find out which internet options are available in your area.
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.

There are other TV providers, such as RCN, Mediacom, and Suddenlink, but we didn’t include them in the “Best Cable TV Providers” because either 1) they are not widely available or 2) they did not meet our criteria. We determined which cable TV providers are the best (or better than most) by comparing prices, contracts, fees, channels, DVRs, and availability.
To access Netflix on XFINITY X1 requires an eligible X1 set-top box with XFINITY TV and XFINITY Internet service. Limited to Netflix members who are residential customers. Netflix on X1 uses your Internet service and will count against any XFINITY data plan. Netflix streaming membership required.NBCU celebrity endorsement not implied. All networks are divisions of NBCUniversal. © NBCUniversal Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.

TV providers advertise low prices to entice new customers. These promotional rates will usually increase at the end of your initial contract and jump to the regular monthly price. However, some providers will increase rates in the middle of your contract. Most companies have rate information on their websites, but you should also confirm any rate increases with a sales representative.
A cancellation or early termination fee is a charge that occurs when you cancel your service before your contract is up. Usually, early termination fees are prorated, which means the amount you’ll pay depends on how many months are left in your contract. For example, if you cancel service six months into a 12-month contract and have a $120 cancellation fee that’s prorated at $10 per month, you’ll have to pay $60.
If you stream, you should abandon the notion of channels. Many channels do have apps, but not all, and some require a cable log in. Streaming services are more like hubs, or video stores, where you can find thousands of titles, including some popular shows. But if you’re thinking about a cheaper way to maintain your present viewing habits, forget about it. What you’re getting is far superior, ad free content for a fraction of the price.
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.
To really live the cutting the cord life to its fullest, you ditch cable TV, hold onto the internet, and either use an antenna (if you care about local channels), or buy a cheap streaming device, like a Roku player or Amazon Fire TV Stick ($25 to $50.) Most current TVs sold today are "smart" in that they have built in apps like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime to watch, and you don't need an accessory to bring them in. If you have a "dumb" TV, you'll need the streaming players, which are heavily discounted during holiday sales.
My take is that they are focused on the areas that get NO cable service because they know it’s a slam dunk so they charge rates that are more expensive for what they offer because they can. It’s like this, if they want my business, they have to have the same TV channels for less and they are so far from it. Also, if they do undercut any pricing, it’s marginal because they are trying to maximize their profits exponentially. Take a look at the free trials they all offer. They’re almost all the same: 1 week, or maybe 5 days, and then the monthly rate kicks in. What a joke. They’re greedy.
There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).
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.
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
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 ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).
What we like about Prime Video is that you can download selected shows and movies to watch offline. There are restrictions however - there's a time limit to how long you can view the content offline, as well as a limitation on the number of titles you can download. If you've reached the maximum number of downloads, you'd have to first delete some of them to free up the quota.
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.
For the highest tier plan, you'd have to sign up for a 2-year contract, although the rates are locked in during that period. You get 150 Mbps internet, as well as their 'Preferred HD TV' package for $94.99/month. The 'Preferred HD TV' package features 255+ channels, with 80+ of them being in HD. They also inlude the SHOWTIME movie channel, as well as the Multi-Room DVR Enhanced Service, which allows you to record up to six shows at once, and up to 100 hours of recorded shows.
A typical triple play bundle package that includes home phone, satellite TV, and a high-speed reliable internet connection costs approximately 30 to 50 percent less than purchasing each one of these services separately. Over the course of a year or two, this will certainly be a blessing to you, as you will be able to save hundreds of dollars in the meantime.
Most cord cutters seem to focus on TV as cord cutting and not home Internet. Yet there is a growing trend toward not only cutting the cable TV bill but also the cable Internet bill. Almost every day someone asks how to lower their Internet bill or if they can use their cellphone for home Internet. The good news is there is a growing push to help you cut the cord on home Internet.
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.
Showtime Online has a unique service of being able to be added on to other services that you may already subscribe to. For $9 a month, it can be added to Amazon Prime and Hulu and for $11, Playstation Vue. Showtime offers you award-winning series like Dexter, Weeds and House of Lies as well as a large selection of movies including action, comedies and dramas added each month. The stand-alone service is $11 and it offers both live viewing and streaming.
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.
In March 2019, DirecTV Now became much, much less appealing than it was previously. Not only did corporate owner AT&T jack the price from $40 to $50 per month, it cut numerous key channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery and HGTV, from its base package. The upside is that HBO is included as part of the price. Getting a standalone HBO Now subscription costs $15 per month, so an increase of $10 to get HBO included is technically a $5 monthly discount. But it locks you into a bundle, just the kind of thing cord cutters want to avoid. On top of that, its DVR and app are a step behind most competitors.
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