We looked closely at the ratings and scores by Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. Each of these groups rate cable companies on customer satisfaction, with some breakout categories like performance, value, communications, billing, and technical support. Companies that score well with these consumer resources are more likely to resolve issues, clearly communicate changes in billing, and consistently provide reliable television service.
When hunting for the best alternative to cable TV, remember to identify what’s most important to you. Is live TV a must? Or are you mainly a binge-watcher? Do you want a premium package? Or is it all about being cost-effective? Whatever the case, pay close attention to the details and you’ll be well on your way to finding the best cable alternative for you. Happy streaming!
Up until a couple of years ago I had never paid for cable or satellite tv. I wrote in one post about how I still got all of my favorite shows via streaming alternatives, and how I wasn’t really missing anything by not having cable. I realized after we got cable (at my wife’s behest) that I HAD been missing watching all of my favorite sports teams because for the most part sports is one of the biggest things you can’t really get in all the free streaming options. Now that I’ve had the sports for a couple of years, I’d have a hard time dropping it I think. At the very least, however, we’re making sure to not pay too much for our TV. We just switched from Comcast cable to Dish Network when our promo deal expired and we had to pay $85/month for cable alone. When they wouldn’t droip our rates we switched to Dish Network and got more channels for about $40. I’m sure we’ll have to do the same again in a year or so when our new deal runs out. *sigh. If only all the sports teams streamed their games live for free!
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.
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for significantly less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Amazon Prime Video, you’ll still be more than $250 in the black. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option with Sling TV for $60 more per year ($5 more per month); about the same price as buying two individual TV seasons.
What!!! You haven’t cut the cord! Ha j/k…Pretty solid savings though, hard not to accept that deal. The new thing out there now is PlayStation Vue, I think it’s $35 or $40 per month depending on the package, but the middle package has all the ESPN channels and …. The Big Ten Network! You can stream it over a Roku if you have one. Something you may want to look into.
Those limitations have not stopped the segment from growing. Sling TV added 26,000 paying customers in the third quarter, bringing it to 2.37 million total customers. That's actually more than the roughly 1.8 million customers DISH has lost on satellite side, but the numbers are a bit deceiving since Sling -- even the more expensive packages -- generally costs much less than DISH's satellite service.
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
There's no need to break the bank just to get television. Plenty of providers offer cheap cable TV packages, so you can save your money for what really matters. Check out Spectrum's Triple Play bundles. When you bundle with internet and home phone services, you can get TV and internet for as little as $30 a month for each. DIRECTV also offers affordable plans. You can get over 155 channels for just $35 a month. If you cut out just a few Starbucks and late night froyo trips every month, you could use the savings on hours of priceless entertainment!
Picture this. It's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you want to rewatch your favorite show for the tenth time. You log into your Netflix account and realize to your horror that your show has been taken off of the service. How are you supposed to binge watch now? Stand alone streaming services are notorious for adding and removing titles from their library abruptly and without explanation. Your favorite show or movie might be there one day and gone the next. With cable TV, you can set up a series recording for your show so you can watch every episode. While Netflix might stop airing your show mid-series, the show's TV network won't. Many providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum also offer On-Demand features with thousands of titles that you can watch from any of your devices at anytime. This means you can still binge watch your favorite shows at no additional cost. You'll also be able to watch your shows as soon as they air with a cable or satellite TV connection. With streaming services like Netflix, you might not be able to watch the season for several months after it airs on live TV. By the time the latest season shows up on Netflix, your friends will have spoiled all the important plotlines and shocking moments.
Other important factors include cloud DVR and the interface itself. Yes, most of the services above allow you to record and play back shows, just like a traditional cable or satellite DVR, but they often come with restrictions. Some services have a traditional, cable-box-like menu system, while some are more experimental (read: they have a steep learning curve).