We interviewed about 20 current and former industry executives and analysts to understand why traditional television has started losing its foothold in America’s living rooms. Some blamed their peers for decisions that made cable too pricey or opened the door to online competition, and many declined to be identified for fear of angering business associates. In reality, almost everyone played a role in jeopardizing the business.
Finally, though you probably already know this, you can watch your home teams, local news, and, yes, even LOST without cable. In fact, these are the easiest types of shows to get because they're free and just require a TV antenna to capture. If you have an HD-ready TV, you can even pick up high-def channels. Not sure what kind of antenna gives you the most bang for your geographical buck? AntennaWeb will help you figure out which antenna works best for your house based on where you live, and even tell you which way to point it. But you're here to watch TV online, so let's get to it.
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.
The chart -- which is too big to fit on this page, so I made it a Google spreadsheet -- answers the question of which streaming local channels are available where. You see, just because a service like DirecTV Now offers Fox, that doesn't mean it offers your local Fox station live. If you live in Asheville, Las Vegas or Schenectady, for example, DirecTV Now doesn't carry your local Fox station. Hulu and YouTube TV do, however.
Even if you watch a dozen or so shows a year, buying those seasons may be less expensive than paying for a cable subscription—and you’ll be able to watch on your TV, computer, phone, or tablet. We looked at 16 of the most popular TV shows across different networks back in 2016 (including Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Mr. Robot, The Blacklist, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and the average price for a full season of these shows from the Google Play store was just under $25. On iTunes they were just under $32 a season, while on Amazon they were just about $29. Given that the average monthly cable bill at the start of that year was $99 per household, you could afford to buy between 38 and 48 TV-show seasons a year, depending on where you buy them, for the same price as cable, and have more flexibility in watching them. (This calculation doesn’t include shows that are exclusive to Netflix or Amazon, as you would have to subscribe to those services even if you have cable.)
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR.
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!