NFL Network – Though this is actually the National Football League's official cable channel, its website has a ton of post-game video footage for fans to check out. Due to licensing and TV restrictions, finding a legal way to live stream NFL football is next to impossible unless you live outside the US, but at least you can listen live to every game of the season with an NFL Field Pass.
Most sports leagues also have their own streaming services for games: NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, MLB.tv, and NHL.tv let you watch games on your streaming device or computer. Unfortunately, due to blackout rules, you often don’t get access to your local team, which is what many people want to watch most. If you’re a big fan of the sport overall, or if your favorite team isn’t your local team, these services give you access to (almost) all games anywhere you are. Though somewhat expensive, they're priced similarly to getting the games in your cable TV package.
While we haven't paid for cable TV, we haven't exactly been deprived, or had to watch only the shows offered by the over the air networks. There are tons of free video options out there! In fact, we actually still watch a lot of the same shows that our friends do. How do we do it you ask? Through a combination of free over-the-air digital TV, free online video services (the legal kind), a video streaming software, super low-cost internet service from FreedomPop, and a Xbox. FreedomPop is a low cost alternative to larger Internet service providers. Right now their plans might be too small for heavy video streaming users, but they're definitely on their way to bigger and better offerings – and they're definitely good enough if you only stream shows a few times a month. You can read more about them on their site.
PS Vue’s biggest selling point is just how many channels you get, boasting the most of any services out there. Plus, you can bolster your services with add-on channels and features. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus (Sony’s premium online service for PS4 and PS3) will get discounts on some of those packages, and some channels are exclusive only to Plus subscribers in the first place. Similarly, PS Vue ties directly into the PS4 interface and the PlayStation ecosystem at large, which makes adopting it almost a no-brainer for PlayStation players looking to add online TV — provided the pricing and channel listings meet your needs.
The cost to networks of paying huge sums for sports rights get passed on to customers in the form of higher monthly bills. Broadcast channels like Fox, CBS, and NBC are also shelling out billions of dollars on sports because it’s one of the few things consumers still watch live, which helps the companies sell advertising. Those broadcasters are raising the prices they charge cable operators, leading to higher consumer bills. Congress handed that new-revenue stream—known as retransmission consent fees –to broadcast channels in the early 1990s.
Here’s where it all begins: You’re sick of paying an exorbitant cable or satellite bill, and you have a strong sense that if you just limited your spending to a few streaming subscription services, you would be much more satisfied with your home entertainment experience. So let’s say that you already have a good TV, a speedy internet connection and a set-top box. (If you don’t, we’ll get to that later.) Who gets your money?
In 2015, the FCC redefined what really constitutes "broadband" speed in the US as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, up from 4Mbps, which was the standard since 2010. At the time, that put 17 percent of the population (55 million households) without true broadband. According to the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 34 million US citizens (10 percent) lack access to such speeds; 23 million are in rural areas.
It needs to be stated clearly that antennas are extremely location specific. Your home receiption will be different from everyone elses – period. Anyone recommending any antenna without specific facts is not helping at all. Those $20 “leaf” antennas only work when you are close to the transmitters and all the stations are in about the same direction. If you have any antenna at all, connect it to a DTV and scan for channels. You could be surprised at what can be received. When it comes to difficult antenna reception – a few tips:
HBO Now’s $15/month price point makes it among the most expensive on-demand service here, but that comes with the benefit of seeing all of the service’s latest shows, including Game of Thrones, Westworld, Silicon Valley, Veep, and more, all at the same time they appear on the traditional service. Add to that a cascade of past classics, from Sopranos to Deadwood, newer movie releases, and virtually everything on the network anytime on demand.
The sports-centric cable replacement service Fubo TV has deals with FOX, NBC and CBS. However, those deals only apply to stations the networks own directly. If the station in your area is an affiliate station, you may not be able to watch your local team play unless a regional sports channel is broadcasting the game. For example, if you’re a Chicago Bulls fan there’s a 45 percent chance that you won’t be able to watch the game on Fubo TV due to licensing restrictions. Click here to find out whether or not you can see your local team play if you get Fubo.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
If you just want local channels you could just get a TV with a digital tuner (most of them these days), and use a HDTV antenna to get all your local channels. To record live shows you can use a over-the-air DVR like the Tablo TV DVR. If there are premium channels you want beyond the basics there are services that carry those channels like Sling TV, Amazon, HBO GO, and more. It all comes down to figuring out what channels and services you need, and figuring out where they’re available.
As you might expect from its namesake satellite TV service, DirecTV Now is one of the most traditional offerings here. Its base $40 package has more worthwhile channels than any of the others, and you can get pretty much any channel (except NFL Red Zone, absent from many competitors too) as you step up. A recent redesign brought with it a DVR and enhanced on-demand options. During our DirecTV Now review, the Roku app didn't work as we expected -- we couldn't pause live TV, for example -- but in its defense, the service does offer the very cable-like ability to channel surf by swiping left and right. It also offers deals on streaming devices and benefits for AT&T Wireless customers, including discounts and being able to stream on your phone without using mobile data.
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!