Let’s get some of bad news out of the way. If your goal in cord-cutting is to save money — but you’d prefer not to lose access to anything you’re currently watching via your cable or satellite subscription — then you should be aware that the money you save on one bill may be immediately redistributed to another. Additionally, unless you want your “Game of Thrones” episodes to look blurry and choppy, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper internet package.
The major network channels are all broadcast in HD. And you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the quality of uncompressed HD video in an antenna feed is actually superior to what you've been getting with your cable box. Cable operators have to deliver hundreds of channels, plus broadband and phone service over a single connection to your home, so the TV signal is usually compressed to conserve bandwidth. Not so with your OTA feed. The difference is immediately noticeable. Outside of a Blu-ray movie, this is the best output I've ever seen on my TV. And did I mention the channels are free?
In terms of bonus features, Sling TV is pretty standard, but it does have some unique standouts. The first is Game Finder, a search feature on the Sling TV website that finds live and upcoming sports content available for your channel package and region. There’s also a bandwidth limiter, which will help keep you from going over your data limits — streaming video content can eat up data quickly, after all, so this is a welcome feature.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage, and you can set up to six individual accounts. Thanks to a recent expansion, the service is now available in most national markets. With YouTube TV you also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. You can add Showtime for $7 per month, Starz for $9 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.
I just received my satellite bill after my 2 year contract was up and it went from $70 to 130 and I only have the basic package. I can’t justify the cost. I have Netflix and Hulu that we watch through our DVD player. I work a crazy 12 night shift and I rely on my DVR for the shows I miss. My question is regarding my options for recording shows because Hulu is the closest option for the shows I watch but it doesn’t always have the current shows. I’m thinking about trying sling but not sure if I can still use my DVD player or will have to get a Roku device.
(Side note: you can also, of course, buy or rent digital movies or TV show episodes from services like Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes. That's a bit removed from “watching TV without cable” in the sense that we mean it in this article, but it's worth noting that you can use purchase and rental apps with the same streaming devices – see Part II for those – that work with the streaming apps we're about to talk about here in Part I. Owning digital copies and subscribing to streaming services go together like peanut butter and jelly: switching between a movie you own on Amazon and a show you're streaming on Netflix is much more convenient than switching between cable an a Blu-Ray disc. You won't even have to get off your couch!)
Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
In November 2016, after the US Presidential Election, The Washington Post reported that RT and Sputnik were "state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports" and also that "RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online". The Post was criticized by The Intercept, Fortune, and Rolling Stone for relying in part on an analysis by PropOrNot, an anonymous organization with no reputation for fact-checking.
Hood Canal’s cable offers something for everyone. The major networks that carry all the shows you want; specialty channels to appeal to your personal tastes; premium channels with great movies and original programming; Pay-Per-View channels and 50 digital music stations. So no matter what you are looking for – you will find it on Hood Canal Communication’s Cable TV.
It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted. We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.
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.
Another drawback is that you usually don’t get your local networks with these services. Since most TVs include an integrated HDTV tuner, adding an antenna will give you access to those channels, but you won’t be able to record or time-shift them. Streaming services lag behind satellite and cable by 15 to 60 seconds, too, so if you’re watching sports and trying to avoid spoilers, you’ll probably have to stop checking your Twitter timeline. You can also run into buffering issues, but those are usually due to problems with your Internet connection rather than the streaming service. (Some people have encountered issues during peak shows such as Game of Thrones, but Wirecutter staffers haven’t personally experienced them—it may depend more on your Internet connection and local network speed.)
YouTube TV ($40/mo.): YouTube’s newest venture entered the market as one of the cheapest and simplest. Its channel package is small, there aren’t that many add-ons at the moment, and the service isn’t even available in every city or town in the United States yet (although the range is expanding every day; check here for updates). But if watching local stations live matters a lot to you, then you should know that YouTube TV is making that the cornerstone of its business — along with unlimited DVR cloud storage and enough portability that you should be able to shift easily from one device to another while watching a show you’ve recorded.
DirecTV Now offers a generous number of channels across four different packages, and it doesn't cost all that much, considering how much you get: $35 per month for more than 60 channels, up to $70 per month for more than 120 channels. While it's a good deal on paper, DirecTV Now itself has inconsistent video quality, a suboptimal interface and a haphazard selection of on-demand content. DVR options are still in their infancy, and platform availability is all over the place. If you want the largest amount of stuff to watch for the least amount of money, DirecTV Now works; otherwise, it's not the best choice.
If you have a TV with a built in digital tuner and a simple HDTV antenna, you should be able to just turn your TV on, do a channel scan and get all the network TV stations in their full HD glory! In fact, in many cases you'll get a higher definition signal when watching over the air as they are often sent in lower definition via your cable provider.
If you prefer to pay for only what you watch, and nothing more, you can buy single episodes of shows, as well as movies, a-la-carte. There are a lot of different sources for this: GooglePlay, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, and more. The prices are pretty much the same from one to another. Expect to pay $2-3 per episode, depending on the show.
Yes, in theory, the higher the dB gain number the better. Although, overall performance is just as important. You must also consider where you live and where the broadcast towers are located. If they are over the visual horizon, a higher number is better. If not, a lower number is ok. You must watch out for high dB numbers that are marketing ploys to get you to pay more for a product you may not need.
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.
Philo, like nearly every other service listed here, gives you a long list of popular cable channels to watch live over the internet. But it differs significantly in what content is supports — or more accurately, doesn’t support. Despite boasting a bevy of channels, including Viacom-owned favorites like MTV and Comedy Central (absent from many competing services), the four major networks — Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC — are not carried by Philo, nor is anything from ABC’s parent company, Disney. That means, along with no local affiliates, there is also no ESPN. When it comes to locals, though, many viewers can get them over the air with a simple (and affordable) HD antenna for free.
Perhaps no one deserves more credit for threatening the old TV business model than Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings. As the driving force behind the world’s largest streaming video service, with about 130 million subscribers, he’s taught consumers to expect an abundance of old and new shows and movies, without the irritation of commercial interruptions, for just $8 a month.