If you’ve already signed up with a cable replacement service and you’re unhappy with its local TV coverage, you may want to consider adding OTA capture functionality to fill in the gaps. With a TV tuner and an antenna, you can watch local TV channels on just about every major entertainment platform. Once your system is able to access local TV, you can use the free or inexpensive software mentioned above to add DVR capabilities.
One of the great dreams of cord-cutting is that it will allow consumers to pick only the channels they actually want, rather than paying for programming they never watch. But the services above essentially operate more like traditional cable, providing packages of channels, not all of which are widely desirable. It’s unlikely that any one of these subscriptions will offer everything that a given consumer is looking for, and it will require viewers to scroll past a lot that they don’t.
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.
You've voted on your favorites before—and many of you voted for one of these five—but we decided to test all five for ourselves and see what they can do. Each device has its own niche and advantages, but they all aim to serve your movies and TV shows to you without the need for a cable subscription or library of discs. Here's a quick rundown of what each box supports:
CBS News: Not to be confused with CBS's nightly and weekly broadcasts, this round-the-clock streaming service provides anchored news coverage throughout the day and live broadcasts of major events. In a sense, it's an antidote to cable news, with a heavy emphasis on reported stories instead of talking heads. For cord cutters, it's a must-see. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and Xbox
“ They get these extreme voices on that have this kind of hostile toward the West viewpoints towards the world, very extremist. These are the people that they have on. And when I was on the anchor desk, they would instruct you to egg on these guests and try to get them, you know, rallied up, to really fire off their anti-American talking points. Listen, I'm all about exposing government corruption. I'm all about being critical of the government. But this is different. This is promoting the foreign policy of somebody that has just invaded a country, has invaded the country and is then lying about it, is using the media as a tool to fulfill his foreign policy interests. And RT is part of Putin's propaganda network and it's very, very troubling in the wake of what is going on in Ukraine today. ”
Sometimes those contracts don't work out. A major case in point came in May, when Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a major owner of local stations nationwide, pulled its stations from Sony's PlayStation Vue service. Vue lost a good chunk of channels, moving from second-most in August of 2017 to second-to-last now, beating only Sling. Even Fubo TV has more local channels than Vue.
Unlike most of its competitors, Hulu with Live TV (not the catchiest name) offers a single channel package, priced at $45 per month for access to over 60 channels (depending on your region, of course). Sports fans will likely find plenty to love about Hulu with Live TV’s user interface, which makes tracking games and teams simple and concise. Unlike the other services here, Hulu doesn’t have much in terms of add-on channels to bolster your channel listing, but it does have premium channels like HBO, often for a discount. You can find out more by checking out our live TV streaming services roundup.
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Basically, when you go to your xbox and select to view video, you can view video from the xbox’s hard drive (stuff you download from xbox live), or from one of the connected media servers. Playon would be one of the connected media servers (in addition to the built in media server in windows vista -which only has limited streaming capabilities). Does that make sense or did I just muddy the water even more?
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month.
So when people ask “how to cut the cord,” it's pretty clear that they're not really asking how to cut the cord. They're actually asking how to watch TV without cable. They're asking how they can replace all of their favorite shows, how to watch the latest movies, and how to fill the void that channel-surfing, live NFL games, or whatever else they liked about cable has left in its wake. That's what we dedicate the most time to here on the site. We call out site Cordcutting.com because all of the topics we cover are related to cord cutting in some way, but if we really wanted to name it after what we cover most, we'd call it HowToWatchTVWithoutCable.com. Not quite as catchy, we know.
Remember, the cable TV is cheaper than internet for me. I’m more willing to pay $17 a month for cable TV, but not $52 for the internet. There are certain places like Panera Restaurants and public libraries that have free wifi. Places I steer clear of are Borders, Barnes and Noble and Starbucks because they have an agreement with T-Mobile and charge for access.
Consensus: Aside from the base plan, DirecTV NOW's packages have the highest prices that we've seen, and spending $60-$70 a month on TV watching just may not be a priority. However, if you've got a bit of disposable money and have a wide range of interests, DirecTV's insane channel selection is about to make you a very happy camper. (Regardless, it's cheaper than a $200/month cable bill.)
I just wanted to say that this is an awesome site with very valuable information. I dumped our cable three months ago and faced almost getting thrown out of the house (not really) because my family was so attached to cable. Our finances were on the decline and we needed to save and cut back so I investigated the possibility of getting rid of cable, and I’m so glad we did. There are sooooo many different ligit sites to use to watch television shows, movies, documentaries, almost anything you like without paying a dime. The only problem I’m facing is providing enough sports for my husband who is a huge sports fan. He is currently watching ESPN 3 but that’s a little limiting from what he says. The crazy thing is that he’s dealing with it because he knows how much money we’re saving each month. Our cable bill was $174.00 a month, can you believe we were foolish enough to pay that much and had paid it for over 5 years. I’m ashamed to do the math to see how much money we threw away. Could have paid for a couple of family vacations.
You're going to start seeing products touting the next-generation HDMI connection, called 2.1. This is a huge leap forward in terms of bandwidth, capable of up to 8K resolutions and beyond. There will be new cables needed to handle these higher resolutions, called Ultra High Speed, but unless you're buying an 8K TV, you don't need them. Actually, even if you are buying an 8K TV, you probably don't need them.
Remember the days when you could watch network television for free? (those under 25, ask your parents). Well those channels are still available at no cost...if you have an antenna. And no, we're not talking about the clunky rabbit ears of old. Antennas have changed substantially in looks and performance over the last several years. Breakthroughs in technology spurred by development of the tiny but powerful digital antennas in smartphones have been adapted to the realm of TV reception. The result? "TV antennas today are 10% of the mass they were decades ago," says Richard Schneider, president of Missouri-based manufacturer Antennas Direct. "And the move to an all digital transmission that the FCC mandated back in 2009 has put those TV signals in a higher frequency which means a better signal with less noise".
Different Internet Service Providers, known as I.S.P.s, have different tiers. The various streaming services make different recommendations — typically available on their individual sites — as to the minimum requirements that allow their content to look sharp and run smoothly on different devices. Averaging their recommendations out, you’ll probably want to make sure that you have a minimum 4 Mb/s (that’s megabyte per second) connection, which, be warned, isn’t available in some of the more rural areas of the United States.
DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, and Playstation Vue all offer local channels without cable, but they are currently only available for specific areas. You will have to check with each service to see if it is available for you. These subscriptions, while usually cheaper than the cable or satellite setup, will be a little more expensive than just using an Antenna. Packages range anywhere from $30 – $80 a month depending on the channels you want to see.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller markets.
Netflix – Best for catching episodes of your favorite shows from last season or from the last decade. While Netflix doesn't typically offer recently aired episodes of popular shows, it's perfect for streaming episodes from previous seasons, or for getting your "Murder She Wrote" groove on. There's a monthly fee to subscribe to Netflix but once you're signed up, you can stream an unlimited amount of shows.
On top of that, you can combine free over-the-air TV with many of these devices by using either an OTA DVR (once your antenna is connected to the DVR, devices like Tablo will let you stream the OTA feed on your streaming device via the relevant app – in this case, Tablo TV) or Plex (connect an antenna, via a PC TV tuner, to the computer hosting your Plex server and then use the Plex app on supported streaming devices and access the live TV feature). It's simplest of all with a smart TV (such as the ones that Roku makes with its manufacturing partners): just plug your antenna into your TV, which is also your streaming device, and scan for channels!
PlayStation Vue’s interface feels much smoother than any other streaming service we’ve tested. It really starts with the attention to detail. PlayStation Vue clearly labels channels and “On Demand” content up in the top right-hand corner of the screen. This makes it easier to differentiate live content vs. on-demand content and surf for other shows that particular network has to offer.
The easiest way to get several local channels is to get an antenna. There are many different antennas to choose from, but if you are serious about having great reception for the games, an outdoor antenna is the best way to go. When I cut off our DirecTV subscription, I just unplugged the coax cable from the satellite dish and plugged in my outdoor antenna in its place. The antenna needed to be pointed in a different direction than the satellite dish though, so if you go this route, make sure you know which direction you need to point the antenna.
Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in Hi-Def for free? It’s called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little leg work to set it up, but I’ll guide you through it.
Beware of free trials with Sling TV. I have had a bad experience with them in this regard. They offer them, but give you know way to get out of them until after you have already received your first $19.99 charge. They will refuse to refund your money and are not at all customer friendly. I find their “Take the Money and Run” tactics shady, at best.
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Although these drawbacks sound fairly significant, streaming sports can work out well if what you want to watch is available on your service of choice. For example, football fans can pay $20 to $40 a month during the college and NFL seasons, stream almost all the games to any device, and then cancel when the season ends; if you want to watch only March Madness, a single month of streaming will get you access to all the games.
Skinny bundles are over-the-top (streaming) solutions that resemble cable and satellite subscriptions almost everywhere except for on your monthly bill. Skinny bundles tend to be slimmer than cable packages (hence the name), ditching some of the less important channels and keeping a core group of popular networks available for far less than the cable giants charge. Among the key channels featured in these slimmed-down bundles are local major network (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) affiliates from around the country. The bad news is that availability of live local major network feeds will vary by region, but the good news is that it's easy to check out the selection in your region by taking advantage of the free trials available with each of the services we've listed below.
Hi to everyone tuned into this conversation here. First off, Peter I have to thank you for sharing your advice and putting it out on here for all of us to benefit from. I’m just beginning to embrace this shift in the way TV is consumed. (I’ve admittedly but proudly been without TV and cable for the past 3 years). I just had a projector, a dvd player and a super nes.
Direct TV Now is a streaming service from AT&T that offers live TV programming over the Internet. It gives you access to over 60 live channels for $35 per month. This includes popular stations, such as CNN, the Hallmark Channel, ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, TBS, Discovery, Bravo, Animal Planet and Bloomberg, among many others. But you can also choose to add HBO, Starz or Showtime for an extra $5 to $8 per month.
Hi Kayla! I think I’ve read EVERY word on this particular blog! It has been HIGHLY informative! I’m too wanting to cut cable. These prices . . . man! Who can afford this stuff? I know I can’t anymore. From what I’ve gathered, with a Smart Tv, looks like I can stream Netflix and Hulu. For other channels I and my son like to watch I’ll need Sling. And for local channels an antenna. My question is for internet or streaming, do I HAVE to have an ISP? Can I purchase a modem and/or router? I know internet only plans are much cheaper but if I can get outta paying for that as well I sure would like to!! MUCH thanks to you!! I am now your FAN ?
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
Consider that 5Mbps may get you one HD video stream, but you may experience loading and buffering delays if your network is getting choked up with any other traffic. Of course, if you’re looking to get into the streaming big leagues to access the growing array of 4K Ultra HD streaming content available from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and others, you’ll want to kick up your broadband speed to at least 25Mbps. Cable TV doesn’t interrupt your show to buffer, so you don’t want to get unnecessarily frustrated. If you’re only going to be downloading 4K content from sites like FandangoNow or Ultraflix, 10Mbps will probably suffice, but fast and reliable internet is key to a positive streaming experience.
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.
YouTube TV also falls a bit short in its device support, especially compared to the services we’ve previously covered. It does have the most flexible cloud DVR support, though, allowing users to store programming up to nine months after recording, with standard pause/rewind and catch-up features available. If you have a Google Home device and a Chromecast, YouTube TV can be controlled with voice commands via Google Assistant. Similarly, Google Assistant can even inform you of what content is currently saved to your DVR. If you’re an Android die-hard who utilizes Google’s ecosystem to its fullest, then YouTube TV may be the perfect addition. Read our YouTube TV guide for more info.
Ever since I first tried going wireless, I've been unable to bear going back to wired headsets. Unfortunately, it's hard to find a bluetooth headset that isn't crap. I've gone through a lot. Some have terrible battery life, a fraction of what is advertised. Some break. Some stop outputting audio through one side. Some, after a few months of use, stop holding a charge. It seems like several times a year I purchase headsets. Even when just going with the highest-rated ones, they keep letting me down.
If you watch only a few favorite shows, it may be cheaper to purchase and download seasons of the shows you like from Amazon, Google, or iTunes. This strategy works especially well if you don’t need to watch particular shows immediately, if you prefer to binge-watch, or you buy, rent, or borrow the DVD or Blu-ray box set when available. For example, a full season of Game of Thrones at the Google Play store was $30 at the time we checked, while season two of Mr. Robot was only $20.
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.
Beginning in late March 1993, Prevue Networks overhauled the Prevue Guide software, this time to modernize its appearance. Still operating on the same Amiga 2000 hardware, the old grid's black background with white text separated by colored lines gave way to a new, embossed-looking navy blue grid featuring 90 minutes of scheduling information for each channel. Arrow symbols were added to listings for programs whose start or end times stretched beyond that timeframe, and for viewer convenience, local cable operators could now configure the grid's scrolling action to momentarily pause for up to four seconds after each screenful of listings. Additionally, local cable operators could enable light grey sports and movie summaries within the grid. Appearing between each listings cycle, these showed all films and sporting events airing on any channel during the next 90 minutes.
Netflix.com: Slightly more, but the added convenience of keeping the movies and TV shows as long as you want, and being able to stream a selection of movies and TV shows over the computer, or networked media device. Netflix is getting better all the time, now with great original series like House of Cards. Find all plans and how to maximize your return on this post: How Much Netflix Costs.