If you don't already have one, you'll need an over-the-air HDTV antenna with a coax connector that is able to work as a receiver in your area. Depending on how far away you are from your local channel broadcast center, you might only need an indoor antenna, which you can get for about $15 - $30, or you might need an attic or outdoor mounted antenna, which could cost as much as $150. You can figure out which type of antenna you'll need by using TV Fool's signal locator.
"Easy to use. Being able to watch my local CBS channel live is a nice bonus. Now I don't have to have an over the top cable package to get my local CBS channel. Plenty of shows (current and past episodes) to choose from. Now I can watch my favorite CBS shows with the app. Picture does load in a little fuzzy at first, but after a few seconds it comes in in full HD, just like my cable subscription used to."
The commercials are still there—and repetitive to the extreme. Each break may show the same commercials over and over, sometimes the same ad back-to-back, as if they couldn't find any sponsors who believe in streaming. Or perhaps it's to torture you into using regular cable and a DVR (if you get a DVR from Spectrum, the app can be used to program it.)
Start with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, tack on an HBO subscription to the latter, and consider paying for the Brit-centric streaming service Acorn as well. You’ll have plenty to watch, all commercial-free, and if you hear a lot of buzz about a show that isn’t available through any of those platforms, you can always pay for them on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon (or iTunes, Vudu, or whichever digital retailer you prefer).
“I realized that I missed my Live TV. I bought an HDTV antenna, however the only channel I could get was NBC because I’m not close to the towers. I researched all of the live streaming options including Hulu Live ($40/month), Sling TV ($20, $25 or $40) and DIRECTV NOW ($35). I got free trials for all three. I liked Hulu Live, however the live user interface took me awhile to get used to. Plus it was the most expensive at $40, still for a bunch of channels I don’t watch. Also it did not have Animal Planet or TLC, channels that I watch. Next I was excited about Sling because of the price, however even with Sling’s $40 option, you don’t get all of the major broadcast networks. So my final selection for live streaming TV is DIRECTV NOW (Live a little package). It has the best value at $35/month with all of the major broadcast networks plus TLC and Animal Planet. Plus I like the user interface for browsing live TV. It has a nice channel guide similar to cable. The only channel that I don’t have live and would like is the OWN network, but I’m not going to pay an extra $15 a month for the next higher package that includes it.” ― Angela L. Lee
When deal searching, be sure to inquire about the data download caps of your potential internet service provider. They will typically indicate this in the gigabytes (GB) you can transfer in a month. In this case, your video quality is an important factor. For example, a cap of 250 GB will allow for about 280 hours of standard definition streaming, but only 83 hours of high definition at 1080p. So be mindful and aware of the fine print.
The second type of app allows you full access to all of its offerings with a cable subscription, but lets you watch some full-episodes without a cable login. These are fairly rare, but do exist. Currently, this category includes the Comedy Central app, where you can currently watch full episodes of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or Nathan For You a day after they air.
Just because you subscribe to cable or satellite doesn't mean you have to use the provided set-top box. In an effort to become part of the cord-cutting landscape, many of the major cable and satellite providers, who double as internet service providers, let users subscribe and then access all programing via apps rather than the cable box or even the tuner in the TV.
Many TV stations allow their shows to be picked up by Hulu the day after it airs live. While you may not be able to watch the show the day it airs, you are able to still stay updated on your favorite TV shows. Hulu offers a few different subscription levels, one that includes commercials and one that does not. There are still limitations to the service too, especially when CBS is involved. The channel promotes its own streaming service, and many of its most popular shows are not available through Hulu.
Req. compatible device and Fios® TV. Content restrictions may apply. Fios Internet req’d for in-home use. Full channel access and DVR streaming require Fios Multi-Room DVR Enhanced or Premium Service. Max. combined 4 simultaneous Live TV and/or DVR streams per media server. Verizon Wireless Data-Free Streaming: Req. postpay 4G LTE service. Non-streaming activity and app diagnostics (e.g., app downloads, starting/restarting the app, going off airplane mode and transitioning from Wi-Fi to 4G LTE) will incur data charges. For Verizon Unlimited customers, app data usage will be counted, not billed.
Those who want to see non-British foreign television have ample options, too. In addition to the aforementioned Acorn (which also features programs from Canada and Australia, among other countries), both MHz Choice and Walter Presents have well-curated collections of European series, with a particular emphasis on the many great Scandinavian crime dramas. And the increasingly popular TV coming out of South Korea is available on DramaFever, Viki, and Kocowa.
There is a $10-per-month add-on channel for sports and $4.99-per-month one for Spanish channels. Perhaps the best feature on PS Vue: a cloud-based DVR for storing up to 500 programs to watch whenever you like. Also, you can use the "TV Everywhere" apps that many cable channels have that require a cable subscription—but by authenticating them with PlayStation Vue. And you can pause or rewind or fast forward on every channel. All of them.
In the end, the cable industry’s failure to protect the bundle came down largely to greed, Moffett said. Media executives wanted to charge more for certain rights, like making every old episode available to cable subscribers, or granting the rights to watch a show on an iPad outside the home, instead of giving them away for the good of the industry.
The Boxee Box is the most expensive device on the list at $175, and it's easy to see why. Unlike most of the others, the Boxee Box seems to be geared more toward the tech-savvy user, providing a more feature-filled media center without the hassle of building it and installing the software yourself. You can add all of your networked files (of nearly any file type) to a library that grabs thumbnails and plot information for a beautiful browsing experience, as well as stream content from services like Netflix and Vudu. If you buy it with the live TV adapter, you can also integrate your live TV-watching experience, which is pretty nice. Boxee also has a lot of social integration, letting you get recommendations from your friends on Facebook and Twitter and see what other people are watching. It has a browser, which—while a pain to use—can play many Flash videos not supported by one of its channels. It also supports AirPlay, which is wonderful to see in a non-Apple device.
All carry national channels such as AMC, CNN, ESPN and Nickelodeon, but they also offer local channels too, including the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) as well as My TV and The CW in many cities (Note: CBS is the parent company of CNET.) The problem is, not every city gets all four networks, especially if you live outside a major metropolitan area.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
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.
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.
The Amazon Fire TV has gone through a few iterations now, getting better with each one. The current version is a veritable revolution in streaming boxes, offering simple operation, as well as the ability to control your entire home theater and smart home system with your voice. That includes the ability to turn on and control basic functionality on other devices, including not only your TV, but also your A/V receiver and even your cable box thanks to CEC control and IR blasters — all with the power of your own voice. The result earned the Cube a perfect score in our recent review and a place on our TV console.