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.)
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
You can also watch free broadcast TV with an antenna — no cable needed. The major US broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and CW — are all available for free over-the-air. Most people can pick up these channels, and 20-30 of others, in crystal-clear HD with a decent indoor antenna. Deciding what kind of antenna you need, however, can be difficult. This antenna guide will help you find which type you need for your home and location in just two easy questions. If you want an even faster answer, this antenna will make most people very happy. It has a great range (50 miles) and will pick up all the best over-the-air channels, plus lots of other features.
Livestream TV services have no hidden fees, and if you ever decide to cancel, it’s easy and painless — a refreshing change from the hassle of dealing with cable and satellite call centers, even if prices are on the rise. There are many services out there, however, and they all have different prices, channels, and features. To help you sift through the chaos, we’ve put together this handy guide detailing the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice for you.
The long name might have you feeling confused, but there's nothing tricky going on here: this is the type of streaming service that you're probably most familiar with. Streaming video on demand (or “SVOD”) services are the ones that allow you to select a movie or TV show episode and watch it whenever you want – in other words, “on demand.” Netflix is the most famous of the SVOD services, but there are a ton of them out there these days: Amazon, Hulu, and Crackle, to name just a few. Here's a list to get you started:
My college age kid went into a bit of shock for the first few days and then found time to spend at a local bookstore (I see that as an improvement). I did invest in a regular ole’ antenna for the TV, so I can catch the local channels (which are about 50 here in TX), and after reading your article purchased a Roku 3. My kid has an Xbox, Wii, and PS3 so streaming online content was already possible, I got the Roku for the main television and not to cause another issue of “shell shock” by taking over the kid’s PS3.
Whether you’re a good candidate for cutting the cord depends in large part on what and when you watch. Before considering cancelling your cable subscription, first spend some time evaluating your viewing habits. How often do you actually sit down and watch television? When you do, what are you actually watching? Live sports? Prime-time reality television? The Cooking Channel? Do you like being able to channel surf or do you usually only turn on your TV to watch Game of Thrones?
Ultimately, your final decision will completely depend on your needs, what services you subscribe to, and how much of a hassle you're willing to deal with. I'm still married to my home-built XBMC box, but I'd have to say the Roku was easily my favorite of the pre-built options. It's insanely cheap, has tons of streaming services, and with the addition of Plex, can even do some basic playing of network files. The Boxee Box was also pretty nice if you're willing to sit and configure it, while the Apple TV and WD TV Live provided great plug-and-play solutions. The Google TV is a bit more of a wild card for those that have specific needs, but provides a lot of configurability and niche apps that the others don't have (or, alternatively, makes a great feature-filled Plex box). Check out the home pages for each device to see more about what they offer and where you can buy your own.
ANTOP's antenna is not only fit for a TV, but for the whole house. It might be one of the bigger antennas on this list, but don't let that deter you. While most antennas are for one TV, this offering is capable of servicing multiple TVs. This eliminates the needs for several antennas and can save you more in the long run. And while it works perfectly fine indoors, if you need to place it outside, ANTOP's antenna is weather resistant.
With the Digital Starter package starting at $49.99 per month, Xfinity comes in with the best all-around package out of all our recommended TV providers. The channel selection for Xfinity’s entry package is pretty similar to DISH’s base-level package (including channels like ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Discovery). It’s also a better bargain than the satellite service (and the next-closest cable TV provider, Spectrum) by about $10 per month.
The majority of cable and satellite TV providers offer customers packaged deal pricing on a contract basis. Generally, rates are locked in for two or more years, although companies may include an increase in cost after six or 12 months. Customers should ensure they do research about their contract and what it entails before locking in service with one company.
What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There’s now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs even when they’re outside the home.
The other caveat is that the majority of these channels aren’t actually TV channels but internet channels, meaning stuff from websites and online creators like IGN, CNET, and Cheddar, rather than traditional TV channels. You’ll still get those, too, but you won’t find any of the major prime-time networks or cable favorites like Comedy Central, Syfy, or FX here.
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.
The intro package, called Live A Little, offers more than 60 channels for $40 (following a $5 price rise in July 2018). For $55, the Just Right package offers over 80 channels. The package given the most attention by DirecTV Now during its launch event was the $65/month Go Big package, offering more than 100 channels, but if you’re looking for everything you can get, the Gotta Have It packages dishes up more than 120 channels for $75 per month. As with PS Vue, these packages and prices are always changing, so check out our DirecTV Now explainer piece for more details.
Executives couldn't agree on how long to make old episodes available for subscribers. Some gave viewers only a day to catch up on a show they missed because the broadcasters had sold the reruns to another service. Others made past series available to subscribers for a month. Consumers became confused about where to go and how long they had to binge-watch a show. Some TV networks were slow to make their channels available online.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
Hauppauge TV tuners are solid, but they are not nearly as flexible as HDHomeRun. For example, you have to buy a specific type of Hauppauge if you want to use it with Xbox One – but you can use HDHomeRun on any platform that has an HDHomeRun app. Additionally, Hauppauge tuners are USB devices and have to be plugged in directly. HDHomeRun tuners connect to your network via WiFi, so you can set them up anywhere in your home.
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.)
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:
3. If you would prefer to pay less than $19.99 per month and don't mind watching most major TV shows a day after they air, consider Hulu Plus which is $7.99 per month and can be used on more than one device at a time (unlike Sling TV). Amazon Prime is another good way to go if you're a movie buff and want other perks like free music, books and kindle books for around $8 per month.
In terms of subscriptions, Acorn is an absolute must for anyone who wants to spend hours every day touring around quaint villages and gritty British city streets, enjoying gentle comedy and hard-hitting crime stories alike. But Netflix is also well-stocked with great BBC, ITV and Channel 4 productions, and Sundance Now has been expanding its overseas catalog. Get those three and stay diligent with your PBS app, which makes a lot of its “Masterpiece” productions available for free for a limited time after they air. You could also try BritBox, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV.
fuboTV works on most devices, letting you stream live TV over the internet. It’s really best for sports fans, as the majority of channels included are geared towards sports. Networks like NBCSN, NBA TV, FOX Soccer Plus and others give you all the sports you can handle! And, of course, you can watch FOX News live for up-to-the-minute coverage of the latest and most important news.
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.
Someone mentioned using a splitter with the high speed internet service to get free cable tv. That can’t work. I already had such a splitter (and still do) when I had cable tv, and the cable line went into a cable box. I had to return the box when I cancelled service. Our cable company is switching everyone including the basic cable tv customers to digital which means that everyone must have a cable box in order to get cable tv.
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Hulu with Live TV subscribers also have full access to Hulu’s full on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally $8-12 per month) with live TV. This gives the service a serious edge for current Hulu subscribers. Hulu’s on-demand library is already very good, with some of the best original TV series around.
Cable stinks, but it didn't always stink, and its channel bundles include some great stuff. That inspired the companies behind the major live TV streaming services to set out to beat cable at its own game. They began to offer pay TV “multichannel” services – industry lingo for cable- and satellite-type pay TV bundles – only they slashed the size and the price of cable's bulky bundles and offered folks a key selection of channels for less. And since these services stream online, you can watch them anywhere and on almost any device.
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.
Unlike some of the other streaming services available, Fubo.tv is marketed directly at sports fans. It has access to most of the standard sports channels, like NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports 1, but it notably does not include ESPN. In lieu of the worldwide leader, Fubo.tv includes the most robust combination of specialized sports stations. Fans of international soccer and major college football conferences with their own networks, in particular, should be satisfied by the service’s access to the Big Ten Network, Pac 12 Network, and BeIN Sports. Fubo.tv also provides access to certain regional sports networks, depending on where you live. In New York, we found that Fubo.tv subscribers could stream programming from the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games.
TV executives have also spent billion of dollars acquiring sports rights, which has driven up the price of TV service—and almost no one has bid more aggressively for sports than Disney CEO Robert Iger. Disney, owner of ESPN, is on the hook for $45 billion in sports rights in the coming years. To cover those fixed costs, ESPN charges TV operators about $8 per month per subscriber, making it the most expensive channel and an easy target for critics.
Don’t let them tell you that you need more! If you buy the Rokus(maybe the firestick works too?) and hook them up to tvs in your house, you can avoid the fees for the stupid little boxes that you have to rent now for digital cable. You just download the time warner app on the roku and enter your timewarner/spectrum id and password and all your channels are there!
Hi, We have been considering giving up our Directv for sometime, Running across this forum has made the decision for us. I see that a Chromecast would be needed per TV that you want to use. My question is, Does a laptop or computer HAVE to be used to do any of this? We have a PS3, So would I be able to use the PS3 for Hulu, Netflix, Playon, and whatever other channels we find? And the other question is, On any of these options, can you watch the show/movie live or do you have to wait a week or so after it airs? We are more worried about our shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones, Big Bang theory, Homeland, etc??
The reason? The recent emergence of new streaming services like Dish Network’s Sling TV, which includes a sampling of the most popular “basic” cable channels, and HBO Now, the only streaming service to include HBO shows, has coincided with Amazon and Netflix coming into their own as producers of serious television. The result is that virtually every class of TV watcher can find most of what they need without paying a cable bill.
For special situations, an outdoor TV antenna is also a great option for those who want to get local channels without cable. Channel Master has a line of highly functional outdoor TV antennas that are designed for circumstances that include areas in low-range reception, dual-tower locations, or low-VHF signal reception. Channel Master's outdoor TV antennas vary from long-range directional to multi directional with a variety of signal distance ranges from 40 miles to up to 100 miles - and everything in between.
The savings are all tied to a service that is in a sense revolutionary. Sling TV, a new live TV streaming service from Dish provides you with access to networks like ESPN 1, ESPN 2, HGTV, Food TV,TBS, Disney and more for $19.99 per month. All you need is an internet connection to watch Sling TV on a television, phone or tablet. With a deal I found, just for signing up, you get a FREE Fire TV Stick.
There isn’t a single offering out there that makes any sense for most family homes. None. 5 TVs can easily get the complete Comcast lineup of TV stations, including all of their premium channels, plus anywhere DVR hardware to boot. Additionally, if the cost was itemized apart from the Comcast Voice, and GB internet they give me, I am paying WAY, WAY less than any streaming service out there. That just plain sucks because not one other provider is available where I am, so the competition is non-existent. I, for one, think Comcast is over-priced. But, based on what I would have to pay to get what I want in a cord cutting option, I would be even worst off. These alternatives are only beneficial for single TV homes.
This steady decline is the driving force behind a series of blockbuster mergers reshaping the media landscape, such as AT&T buying Time Warner, Walt Disney acquiring much of Fox, and Comcast pursuing Sky. Entertainment companies, nervously watching their business model waste away like a slowly melting glacier, are deciding they need to get larger and expand globally to compete with deep-pocketed rivals like Netflix—or sell.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
The interface is very pretty and shockingly easy to use. Plug in your USB drive and go to "Files" to start playing them. Have some files stored on the network? Just go to Movies or TV shows and add it as a source. Head to Services for streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu movies, MLB, and a few others. The remote is a traditional remote that feels a little cheap, but works as well as you'd expect. The interface is also somewhat configurable, letting you view your movies and shows in a few different list formats.