Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
Fios: Offer valid thru 4/3/19 for qualified new custs. Subject to change. Availability varies. Gigabit network connection to your home. Actual speeds vary due to device limits, network and other factors. Avg. speeds betw. 750-940 Mbps download / 750-880 upload. Limited time online offer for new TV and Internet residential customers subscribing to a Fios Triple Play bundle. Promo rates via bill credits and increase after promo period. Price guarantee applies to base monthly rate only. 2-yr. agr. req’d. Beg. mo. 2, up to $350 ETF applies. $12/mo. STB, $12/mo. router charge, $4.49/mo. Broadcast, and $0.99/mo. FDV Admin. fees apply. Other fees, taxes, & terms may apply. Auto Pay (ACH or bank debit card only) & paper-free billing req’d. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit.
Chromecast – Chromecast devices work a little differently than their competition. The idea with Chromecast is that you choose what to watch on some other device, then sling the screen on up to your TV. So with the itty-bitty Chromecast dongle plugged into your TV, you'd then turn to your laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other device and fire up Netflix or whatever else you want to watch. Then, with the touch of a button, you could put the stream up onto the TV. It's affordable and simple, but the drawback is that it's a bit harder to collaborate with others when choosing what to watch.
With HBO Now, however, the need for a pilfered password is removed. It's the only option if you don't have someone from whom to pilfer. Anyone with internet and supported hardware can subscribe and watch original HBO programming like GoT, Divorce, Big Little Lies, Insecure, Westworld, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, plus the entire back catalog of shows: The Sopranos and The Wire forever! Try it free for an entire month.
For decades, consumers who wanted just a few channels had to pay for all of them. Comcast or DirecTV couldn’t offer, say, MTV without also including Viacom’s less popular channels such as TV Land. While consumers wanted to pay for single networks on an a la carte basis, the industry fought attempts to break the bundle into smaller, less expensive pieces.
In the past decade, the Federal Communications Commission and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona attempted to force media companies to offer their channels individually. Neither effort went very far. The cable industry argued prices would rise if consumers could choose only certain channels, and channels aimed at minority groups, for instance, wouldn’t survive without every subscriber paying for them—regardless of whether they watched.
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.
Reliable figures for RT's worldwide audience are not available. In the United States, RT typically pays cable and satellite services to carry its channel in subscriber packages. In 2011, RT was the second most-watched foreign news channel in the United States (after BBC World News), and the number one foreign network in five major U.S. urban areas in 2012. It also rates well among younger Americans under 35 and among inner city areas.
You’ll have to check the apps you want to watch because some of them still need a valid login from a cable provider (which kinda defeats the purpose). The cord cutter friendly networks will just allow you to watch TV online for free with no strings attached. We catch our Amazing Race episodes on the CBS website and then complain about ABC’s lack of support for anyone without a login.
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?
However, if you’re a more casual sports fan or a supporter of an out-of-market team, cord cutting is still a worthwhile option. Sling TV—assuming it can hold up under the strain of future events—will give you ESPN and ESPN 2 in addition to a handful of basic cable channels for $20 a month, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. Add in an indoor TV antenna and you’ll also have access to network sports.
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.
We included our custom-built XBMC media center—not everyone's taste, but a geekier option we love—for a bit of extra comparison (Note: since the writing of this article, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have gotten much more difficult in XBMC. See this post for more information). Obviously, you can't boil down five devices into just a small chart, though. So, we played with each of these five devices over the course of a few weeks, and here are our thoughts on each one: what it does well, what it lacks, and who it's good for.
Amazon Prime Video is similar to Netflix (but has a lot more TV and movie titles, they claim). If you’re an “Amazon person” this is the best TV deal out there. For a monthly subscription, you get unlimited access to stream everything in the Prime Video library — including the growing selection of popular Amazon Originals like Sneaky Pete, Transparent, and The Man in the High Castle.
*All offers require credit qualification, 2-Year commitment with early termination fee and eAutoPay. Prices include Hopper Duo for qualifying customers. Hopper, Hopper w/Sling or Hopper 3 $5/mo. more. Upfront fees may apply based on credit qualification. Fees apply for additional TVs: Hopper $15/mo., Joey $5/mo., Super Joey $10/mo. Internet not provided by DISH and billed separately. Free premium channels for 3 mos: After 3 months, you will be billed $20/month unless you call to cancel. Free standard professional installation available as soon as tomorrow for up to six rooms. Voice Remote requires an internet-connected Hopper.
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.
Investors also pressured media companies to take Netflix’s cash. Take, for instance, Time Warner Inc., which is now owned by AT&T Inc. While Disney, CBS, and others licensed many of their old shows to Netflix, Time Warner initially held out. Starting in 2009, Time Warner and Comcast Corp. tried to rally the industry around an idea to slow Netflix by making TV episodes available online—but only to cable subscribers. The idea was called TV Everywhere.
FuboTV ($34.99/mo.): Although it is best known for its wide array of international sports networks — it’s particularly ideal for fans of soccer and college athletics — FuboTV also includes a solid package of basic cable outlets and some local network channels. The service offers 30 hours of cloud DVR storage and a “three-day replay” function, giving subscribers three days to watch broadcasts that they forgot to record (with some exceptions because of licensing limitations).
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.
Consensus: If you're a PlayStation household, this is hands-down the service to choose for obvious reasons. While Vue certainly isn't worthless to other devices, its packages are slightly pricier than competitors who offer mostly the same channel selection. However, if you value channels like HBO and Showtime, PlayStation Vue's Ultra package is a better deal than purchasing those channels as add-ons elsewhere.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
Pluto TV: Pluto turns online video sources into cable-like channels that you can flip through, and many of those sources cover the news. Install this app, and you can tune into round-the-clock feeds from NBC, CNBC, TYT Network, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, RT America, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast
We’re torn on this policy. On the one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year. It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up front, you can plan on it., and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.
Even if you can’t easily cut the cord, you might be able to reduce your cable costs. For example, renting a cable box for your TV often costs at least $10 to $15 per month—for each TV—to get HDTV and DVR capabilities, so a simple $35 cable plan can end up costing two to three times as much once you add hardware fees. Instead, many cable channels have streaming apps that let you watch programming on a Roku or Apple TV box as long as you’re paying for that channel through your cable subscription. In other words, you can pay for a single cable box in the living room while streaming episodes of The Americans or Mr. Robot to your streaming box, smartphone, or tablet for free. Reducing the number of cable boxes, while still being able to watch most programming, could save you a decent amount every month.
Another option for the serious bargain seeker is to find the previous generation’s model on a site like eBay, though we obviously can’t vouch for any reliability there. While the previous generation Apple TV is definitely showing its age (and lacks 4K support), it’s still very handy for Apple fans thanks to AirPlay, which easily allows you to stream media from your iPhone or iPad to the TV. Either way, if you’re a big-time Apple fan, the Apple TV 4K is likely to be a viable choice as your streaming hub.
Netflix: Offer available 1/31 – 4/3/2019 and must be redeemed by 8/31/2019. Valid for 12 months of Netflix service on the Netflix Premium UHD streaming plan for $15.99/month (total value of $191.88) with subscription to eligible Verizon Fios plan. Must maintain qualifying Fios services for 31 days after installation, with no past-due balance to receive a one-time bill credit of $191.88 applicable directly to customer’s Netflix account. A Netflix compatible device (manufactured and sold separately) and broadband internet connection are required. 4K Ultra HD availability subject to device capabilities and content availability. Not redeemable or refundable for cash. Value may be applied to a different Netflix streaming plan; exchanges in this manner may alter the duration of the offer. Netflix Service price plans subject to change. Not available to subscribers billed through iTunes or Google play unless subscriber begins a new subscription billed via alternate payment provider or via Netflix.com. See www.netflix.com/termsofuse
Spectrum cable TV packages enable you to watch more quality TV with less payout. Your subscriptions to bundle packages are not just about the number of channels, but the significant FREE HD. The on-screen picture is so realistic and immersive that you experience 3D cinematic picture at home. The Spectrum cable prices also provide access to TV App and TV on-the-go. Whether your home or on-the-go, Spectrum TV™ App gives you access to a complete line of up to 10,000+ On Demand TV shows and movies - on your mobile or home screen. There’s always something more for someone of every taste. Get yourself hooked to one of the Spectrum cable plans and find the difference!
Unfortunately, there's no way to tell just by looking at a cable whether it can handle the deluge of data required for 4K and HDR content. Even if it says "High Speed" on the jacket, that's not 100 percent useful. A cable can be considered "high speed" if it passes 1080p, but not be well enough made to handle 4K. The only way to verify it works is to test it.
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least-expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.