We've covered the major techniques and services that you can use to watch TV without cable. But what about watching TV without cable on, you know, your actual TV? You already know that OTA antennas plug straight into your TV, but loading up on streaming services doesn't help much unless you have a way to watch those on your TV, too. Fortunately, there's an entire industry built around solving this dilemma. Let's talk streaming hardware!
“We cut out cable and tried to replace it with just streaming options, then with those plus PlayStation Vue (because they were the only option for live sports). That was a bust because the internet streaming couldn’t keep up with the speed of most sports, plus the DVR options were abysmal [which made missing live game broadcasts not an option]. So we went back! We are the proud payers of a DIRECTV bill and I’m not even sad about it.” ― Stephanie Bowen Earley
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.
Most HDTVs made these days have a built in digital tuner. If you bought it a few years ago before the new digital tuners were as common, and it was only advertised as an HDTV monitor, that could be the only caveat. Basically if it has a tuner built in usually it will have a video source on the unit called “TV” or something along those lines. Just plug in an antenna, go to the menu, and have it scan for channels. If you have a tuner those options should be there.
The general rule for digital antennas is the higher, the better. Structures such as floors, cabinets, and walls may impact TV signal reception, so placing your antenna high in a window is ideal, as long as it's free from exterior obstructions (trees, buildings, billboards, and so on). Indoor antennas should not be installed behind a TV or electronic equipment, next to metal objects, or near high-traffic areas, as TV signal reception may be impacted.
DirecTV Now ($35/mo. - $70/mo.): The breadth of channels and the reasonable pricing tiers will make DirecTV an attractive option to a lot of cord-cutters — especially those who already have AT&T mobile phone plans, which offer heavy discounts on this service. As always, the availability of local channels varies. And unlike the live TV services above, DirecTV Now is not the best place for watching a show after it airs. The service has DVR cloud storage, but it is still being developed, and at the moment it is relatively limited in storage and functionality when compared with many of its competitors.
If you want all of those channels, you’ll need to spring for the $40 package, which includes everything in Blue and Orange, or you can augment either package with add-on channels. Add-on packages also vary in pricing and included channels, depending on which package you’re subscribed to, but you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 per month for each. In addition, a dispute over licensing with AT&T has resulted in a blackout of HBO and Univision channels on Sling TV and its parent company, Dish Network.
During the 2008 South Ossetia War, RT correspondent William Dunbar resigned after the network refused to let him report on Russian airstrikes of civilian targets, stating, "any issue where there is a Kremlin line, RT is sure to toe it." According to Variety, sources at RT confirmed that Dunbar had resigned, but rejected that it was over bias. One senior RT journalist told the magazine, "the Russian coverage I have seen has been much better than much of the Western coverage... When you look at the Western media, there is a lot of genuflection towards the powers that be. Russian news coverage is largely pro-Russia, but that is to be expected."
I can’t speak to those channels specifically as I’m not really sure. Typically though if you use PlayOn, as long as the channel is available in the software or as a plugin you’ll be able to watch shows from that network. Not all networks make online streaming available, however, so it really depends. There is a link in the article above to the PlayOn site mentioning which channels are available.
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.
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.
In my opinion the best TV tuner brand out there right now is HDHomeRun. HDHomeRun devices are affordable (the cheapest model is $79.99) and easy to use. All you have to do is plug your antenna into your HDHomeRun and connect it to your local network. Once you’re up and running, you can access OTA TV channels from any HDHomeRun app. HDHomeRun makes apps for pretty much every platform, including Mac, PC, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, Android, Kodi, Plex and more.
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The thing about internet-delivered TV is that you need a broadband connection that’s copacetic with the streaming lifestyle. This may seem like a foregone conclusion, but we want to make it clear that if you’re going to bet your precious entertainment future on your network, you best have a solid hookup. Netflix and other similar streaming video services suggest a minimum downstream speed of 5Mbps for HD streaming, but that simply is not going to hack it for most folks, especially those with families streaming more than one show or movie at a time.
The Boxee Box is a good device for those that want a highly configurable, full-featured media center but don't want to deal with the hassle of building one and installing something like XBMC. If you're willing to put in the time setting it up (and you aren't sharing it with someone less tech-savvy), it can be a pretty powerful media center, but it definitely isn't for everyone.
I don’t have an xbox or other gaming system. What would be a cheap alternative? Would Apple TV be sufficient? Or Roku? When it comes to all of these devices, I am completely in the dark. I just want to create a seamless connection between a projector, computer, antenna over a cheap but fast wifi connection (possibly FreedomPop). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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.
Consensus: If you're trying to spend the least amount possible and are content with the 30-ish channels that Sling Orange offers, then only paying $20 a month is a sweet deal for you — and is a low price you won't find on most other streaming services. However, if you're thinking about opting for Sling's most expensive package, we'd suggest going with DirecTV's basic plan instead. You'll get a few more channels (over 60) and will be paying $5 less per month.
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over-the-air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10; see our comparison of indoor antennas here.
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 ?
ANTOP's next contribution is one step up (or 20 miles, to be exact) from its 60-mile version. Unlike ClearStream antennas, ANTOP's antenna design is a little sleeker and smaller, making placement less of an issue. It also has some of the best features found in the other ANTOP antennas. That includes 3G/4G filtering to reduce noise and the ability to use it with an RV, should you decide to hit the road.
Another approach to cord cutting is an online streaming package similar to traditional cable or satellite TV plans. Several companies now offer variations of this idea: PlayStation Vue from Sony (which works without a PlayStation console, despite the name), Sling TV from Dish Network, DirecTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV (not to be confused with YouTube Red), Philo, and Fubo.tv. Their services cost $16 to $40 per month, for their most basic plans, and they offer largely the same variety of channels as cable but give you a different experience than cable or satellite—one with both benefits and disadvantages.
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.