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".
Again, streaming copyrighted content without the proper access is maybe not completely on the straight-and-narrow (depending on who you ask). Hey, we’re not here to judge. We’re just here to tell you how you can watch great TV on the cheap in the best way possible. (And, you know, we all use Kodi ourselves.) But if you’re squeamish about stepping on the toes of copyright holders (the channels you’ll be watching for nothing with Kodi), bypass this option and pay a small fee with one of the alternatives below.
In the second quarter of 2018, Netflix released around 452 hours of U.S. original programming, up 51% year-over-year but actually slightly under the company’s record output of 483 hours in Q1 2018. In Q2, Netflix’s originals slate included “Thirteen Reasons Why” season 2, “Luke Cage” season 2, and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” season 4, in addition to the reboot of “Lost in Space” and second seasons of drug war docu-series “Dope” and Brazilian dystopian series “3%.”
ADSL is broadband that uses copper telephone wire throughout its entire journey between your house and the telephone exchange. Copper is less ideal for carrying a broadband signal than fibre optic cable, providing a maximum speed of around 18Mbps. ADSL is fast enough for a small household of 1-2 people, but it may struggle with three or more people using the internet at the same time.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
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.
The upper echelon of antennas starts with the 8 Element Bowtie. It boasts lots of features like a 70-mile range, and is 4K ready out of the box. But where this antenna really shines is in its design, which allows for multi-directional signal pickups. The bracket allows for both sides to be adjusted to catch multiple signals, if possible, which will only help with channel clarity and numbers.
Warning: This article may give you a headache — and if reading an article about the best way to cut the cable cord causes pain, imagine researching and writing it. The post-cable options are overwhelming, and no one solution does it all, although watching live sports without cable is no longer a problem. There are crazy contradictions to consider, such as how sometimes “triple-play” bundles (TV, Internet and phone) are actually cheaper than “double-play” options (Internet and phone) because of specials. But in all the confusion, one thing is clear: Cable TV is expensive. Americans spent an average of $103 a month — $1,236 a year — on cable television in 2016, according to Leichtman Research Group. So that’s the number to beat.
5. See if you have a smart TV. If you bought your television after 2009, there’s a good chance it can already stream television shows via the Internet. Many modern televisions are “Internet-ready” with apps such as Hulu and Netflix embedded in them. With all the buzz about streaming “boxes” and “sticks,” it’s easy to overlook the technology you already have.
Wireless: You could also skip cables completely and just go wireless. This isn't quite as simple as it sounds, though. There are far too many considerations to get into here, but a few things to keep in mind: 1) They're going to cost more than cables; 2) 4K options often only work in-room, and can be blocked by anything, including cabinet doors and even people. Though wireless seems like it should be easy in this era of near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi, it's not. If you're considering this, definitely do your research before you buy.
While we haven't paid for cable TV, we haven't exactly been deprived, or had to watch only the shows offered by the over the air networks. There are tons of free video options out there! In fact, we actually still watch a lot of the same shows that our friends do. How do we do it you ask? Through a combination of free over-the-air digital TV, free online video services (the legal kind), a video streaming software, super low-cost internet service from FreedomPop, and a Xbox. FreedomPop is a low cost alternative to larger Internet service providers. Right now their plans might be too small for heavy video streaming users, but they're definitely on their way to bigger and better offerings – and they're definitely good enough if you only stream shows a few times a month. You can read more about them on their site.
Of course, as mentioned above, watching live sports through a streaming service means you’ll suffer a bit of a delay. If you’re watching the game on your own, you probably won’t notice, but you won’t want to follow along on Twitter or read text messages from your friends if you want to avoid spoilers. (Wirecutter staffers sometimes notice the neighbors yelling after an exciting play only to see it happen on our TVs 15 to 30 seconds later.) And if you’re using an older media streamer, we’ve found that Sling TV can start to stutter and lag after streaming a football game for two-plus hours; we “fix” the problem by restarting the app during a commercial break.
Before you’ve canceled your cable or satellite subscription, you’ll investigate what’s available to you via an HD antenna. For people in urban areas, a good HD antenna likely offers all four major networks (FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS), along with as many as 10-15 other selections (PBS, CW, etc.) in HD resolution, all for free. To make sure you’ll get decent reception, you can simply buy one and try it out, ask around the neighborhood, or try this antenna analysis tool which will tell you which channels you can expect to receive in your area.
The premium cable channel Starz—home of some great shows like Counterpart, Power, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Outlander, and The Girlfriend Experience—is both streaming for those with a cable/satellite subscription to it, available as a discrete streaming service (Starz Streaming), or as an add-on to Amazon Video. There are many apps allowing Starz viewing on almost any hardware (except PS4, but you can get around that by using the Amazon Channel add-on option). The cost is the same no matter how you get Starz.
I have direct TV. Am senior on disability and social security. My bundle has been raised to over two hundred. I only get between eight and nine hundred a month for everything including food. I like history channel, HGTV, and Westerns. I don’t watch news or sports. Can you explain as simply as possible what and how I can do this. I live in a small town in Florida gulf coast if that makes a difference. I cannot continue to do what I have been. what’s your best advice? Already have internet for grandson online college.
I too am fed up with the high cost of cable. It ticks me off that we pay so much and only watch a very small number of channels. To get the ones we want, we have to take a big package. Few channels are commercial-free. I don’t like paying a lot of money for cable and then also have to suffer through a ton of commercials. Even though I record most everything, you still get those popup ads and banners and TV logos. I hate those. Watching DVDs is what I do most.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Editor’s note: Each service has the conditional inclusion of the major networks it carries. Some markets have access to live network channels, including local programming, while others will be on-demand only. In some select locations, one or more of the networks — or even an entire service — may not be available. Check each service’s website for availability in your area.
On FOXNews.com, you can watch some clips of news coverage and read about the day’s events. However, it’s not a true FOX News live stream like the one you’d see on cable or one of the services described above. This can help you keep up with breaking news, but not much more. The content changes often and you won’t get a complete FOX news live stream for free.
I’m sorry that you are disgusted, but I understand why you are wary. Keep in mind that some of these options let you try their services for free before you commit to anything. Also, if you have a few friends, as most people do, there’s a possibility one or more of them is already using one of these cable alternatives. Why not ask around to see if any of them do? That would give you the opportunity to receive a review from someone you know and trust to tell you how things really are. I wish you luck and encourage you not to give up on finding a replacement for cable.
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!
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!
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
First, let’s look at the benefits. Since these services stream over the Internet, you can access them using all sorts of devices. For example, a Roku box supports each of them, and apps are available for many other devices—though the quality of those apps varies depending on the platform. You also can use apps on a smartphone or tablet or stream the content through your computer. You have the same freedom to watch where you want as you do with the channel apps covered above.
This is pretty cool, especially if you are an AT&T member. If you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, DIRECTV will pick up the tab for data to help you achieve all your binge-worthy goals. Data Free TV means you won’t use your AT&T mobile data for watching DIRECTV NOW or FreeVIEW in the App. This means that you can watch Direct TV From ANYWHERE for free if you are an AT&T member. (Think long car trips mommas!)
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.