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If you're going to unplug from the cable company, prepare to exercise some patience when it comes to watching your favorite shows as soon as they air—it can take anywhere from a day to a week for them to appear online. Also, be ready to do some digging around to find who's streaming special events, sports, and other programming outside of the drama/sitcom variety. Let's take a look at ways to find certain types of programming without relying on your cable company.
In my case having cable TV is the bargain over high speed internet. I called and asked for what they call “limited service” cable — it gives me the major networks, with QVC, FAM, all the spanish channels and two public broadcasting stations thrown in, for $17.00 a month. The high speed internet was costing me $52 a month, so I reluctantly let it go. Watching TV online is no bargain at all for me.
The setup I talked about above is only one way to get free or low cost TV content. Another way we get free content at home is through the free over-the-air HDTV channels that are now available to everyone who has a HDTV tuner and an antenna. Did you know that 94 of the top 100 watched shows are shown on network television – that you can get over-the-air?
You no longer need a cable or satellite TV subscription to watch your local TV channels. You can now watch your local networks through the internet through streaming services that now stream local broadcast affiliates in several markets. You can even get a device like a Roku and watch them on your TV set. If you live in on near a major metro area, you can likely receive all of you local channels online. Here are some of those services:
The Sling TV local channel offering is dependent on your level of service, your geographic location, and Sling TV’s contractual and other rights to distribute local channels. Not all local channels may be purchased from Sling TV today, and some local channel content may include blackout restrictions. Explore our channels and discover what service you need to receive them here.
Showtime has made itself an add-on with just about any service that offers the option. It's available through Hulu, Amazon Prime, and CBS All Access, plus the live TV streaming services (below). Or use the apps on Apple TV, iOS, Android, Roku, and Xbox One. The price to get Showtime those services is generally a couple buck lower per month, a $24 a year savings.
You can watch most of your favorite network shows by simply streaming them directly from the networks' web sites. They're often available a few hours after they air, and regularly have additional goodies like behind-the-scenes footage or teasers for upcoming episodes. In addition to official network sites, more and more useful tools are popping up every day to help you get your TV fix online.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
Former RT Moscow anchor Stacy Bivens, and other former RT journalists speaking under anonymity according to BuzzFeed, said they regretted working for the network, citing their dislike of the network's use of propaganda. Bivens, for example, was explicitly asked to go to Germany and procure a story proving that "Germany is a failed state". When she rejected, other reporters were sent instead.
At my house, basic digital cable TV cost over $69 per month (plus taxes) and I watch maybe 10 or 15 of the 150+ channels that they provide me, meaning that I pay for many channels that I have no interest in. With the price of just about everything headed skyward, and paychecks plummeting, paid cable and satellite TV is often one of the first things to go from anyone’s budget. There are a lot of people who have taken the big step of getting rid of paid TV in their house and reverting back to antennas or no TV at all. Because I often give thought to ditching my cable, especially when my “deal” with Comcast expires, I was curious just how many ways there are that provide the ability to watch your favorite shows free-of-charge one way or another… and there are there a lot!
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.
Since current seasons of CBS aren’t available on Hulu, CBS All Access is one option to get CBS Shows the day after the initial broadcast as CBS isn’t a part of Hulu. The basic service costs $5.99 per month and does air commercials. However, they offer a commercial-free plan for $9.99 per month. The service also offers live local CBS in over 150 markets. For more details, check out my review of CBS All Access.
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.
Perhaps the biggest enabler for those aiming to quit cable for good — without giving up live TV — is the growing list of live TV streaming services available, all of which come with free trial periods and no contracts. There are several to choose from, each with its own advantages (and disadvantages). We’ve got a detailed comparison piece that breaks down each of these services in finer detail, but below is a general overview.
The WD TV Live's biggest strength is probably its ability to easily play local files, particularly for those that don't want to set up something like the Boxee Box. Its streaming library is okay, but not awesome. It's a good box for people with lots of ripped or downloaded movies that want to supplement them with a little streaming—someone who sits between the needs of a Roku and the Boxee Box.
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
This may not be for everyone, but if are in the US, and you already have a somewhat fast PC with a large enough hard drive, a home network, and an Xbox 360 on a TV, you can get an HD TV card with 2 tuners and record up to two TV programs at a time. I am using an HDHomerun, because I like the fact that it’s not physically in my computer, but there are cheaper alternatives. The Windows7 version of Windows Media Center has greater HD quality than most HD recorders offered by cable/satellite/ and others that cost over $400.00 per box if you were to buy one! Some cable companies deliver QAM signals also, so even if you only have the most basic cable signal, you may be getting free unencrypted digital signals over that line (check with your cable company), or you can also use an antenna for free, like me.
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.