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.
However, please note that I'm not advocating doing ALL of these! If you did, you'd wind up spending more than you were paying for cable. That would be dumb. We currently subscribe to Sling TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We are switching over to DIRECTV NOW starting next month because we have one AT&T phone and can use the data from that phone to watch for free.
1. Buy an HDTV antenna. Since 2007, local TV stations have been broadcasting digital signals so crisp that the reception is better than that of cable TV. Plus, despite all the hype about shows on niche networks, 19 of the top 20 TV shows in 2016 aired on over-the-air broadcast networks. That’s why Step 1 is to buy an antenna. These are not your father’s antennas. No rabbit ears necessary. A modern digital TV antenna can be so sleek it will match your decor or so skinny you can mount it out of sight. When Consumer Reports tested antennas ranging in price from $8 to $80, it found the cheapest often performed just as well as the priciest. So try an inexpensive one first and upgrade only if necessary.
General idea: As you can tell by the name, CBS All-Access is a clutch streaming service to have if you really like CBS shows like Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Doctor, and Criminal Minds (but let's be real, most people pay for it specifically for Star Trek). This service is a little different as it's not giving you a selection of different channels, but you will have access to over 10,000 episodes of classic shows as well as news from CBSN. CBS is also the channel that covers a lot of sports (like NFL games) and award shows (like the Grammys), so an All-Access subscription is nice to have in your back pocket when important live events like those are coming up.
CBS All Access ($5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr. with commercials; $9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr. without): There are several basic cable and major broadcast channels moving into this arena, too, looking to lure customers with exclusive content. CBS has been making the boldest moves here, packaging a library of new and old CBS shows alongside in-demand original series like “Star Trek: Discovery.” CBS All Access also allows for live-streaming of your local CBS affiliate (with some restrictions based on market, program and/or device).
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.
“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
This is a question about the very short mention on F.T.A. TV. What stations can I expect to see? I used the C band & K for sports like NFL etc. years ago. It is still sitting out back, all 10′ of it. I don’t mind getting a decent HD F.T.A. box, but how many will I need, one for each TV? Will programs like NATGEO still be there? History & HGTV & especially ESPN?
Lastly, Google TV's streaming services are pretty good, since it has most of the Google Play store at its disposal. You can watch Netflix, Amazon (however crappily), and some sports channels, but a lot of content is missing—like Hulu and other TV channels. It does, however, have the movies and TV section of Google Play, which like iTunes lets you download and rent videos to your TV. Prices are comparable for movies, costing about $15-20 to buy, with a pretty good selection. Shows are cheaper at $20-$40 per season, but the selection leaves a lot to be desired. That said, other apps like the Chrome web browser, the occasional video game, or the awesome Plex media center make Google TV a bit more appealing.
When I found out the newer digital antennas are being sold on Amazon, i knew I had to try one. Installation is simple. I stuck the antenna to a window in our family room that faces the street. Connect the coax cable from the antenna to the cable input on your TV and plug in the USB cable from the antenna to your TV. That’s it. Just two connections and you’re golden. If your TV doesn’t have USB port this antenna kit comes with a travel charger that can be used to provide power to the antenna. As you can see I just used the USB port on my TV.
Google TV is, quite literally, the Android of streaming boxes. It's available on a number of different devices from different manufacturers, in different price ranges, and with different remotes. As such, we can't talk too much about the hardware here (though the VIZIO Co-Star, shown at the right, is a great looking model available for preorder now). The software, however, is very reminiscent of an Android tablet...because that's exactly what it is. You have a wall of icons representing your media, live TV, apps like Netflix and Amazon, and others. You can download Google TV-optimized Android apps from the Google Play store and put them on your home screen.
Watching professional sports without cable is a tougher nut to crack and, depending on the event, you may have no choice but to head to your local sports bar. Even with cable, however, there's no guarantee you'll be able to access your favorite team's game. Fortunately, professional sports associations are getting in on the online action and streaming some or all of their televised games via paid subscriber network.
There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
Local major network affiliates have their own transmitters, so it's likely that your area gets channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC free over the air – and that's not to mention other common over-the-air channels like PBS and Univision. How many channels are available and how big of an antenna you'll need to pick them up will vary by region, but getting the answers to these questions is pretty simple. Check out our free over-the-air TV explainer and our complete guide to choosing an antenna and getting free HDTV over the air for more important information. There's a reason that this is the classic solution to the problem of how to watch local channels without cable or satellite.
The interface is great. It's fast, smooth, and incredibly simple. You have all your basic channels on the front page in a grid, letting you access your movies, TV shows, and music from iTunes, as well as streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and sports sites like MLB.tv, NBA, and NHL. It even has a list of recent and popular movies along the top if you aren't sure what you want to watch, which is kind of fun. Anything else you want to play can be shot to the Apple TV through AirPlay on an iOS device, or via AirPlay mirroring on a Mac. It isn't ideal, but it'll get the job done for just about anything you want to watch.
ClearStream's final entry is the 4MAX, which is an improvement on the 4V when it comes to range and general setup. Quality-wise, this offers what you'd expect from the previous ClearStream antennas with a 70- mile range and 4K capability. That said, the 4MAX is able to bump up the range a bit in the right conditions. And it does use a more streamlined design over the 4V, making the overall setup much easier and saving a bit of space.