For those looking for "cable lite" in the form of small packaged cable subscriptions from services like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, we've got a list of the best streaming live TV services. Keep in mind, though, that most of these services don't offer unlimited access to broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. What I'm referring to is the ability to watch any broadcast channel available in your area.
First, the best TV moved from networks to cable. Now a similar transition is moving top talent from cable to the streaming world. Netflix ($8.99 per month for HD streaming) has House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—all of which have received almost universal acclaim—and Amazon ($99 per year for video and a variety of other services) isn’t too far behind with comedy Alpha House, crime drama Bosch, and the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
So, I really appreciate all this information and the clear explanations you’ve given, as in where to get the channels I do watch and the cost. I really miss 3 local stations, but my favorite one which I’ve watched all my life and depended on for weather was already dropped from the cable lineup a few months ago. Luckily, I just learned of the new version of “rabbit ears” and have ordered one (2019 version) that claims to have a 120 mile range, which would bring me my lost station if it works. It’s gotten a solid 5 star review from many customers on Amazon, so I’m hopeful.
1. The good old fashioned antenna. Of course, this all depends on what kind of signal you can get inside your house. In my place here in CO, I can use an HDTV antenna and the channels come in beautifully. But I have lived in other houses where I couldn’t even get snow to show up on the TV (New Mexico, I am looking at you). Antennas mounted on roofs tend to be a lot better at pulling in those free signals, but remember that as of 2009 you need a special digital converter box, as the analog signals will no longer be broadcast (in most communities).
You can also watch free broadcast TV with an antenna — no cable needed. The major US broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and CW — are all available for free over-the-air. Most people can pick up these channels, and 20-30 of others, in crystal-clear HD with a decent indoor antenna. Deciding what kind of antenna you need, however, can be difficult. This antenna guide will help you find which type you need for your home and location in just two easy questions. If you want an even faster answer, this antenna will make most people very happy. It has a great range (50 miles) and will pick up all the best over-the-air channels, plus lots of other features.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
You may find that your favorite local channels have apps of their own! These days, it's not uncommon for local news networks to offer clips or even live feeds on their websites and through apps for mobile devices and streaming boxes. Other local news channels use streaming platforms like Livestream or the aforementioned NewsON. It's worth doing a quick Google search and reading your local station's website to see where else you might find their content.
Philo ($16/mo. - $20/mo.): This new cut-rate service is cheap for a reason: It eliminates all sports, major networks and premium movie channels, delivering instead what amounts to a stripped-down basic cable package with the likes of History Channel, A&E and TV Land. Philo also has limited DVR storage and can be watched on multiple devices simultaneously. It’s a good starter option for people who want a solid array of traditional cable channels to supplement with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now and others.
While I cannot vouch for the legality or the quality of all of these websites, here are 35 a lot of different ways you can still catch your favorite shows and web videos without paying for cable or satellite TV. And while I haven’t tried each and every one of them out for any extended period of time, the first 5 I list are my favorites, to help guide you to some of the ones that work well. I have either given my own opinion of each one or when possible I have taken a blurb from each site’s “About” page to give you a little more info. And if you have a favorite, or you use a site that isn’t listed here, please be sure to mention it in the comments so everyone can check it out!
Smart TVs – A smart TV is going to cost you more than a streaming device 99 times out of 100 because, well, it's a TV, too! But a smart TV with a great platform can be an awesome choice. Be a little wary of lesser-known platforms. They can be clumsy to use, and if you're not actually using your smart TV's smart-ness, that's a waste (and might lead you to buy one of the devices above in the end anyway). Another important consideration: the bigger the streaming platform, the better the app selection. You can watch Netflix on anything, but support for smaller SVOD services and skinny bundles is a bit rarer. Last but not least, it's worth noting that fans of simplicity who are planning to use an OTA antenna to watch TV without cable may find they prefer smart TVs, since the input selection will be built in and everything can be handled with one remote (by contrast, using an OTA antenna and a separate streaming device will mean using the TV remote to watch OTA TV and the streaming device remote to stream – and the TV remote again to switch between the two inputs). Examples: Sony Smart TVs (many run the Android TV platform), Roku TVs (manufactured by TCL and others), Fire TV Edition TVs (manufactured by Element).
The cost to networks of paying huge sums for sports rights get passed on to customers in the form of higher monthly bills. Broadcast channels like Fox, CBS, and NBC are also shelling out billions of dollars on sports because it’s one of the few things consumers still watch live, which helps the companies sell advertising. Those broadcasters are raising the prices they charge cable operators, leading to higher consumer bills. Congress handed that new-revenue stream—known as retransmission consent fees –to broadcast channels in the early 1990s.
YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.
YouTube is known for hosting thousands of viral videos. But it’s also a great place to learn. In the span of a few minutes, you can discover everything from how to fold a fitted sheet to how to make delicious dishes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch many classic shows and movies there too! Are indie films and documentaries more your thing? Check out Vimeo.
That's all there is to it, but – as you can tell from the length of this article – there's plenty to explain, discuss, and debate about watching TV without cable. So keep up with us on social media and right here on Cordcutting.com. Streaming and free over-the-air TV are what we're all about, and we'll never get tired of covering them – or of helping you.
ANTOP's antenna is not only fit for a TV, but for the whole house. It might be one of the bigger antennas on this list, but don't let that deter you. While most antennas are for one TV, this offering is capable of servicing multiple TVs. This eliminates the needs for several antennas and can save you more in the long run. And while it works perfectly fine indoors, if you need to place it outside, ANTOP's antenna is weather resistant.
“We did it! Finally cut the cable cord. It was an oddly empowering moment. However within a few weeks of basking in our joy and anticipation of the savings we were going to experience we started getting some rather concerning emails from our former cable company about data overages! We could stream to our hearts content while we paid exorbitant rates for cable that supplied us with an endless supply of channels we never used. The minute we took charge that old pesky cable company somehow infiltrated our lives again with the promise of extra fees. We started getting a daily deluge of emails letting us know for a few more drops of blood ... I mean dollars ... we could keep our overages in check and be safe and complacent again. We were floored. But alas we caved but in our small protest we vowed to neva-eva-eva-eva go hungry again... I mean pay for cable again!” ― Lucy Fellows
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.