If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
Thanks for the list! I’ve been living without cable for 2.5 years and it’s great! I am surprised so many people continue to pay for cable, especially with prices for everything else going up. I watch a few broadcast shows, and then any shows I miss I can usually find online. I started out using fanpop.com but think I’ll check out a few of the above to compare. As for LM&M’s comments about talking about the shows at work….I think that you (David) work from home. 🙂 I say try the no-cable route for a while. You can always buy a package later…
My parents still have satellite (because of how few and slow the internet connections available to their house are) on three of their tvs. The other has just local, which lets them watch certain local channels they can’t even get on the satellite. The only antenna they use is the one that is inside the tv itself. They’ve found it help even more when the satellite got blocked by storm clouds! No, they can’t get all the local options (other reason why they still have the satellite) but they get a good selection most of the year.
HBO Now’s $15/month price point makes it among the most expensive on-demand service here, but that comes with the benefit of seeing all of the service’s latest shows, including Game of Thrones, Westworld, Silicon Valley, Veep, and more, all at the same time they appear on the traditional service. Add to that a cascade of past classics, from Sopranos to Deadwood, newer movie releases, and virtually everything on the network anytime on demand.
Other important factors include cloud DVR and the interface itself. Yes, most of the services above allow you to record and play back shows, just like a traditional cable or satellite DVR, but they often come with restrictions. Some services have a traditional, cable-box-like menu system, while some are more experimental (read: they have a steep learning curve).
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least-expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller markets.
Unfortunately, with some pay-per-view exceptions, you can’t buy live sports programming à la carte. Sports programming is one of the main reasons for big cable bills—ESPN and other sports channels demand the highest per-channel fees from cable and satellite services, and those fees get passed on to you even if you don’t watch sports. So cord-cutting combined with à la carte is more feasible for non-sports fans. If you do watch sports, we have more about your options below.
In September 2012, U.K. broadcast regulator Ofcom found that two Libyan dispatches broadcast by RT's Lizzie Phelan in a year earlier were in breach of its code on accuracy and impartiality. The following November, RT was again found in breach of impartiality rules in relation to its coverage of the Syrian conflict. An August 2013 story concerning unverified reports of the killing of 450 Kurdish civilians near the Turkey-Syria border was also found to have breached Ofcom's rules. That December, Ofcom found RT in breach of its standards in relation to the impartiality of a documentary entitled "Syrian Diary" broadcast the previous March. Speaking in 2014 former RT reporter Sara Firth said that there had previously been examples of senior editorial interference, and that she had been pulled out of Syria after some "very heated discussions" about the channel's coverage.
TV Everywhere apps are what many TV networks use to give viewers access to content on demand. Some popular ones include Discovery, History, Food Network, Comedy Central, Smithsonian, NBC, ABC, and FOX — but there are lots more to choose from. You can download TV Everywhere apps for your phone, tablet, or streaming device such as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
From April to August 2011, RT ran a half-hour primetime show Adam vs. the Man, hosted by former Iraq War Marine veteran and high-profile anti-war activist Adam Kokesh. David Weigel writes that Kokesh defended RT's "propaganda" function, saying "We're putting out the truth that no one else wants to say. I mean, if you want to put it in the worst possible abstract, it's the Russian government, which is a competing protection racket against the other governments of the world, going against the United States and calling them on their bullshit." The conservative media watchdog Accuracy in Media criticized Kokesh's appearance on RT, writing RT uses Americans like Kokesh to make propaganda points.
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.
Remember, the cable TV is cheaper than internet for me. I’m more willing to pay $17 a month for cable TV, but not $52 for the internet. There are certain places like Panera Restaurants and public libraries that have free wifi. Places I steer clear of are Borders, Barnes and Noble and Starbucks because they have an agreement with T-Mobile and charge for access.
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!
The general idea: Just like DirecTV is a flagship satellite provider, DirecTV NOW is their no-dish-needed streaming service that, not surprisingly, is a front runner in the market with the largest channel selection we've seen from any service. It's basically everything that DirecTV offers without the hassle of setting up a satellite. (Though the Cloud DVR and app aren't the best, so if you're really into recording or aren't super tech savvy, this may not be the right choice for you.) The baseline package starts at 60 channels (nuts) with access to an impressive variety of channels including ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central, ESPN, Disney, FX, Lifetime, and more.
Let's not fool ourselves, the media companies go where the money is, and right now that's still the cable/satellite/telco providers by a wide margin. But according to Steve Shannon, Roku's General Manager of Content and Services, the tide is turning in negotiations between content providers and cable distributors with more rights becoming available for streaming services. "As each contract comes up for renewal, digital rights are becoming more valuable," he says. "Content creators recognize that there's value there and as cable companies are looking to reduce programming costs, some are giving up the digital rights."
Google was comparatively late to the game, but it's carved out itself a nice little niche with YouTube TV. Its interface is no-nonsense, even drab, and yet it offers most of the features a cable service can give you -- namely, a robust channel lineup including local channels in just about every area it serves. It also has a very strong DVR, including unlimited storage, with one catch: If an episode you've recorded appears in YouTube TV's VOD library, it gets replaced by the on-demand version -- so you lose the ability to fast-forward through commercials. And unlike Sling and others, it's dead simple: one package, one price, done.
Television has changed remarkably over the past few years. It might be time for your viewing habits to change as well. Unless you enjoy paying more than $100 a month for a cable or satellite subscription you only half use, you’re probably considering joining the growing ranks of consumers who have “cut the cord” and are now getting their favorite TV shows, movies and even live sports through the internet and streaming services. Making this change requires some preparation, though. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the cord-cutting process. And once you're set up, hop on over to The New York Times's site Watching for personalized TV and movie recommendations.
I was very disappointed when the NBC-based channel US Sports went to cable on January 1st. I used to enjoy the gymnastics and skating there. Now, in an Olympic year, they decided to move from the free NBC channel 5.3 to a paid cable channel. It’s like those certain sports events are only available on paid cable, or video reruns on USsports.com. It’s really lousy in an Olympic year!
“I tried Aereo before they lost their court case. Then I was a SlingTV user for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. Just switched to YouTubeTV in the last week. Mostly so we could get local channels. It’s okay but I am already missing A & E, HGTV and History Channel. We are going to give it a try for a while but may check out DIRECTV now because it has most of the channels we like as well as local options.” ― Sean Cook
The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
A live TV streaming service is exactly what it sounds like: a pay TV solution that streams over the internet. The live local and network channels are exactly the same as they are on cable, though – only the way that they’re delivered is different. These services tend to offer smaller channel bundles (hence the “skinny” part of the “skinny bundle” moniker), which makes for lower prices.
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.