Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.
The Amazon Fire TV has gone through a few iterations now, getting better with each one. The current version is a veritable revolution in streaming boxes, offering simple operation, as well as the ability to control your entire home theater and smart home system with your voice. That includes the ability to turn on and control basic functionality on other devices, including not only your TV, but also your A/V receiver and even your cable box thanks to CEC control and IR blasters — all with the power of your own voice. The result earned the Cube a perfect score in our recent review and a place on our TV console.
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!
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.
Newsy: The nice thing about Newsy's TV app is how it immediately launches into a brief rundown of the latest top stories. You're then free to peruse the rest of the Newsy app, which includes a live news feed and an assortment of clips, all explaining the news with a bit of useful context thrown in. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast
By the early 1990s, United Video began encouraging cable systems still using either the full- or split-screen versions of the Amiga 1000-based EPG Sr. to upgrade to the Amiga 2000-based Prevue Guide. Active support for the Amiga 1000-based EPG Sr. installations was discontinued in 1993. Like the Amiga 1000-based EPG Sr., Prevue Guide also ran from bootable 3½ diskettes, and its locally customizable features remained configurable only from the local keyboard, subjecting viewers to the same on-screen maintenance-related interruptions by local cable company employees as before (silent remote administration of locally customizable features would not be added until the "yellow grid" appeared shortly after the beginning of the TV Guide Channel era, when the Amiga platform was fully abandoned). To support Prevue Guide's new, satellite-delivered video and audio, each Amiga 2000 featured a UV Corp. UVGEN video/genlock card for the satellite feed's video and a Zephyrus Electronics Ltd model 100 rev. C demodulator/switching ISA card for manipulating the feed's audio. Also included were a Zephyrus Electronics Ltd. model 101 rev. C demodulator ISA card for the WGN data stream, and a Great Valley Products Zorro II A2000 HC+8 Series II card (used only for 2 MB of Fast RAM with SCSI disabled). The 101C fed demodulated listings data at 2400 baud from a DE9 RS232 serial connector on its backpanel to the Amiga's stock DB25 RS232 serial port via a short cable. The 101C also featured connection terminals for contact closure triggering of external cable system video playback equipment.
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.
While DirecTV Now is more for the type of customer who is looking to replace their cable service, AT&T WatchTV is more like Philo. You shouldn’t look at it as a replacement for all of your live TV needs. Instead, look at it as a supplement to on-demand streaming services like Netflix. If you’re mainly a binge watcher but want the occasional bit of live TV, WatchTV might be for you. Throw in an HD antenna and you’ve got a pretty good setup.
Netflix – Best for catching episodes of your favorite shows from last season or from the last decade. While Netflix doesn't typically offer recently aired episodes of popular shows, it's perfect for streaming episodes from previous seasons, or for getting your "Murder She Wrote" groove on. There's a monthly fee to subscribe to Netflix but once you're signed up, you can stream an unlimited amount of shows.
I’m always open to ‘The New’… of times… I’ve also been checking out ‘building our own antenna’. I’m on SSD, older and no help at all. Here we have 9 major (incorporated, non-county) cities. In 2016 they completely cut off the ‘required (by law) access’, to “local feeds and channels”. One of those nine “incorporated” cities, mine being “that (incorporated) city”, cut off completely. The required law (in part) was, and is, based on the right to the service(s) for ’emergency’ purposes and NEWS information… I still don’t know how (for sure) they get away with it. I’m gonna keep on checking in.
Ever since I first tried going wireless, I've been unable to bear going back to wired headsets. Unfortunately, it's hard to find a bluetooth headset that isn't crap. I've gone through a lot. Some have terrible battery life, a fraction of what is advertised. Some break. Some stop outputting audio through one side. Some, after a few months of use, stop holding a charge. It seems like several times a year I purchase headsets. Even when just going with the highest-rated ones, they keep letting me down.
On either device, using just Netflix and Hulu Plus (each require $8 per month subscriptions) gives you a good variety of popular programming. Between the two you can binge on previous seasons of everything from Breaking Bad to Downton Abbey, watch current episodes of The Daily Show and Parks and Recreation and make a dent in your bucket list of must-see film classics.
Pros: One benefit is unlimited DVR storage. Your recorded programs will be saved for up to nine months, compared with only about a month on some other streaming services. With more than 50 networks plus local news and sports, YouTube TV's offerings are greater than most of the others on our list. Also, you can create up to six accounts with your subscription, and you can stream on up to three devices at once.
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.
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
Video is watched on the desktop via the included app, or is sent over the home network and played full screen through a connected device. In our case that means the Xbox 360, Nexus tablet, Fire TV, Samsung Galaxy Smartphone or Chromecast connected to our 50″ Plasma TV. We can control playback via a smartphone or tablet via the PlayOn app. We can watch our shows on whatever devices we want!
Credit: ShutterstockTom's Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)
Launched in 1981 by United Video Satellite Group, the network began its life as a simple electronic program guide (EPG) software application sold to cable system operators throughout the United States and Canada. Known simply as the Electronic Program Guide, the software was designed to be run within the headend facility of each participating cable system on a single, custom-modified consumer-grade computer supplied by United Video. Its scrolling program listings grid, which cable system operators broadcast to subscribers on a dedicated channel, covered the entire screen and provided four hours of listings for each system's entire channel lineup, one half-hour period at a time. Because of this, listings for programs currently airing would often be several minutes from being shown. Additionally, because the EPG software generated only video, cable operators commonly resorted to filling the EPG channel's audio feed with music from a local FM radio station, or with programming from a cable television-oriented audio service provider such as Cable Radio Network.
You can likely also get a lower rate (a promotional rate) by starting a new cable contract. Although no one likes being tied to a contract, it does reduce your bill. And you may not need to be a new customer to get a new contract: Try calling your cable company and asking about a reduced rate in exchange for a single-year contract. This arrangement carries the risk of paying a penalty if you need to get out of the contract early, but if you’re planning to be in the same place and to keep the same cable/Internet service for the next year, it can save you a good bit of money.
I think they like to scare you by moaning and groaning about how high much your internet bill will be if it is not bundled. I just checked and currently the “introductory” price for bundled service is $29.99 each for your internet, phone and cable. That’s for a year and then it skyrockets, as usual. If I recall correctly, the price doubled for each service so in the long run you’re looking at perhaps an increase of $5-$10. Hmm… So is the stand-alone price higher, sure but it is not through the roof. Yes, you may pay a bit more for internet service but you have to look at the big picture. When we cut the cord, our overall savings per month (when you included subscription services), was well over $100/month. Is it worth paying a few dollars more for unbundled high-speed internet service in order to save $100 or more each month? You bet it is!
Once only concerned with soccer channels, fuboTV has expanded its focus to include a broad range of entertainment, albeit with a bit of a sports-centric focus. fuboTV now has deals in place with every major network except for ABC, so depending on your region this service may be able to net you live local feeds of CBS, F0x, and NBC. Regional sports networks, including college football conference networks and the New York-area MSG family of channels and YES, are also peppered throughout fuboTV base and add-on packages. For more on fuboTV, check out our complete review of the service here – or just try it for yourself by checking out fuboTV's week-long free trial via the link below Click the link below to sign up for a free trial of “fubo” ($44.99 per month) or “fubo Extra” ($49.99 per month), both of which have local channels.
Livestream TV services have no hidden fees, and if you ever decide to cancel, it’s easy and painless — a refreshing change from the hassle of dealing with cable and satellite call centers, even if prices are on the rise. There are many services out there, however, and they all have different prices, channels, and features. To help you sift through the chaos, we’ve put together this handy guide detailing the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice for you.
Another drawback is that you usually don’t get your local networks with these services. Since most TVs include an integrated HDTV tuner, adding an antenna will give you access to those channels, but you won’t be able to record or time-shift them. Streaming services lag behind satellite and cable by 15 to 60 seconds, too, so if you’re watching sports and trying to avoid spoilers, you’ll probably have to stop checking your Twitter timeline. You can also run into buffering issues, but those are usually due to problems with your Internet connection rather than the streaming service. (Some people have encountered issues during peak shows such as Game of Thrones, but Wirecutter staffers haven’t personally experienced them—it may depend more on your Internet connection and local network speed.)
Showtime Online has a unique service of being able to be added on to other services that you may already subscribe to. For $9 a month, it can be added to Amazon Prime and Hulu and for $11, Playstation Vue. Showtime offers you award-winning series like Dexter, Weeds and House of Lies as well as a large selection of movies including action, comedies and dramas added each month. The stand-alone service is $11 and it offers both live viewing and streaming.