If you aren’t willing to spend the money for any of the above options, some of the networks will stream events like the Superbowl for free on YouTube or within their own app for smart TVs and mobile devices. The top networks know that people are cutting off their cable subscriptions in droves, and in order to keep them interested in the sports they broadcast, they are coming up with new ways for you to watch. So, just check with the channel that will be airing the event you want to see and find out if they are going to allow the public to stream it for free, with commercial interruptions, of course.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
So – with OTA antenna, major networks and sports on those networks are handled. We are missing “other content” that can usually be found through 1 of the 3 most popular paid services. Each of these services run about $90/yr … that was less than 3 months of CATV costs here, so we are still much, much, much less. Plus, with these paid services, there aren’t any commercials, so an hour show is about 40 minutes, saving time.
Many services offer on-demand shows from the big four majors, often with a day or two delay, even if the live network affiliate isn't available. But that doesn't help much if you want to watch the local news or live sports, such as football. (Many local stations throughout the country also offer apps on Roku and other devices that deliver live or tape-delayed on-demand versions of just the local news, too.)
The intro package, called Live A Little, offers more than 60 channels for $40 (following a $5 price rise in July 2018). For $55, the Just Right package offers over 80 channels. The package given the most attention by DirecTV Now during its launch event was the $65/month Go Big package, offering more than 100 channels, but if you’re looking for everything you can get, the Gotta Have It packages dishes up more than 120 channels for $75 per month. As with PS Vue, these packages and prices are always changing, so check out our DirecTV Now explainer piece for more details.
The WD TV Live isn't as popular as the other devices on this list, but it's actually a pretty good device, especially for users that have a lot of ripped or downloaded movies already (and it supports quite a few formats). WD TV Live comes in two flavors: a small, cheap, Wi-Fi-enabled box designed for streaming, and a more expensive, Ethernet-enabled box with a 1TB drive for all your local movies. The small box can play files off a USB drive, and the big box can still stream, but they're clearly aimed at two different types of users.
Pros: The most consumer-friendly terms (up to six screens, no DVR storage limits), best program guide navigation, easiest one-click for adding shows to DVR record list. Terrific app that makes it easy to watch the TV shows from bedroom, living room, office, park – anywhere. Plus, if YouTube TV doesn't have your show, the main YouTube website probably does have some variation of it. There's enough to keep you busy for days. The No. 1 choice for cord cutters – unless you live in an Amazon world. In which case,, buy a Roku streaming stick and get YouTube that way. It's that good.
While the ISPs I mention in this post are affordable, they also offer quality internet access. Unfortunately, not every state has a decent provider. I will be sure to cover as many states as possible. As I mentioned earlier, if you know a provider, leave their information in the comments and I’ll get them added to the list. I want to grow this list to give people a reference to the best internet plans available for home users.
PlayOn Media Streaming Software: The PlayOn software allows you to stream online video from popular services like Hulu.com, Netflix, Amazon Video, the big networks and a myriad of others straight to your TV through a networked media device (see below). They also have a feature if you pay for the “Plus” version of the software that allows recording of series of shows, and automatic skipping of commercials. They even allow you to record your favorite Netflix or Amazon shows so you can take them with you on the go (with no need for internet). It's essentially a home DVR for online video. Cost: Limited functionality free version, or one time fee of $59.99 for lifetime license. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are also available.
The interface is very pretty and shockingly easy to use. Plug in your USB drive and go to "Files" to start playing them. Have some files stored on the network? Just go to Movies or TV shows and add it as a source. Head to Services for streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu movies, MLB, and a few others. The remote is a traditional remote that feels a little cheap, but works as well as you'd expect. The interface is also somewhat configurable, letting you view your movies and shows in a few different list formats.
Note: Several premium cable channels offer standalone monthly subscriptions to their original programming for people who don’t subscribe through cable or satellite providers. The most popular of these are HBO Now ($14.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.). These (and others) are also available as add-on channels to Amazon Prime Video; of those three, only Showtime is cheaper as an add-on ($8.99/mo.).
Amazon’s library of top-notch original TV series is fairly thin (although it does have the award-winning “Transparent,” and the excellent police procedural “Bosch”), and it includes a paltry catalog of older shows. (It does offer some older HBO series like “Boardwalk Empire” and “Eastbound & Down” at no extra charge; recent seasons of your favorite shows are often available, but cost extra.) On the flipside, Amazon business has been very active lately in producing, buying and distributing top-shelf movies — including the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea.” Also, Prime makes it very easy to expand your options by adding subscriptions to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as part of its Amazon Channels service. The service is aiming to be a one-stop shop for cord-cutters, offering a basic service with a variety of customized channels, some of which (like Acorn TV, Brown Sugar and Shudder) aren’t available to cable subscribers.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
Prime Video is a nice hybrid of an all-you-can-eat streaming service like Netflix, plus a video-on-demand store, with plenty of original content to go with it. It's "free" to anyone with a Prime account, which is best known for giving customers free two-day shipping—but you can also get Prime Video for $8.99 a month as a standalone service, with none of the other Amazon extras.
I cut the cord about 12 years ago and have never looked back! Live in Western Massachusetts. I have over-the-air-waves TVs after the one-time cost of antennas, of course. I only get 6 channels. The four PBS channels, ABC & FOX, because of where I live, lowland, 1st fl. rental so can’t get my antennas anywhere up high enough. Friends w/same set up who live in a higher elevation get over 20 channels.
It’s too bad I live in Boon F—– Missouri, the speed I get here gives me yesterdays programs when it works,(seriously) I have what is called Century Tell (extended service) That of course mean’s I’m one step ahead of Fred Flintstone in the tech-world. It sucks to live just 13 miles out in the rural area and have to suck hind tit with no advantages! Our netflix speed is too slow to even stream any shows! I guess we’ll have to sell to the Clampits and move to a modern part of the world, think I’ll tear down the outhouse tomorrow and start building that inside bathroom everybody talks about! (just jokin) Any solutions for me???
There are a variety of network apps that you can download to watch your local news and sports. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and The CW all have mobile apps where you can watch certain local shows without a cable subscription. Take note that each network app works differently and may have different streaming options and dates when episodes become accessible. Some of the apps offer full access to their archives for a monthly fee as well.
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.
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.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue service has moved from its PlayStation bonds to include Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV support. While Vue’s slew of channels makes it much more comprehensive, its base packages are a bigger investment than Sling TV, starting at $45 per month and moving up to $50, and $60, and $80 tiers. Vue has also ditched its Slim packages, which were cheaper, but didn’t offer local channels. In other words, PS Vue is a pricey affair.
The third type of app allows you to access their shows by paying monthly to stream any offering from that channel, even if you don’t have a cable subscription. The most high-profile of these is HBO Now, and right now, this type of app is most common for other prestige cable channels like Showtime and Starz. These become more worth it as you watch more of the shows offered by that network. For example, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, Insecure, Veep, and Silicon Valley, HBO Now might be worth the monthly fee. CBS All-Access is similar to this third type of app, providing online access to the back catalog of the network’s shows that are broadcast over-the-air for free. The app is also the only place to find some original shows that need not conform to broadcast TV's FCC standards, the first two of which were The Good Fight (a spinoff of The Good Wife) and Star Trek: Discovery.
DIRECTV NOW is another great way to watch Fox News online without a cable subscription. DIRECTV NOW is a live streaming service that offers a minimum of 65 channels for just $40 a month. If you’ve been holding on to cable afraid to cut the cord, you’ll find that DIRECTV NOW is a true cable replacement. The only difference is that DIRECTV NOW is much cheaper than cable and the only equipment you need is a streaming device, computer, or mobile device. You won’t need a cable box or satellite dish.
If you want all of those channels, you’ll need to spring for the $40 package, which includes everything in Blue and Orange, or you can augment either package with add-on channels. Add-on packages also vary in pricing and included channels, depending on which package you’re subscribed to, but you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 per month for each. In addition, a dispute over licensing with AT&T has resulted in a blackout of HBO and Univision channels on Sling TV and its parent company, Dish Network.
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.