These do require additional hardware, running extra cables from your TV, and waiting at least a day to watch the newest episodes of cable network shows. And if you're hoping to sever all ties with your cable provider, that's not going to be an option in many regional markets, as you'll still need them for the high-speed Internet service that makes this all work. But the cost savings of dropping the TV package can be substantial, and there have never been as many good choices available as there are today in both hardware and content. Here's what you'll need.
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.
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.
Not everyone thought this was a good service when it debuted, but it's so far stuck with that "introductory" price that would put it in line with icky cable subscriptions. If you've got an AT&T phone plan, you can add DirecTV Now for just $10 a month; HBO is included if you've got an AT&T Unlimited Choice or Plus plan. You can watch DirecTV Now on your PC via browser, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, ChromeCast, Roku devices, iOS, and Android—it's not on any game consoles. Lacking however: DVR options. There's plenty of video on demand, but not for every show.
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.
Sadly, we can’t get signals via an antenna due to buildings and trees. Antennas require line of sight. Cable and streaming are our only options, but streaming is very limited when it comes to local news. We’re seriously considering cutting the cable and watching PBS News Hour for national and international news, but local news is, at this time, the problem. I remember when cable TV first started and we were told we’d have options and it would be affordable. For us, neither has come to be. Now with HDTV we are unable to receive signals through the airwaves.
The chart -- which is too big to fit on this page, so I made it a Google spreadsheet -- answers the question of which streaming local channels are available where. You see, just because a service like DirecTV Now offers Fox, that doesn't mean it offers your local Fox station live. If you live in Asheville, Las Vegas or Schenectady, for example, DirecTV Now doesn't carry your local Fox station. Hulu and YouTube TV do, however.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!
“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
I went threw dish I cant afforded them I been with them 5 years and now I cant pay anymore I have to send my stuff back ok fine then I get charged when I told them to turn it off that’s so crazy so no tv for us we live out in the country cant get a darn thing I just go high speed this year I live 25 miles from town and on a very tight budget it not right I cant go on line and watch tv and I am disable all so I am so tired losing my money
In addition, there are lesser-known services to consider, such as ESPN Plus and Crackle, as well as the highly anticipated Disney Plus, which will lead off with a live-action Star Wars series produced by John Favreau, The Mandalorian among multiple Marvel Cinematic Univers spinoffs. That’s just the start, too. We’re also anticipating AT&T’s new three-tiered service with content from Warner Bros. and HBO, Apple’s new service, a new service from NBCUniversal, and more. We’ll be monitoring these new options and updating our list as they come online and compete for your dollars.
It needs to be stated clearly that antennas are extremely location specific. Your home receiption will be different from everyone elses – period. Anyone recommending any antenna without specific facts is not helping at all. Those $20 “leaf” antennas only work when you are close to the transmitters and all the stations are in about the same direction. If you have any antenna at all, connect it to a DTV and scan for channels. You could be surprised at what can be received. When it comes to difficult antenna reception – a few tips:
Apple’s most recent version of its streaming box, the Apple TV 4K, added the long-awaited support for 4K UHD resolution and 4K content. The Apple TV 4K uses an intuitive touchpad remote, which is designed to operate more like an iPhone, and it can even be used as a gaming remote. The system is also faster than previous models, and the inclusion of 4K makes it a viable alternative to the other options on this list for Apple users.
Wireless: You could also skip cables completely and just go wireless. This isn't quite as simple as it sounds, though. There are far too many considerations to get into here, but a few things to keep in mind: 1) They're going to cost more than cables; 2) 4K options often only work in-room, and can be blocked by anything, including cabinet doors and even people. Though wireless seems like it should be easy in this era of near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi, it's not. If you're considering this, definitely do your research before you buy.
FuboTV ($34.99/mo.): Although it is best known for its wide array of international sports networks — it’s particularly ideal for fans of soccer and college athletics — FuboTV also includes a solid package of basic cable outlets and some local network channels. The service offers 30 hours of cloud DVR storage and a “three-day replay” function, giving subscribers three days to watch broadcasts that they forgot to record (with some exceptions because of licensing limitations).
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.
Comcast Availability: The Xfinity service area is within the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Sling TV currently offers the most flexibility of all the live TV streaming services out there, at least when it comes to your content and pricing options. Sling TV uses an à la carte model, with base channel packages and a bevy of add-ons. The base packages, while largely similar, do have some major differences — namely that ABC and Disney-owned channels (including ESPN, and therefore support for ESPN+) are only present in Orange, while Blue carries NBC, Fox, and other sports channels like NFL Network and NFL Redzone.
“I’m really disappointed in the slow deterioration of popular film offerings from the Big 3 (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon). I remember when they started up, Netflix had an amazing selection. But now it seems like they never have any of the films I’m looking for. I have Amazon Prime, but any of the movies I really want to see inevitably require that I pay extra to rent them. The number of B and C-grade movies that are on these services is quite remarkable. That’s a lot of chaff to pad their offerings.” ― Susan Houston
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.
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.
A 2007 article in the Christian Science Monitor wrote that RT reported on the good job Putin was doing in the world and next to nothing on things like the conflict in Chechnya or the murder of government critics. According to a 2010 report by The Independent, RT journalists have said that coverage of sensitive issues in Russia is allowed, but direct criticism of Vladimir Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev was not. Masha Karp wrote in Standpoint magazine that contemporary Russian issues "such as the suppression of free speech and peaceful demonstrations, or the economic inefficiency and corrupt judiciary, are either ignored or their significance played down". In 2008, Stephen Heyman wrote in The New York Times that in RT's Russia, "corruption is not quite a scourge but a symptom of a developing economy." Speaking after the launch of RT America, Garry Kasparov said "Russia Today is an extension of the methods and approach of the state-controlled media inside Russia, applied in a bid to influence the American cable audience".
YouTube TV has been rolled out methodically, market-by-market, but the slow-and-steady approach has helped it offer a really robust product to those in its range. YouTube TV is pretty widely available now, so it's worth checking it out and seeing if you can use YouTube TV to watch live local TV without cable. For those in the right markets, YouTube TV could be a way to watch local feeds of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. YouTube TV costs $40 per month once your free trial is up (and you can sign up for that free trial via the link below).
Hi Kayla! I think I’ve read EVERY word on this particular blog! It has been HIGHLY informative! I’m too wanting to cut cable. These prices . . . man! Who can afford this stuff? I know I can’t anymore. From what I’ve gathered, with a Smart Tv, looks like I can stream Netflix and Hulu. For other channels I and my son like to watch I’ll need Sling. And for local channels an antenna. My question is for internet or streaming, do I HAVE to have an ISP? Can I purchase a modem and/or router? I know internet only plans are much cheaper but if I can get outta paying for that as well I sure would like to!! MUCH thanks to you!! I am now your FAN ?
I’ll keep my eyes peeled on you guys and your progress, and try to follow your lead! By the way you have all been most informative,and Peter, thanks for starting the subject you truly have helped my frame of mind. I know I threw in a bit of southern humor to keep you all entertained but buy God I am going to overcome this so-called generational gap and get in there with you all. I won’t be a tech. but perhaps I’ll learn how to better utilize my equipment…
The general rule for digital antennas is the higher, the better. Structures such as floors, cabinets, and walls may impact TV signal reception, so placing your antenna high in a window is ideal, as long as it's free from exterior obstructions (trees, buildings, billboards, and so on). Indoor antennas should not be installed behind a TV or electronic equipment, next to metal objects, or near high-traffic areas, as TV signal reception may be impacted.
Video Streaming Services: There are tons of online video streaming services like Hulu.com, Netflix, Amazon.com Instant, CBS.com, Philo, YouTube, Comedy Central, HGTV, and ESPN that support the PlayOn software! The software also now supports plugins, so additional channels are appearing all the time including the Food Network, NBA/NFL content, and others! – Cost: Free
General idea: If award-winning originals like The Handmaid's Tale and all seasons of Rick and Morty don't already do it for you with Hulu, knowing that there's a super simple one-package live TV option with Hulu might do the trick. Plus, if you already have the non-live Hulu account, merging the two and not having to sign up elsewhere makes the process way less stressful. Hulu only has one on-demand package, which makes things simple if you didn't want to have to make a decision between packages. It'll give you over 40 channels including local broadcast channels, CNN, Disney, FX, Oxygen, ESPN, and more. One slight drawback is that Hulu does not do Viacom, meaning channels like Nickelodeon, Spike, Comedy Central, or MTV, are not available.
Unfortunately, there's no way to tell just by looking at a cable whether it can handle the deluge of data required for 4K and HDR content. Even if it says "High Speed" on the jacket, that's not 100 percent useful. A cable can be considered "high speed" if it passes 1080p, but not be well enough made to handle 4K. The only way to verify it works is to test it.
You've voted on your favorites before—and many of you voted for one of these five—but we decided to test all five for ourselves and see what they can do. Each device has its own niche and advantages, but they all aim to serve your movies and TV shows to you without the need for a cable subscription or library of discs. Here's a quick rundown of what each box supports:
I have Spectrum Wi-Fi, and I use Sling TV. Also, I have one router and a Roku on three TV’s and I get Sling on all, and can have all three on at the same time. Why is Spectrum only allowing you one TV, if you don’t mind my asking? I’m not much of a TV person, however, I’ll watch HLN all day! ? I also like Oxygen, HDTV, History. I’ve never had any problems with Sling. You can go into settings and add, take away channels, and they do it instantly. I pay $5.00 a month for the DVR/Demand and record stuff I’m missing while watching news. I’m writing this in response to the above post asking about news channels. ? Have a great day!
The Boxee Box is the most expensive device on the list at $175, and it's easy to see why. Unlike most of the others, the Boxee Box seems to be geared more toward the tech-savvy user, providing a more feature-filled media center without the hassle of building it and installing the software yourself. You can add all of your networked files (of nearly any file type) to a library that grabs thumbnails and plot information for a beautiful browsing experience, as well as stream content from services like Netflix and Vudu. If you buy it with the live TV adapter, you can also integrate your live TV-watching experience, which is pretty nice. Boxee also has a lot of social integration, letting you get recommendations from your friends on Facebook and Twitter and see what other people are watching. It has a browser, which—while a pain to use—can play many Flash videos not supported by one of its channels. It also supports AirPlay, which is wonderful to see in a non-Apple device.
Philo is one of the newer streaming services to enter the market and it’s also one of the cheapest. The service aims at providing value by carrying entertaining channels without expensive sports programming. One of those channels is AMC. At $16 per month, it is now the most affordable way to watch The Walking Dead without Cable. You can sign up for their free trial or read more about them in our review of Philo.
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.
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!
For Amazon Fire TV users (no coincidence that it requires an in-house device), a small selection of these channels can be browsed via a “Live Now” menu, which includes a programming guide so you can see what’s on next. As of this writing, only a small number of premium channels — including HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime — will show up on the “live now” section, and only if you’re subscribed to them through Amazon Prime’s “Channels.” The number is growing, however, and we’re hopeful for a more varied selection in the near future.
When I saw this product, I looked into it right away. My husband and I currently do not have cable and just use Netflix, Hulu ect. I miss out on watching other channels because we didn't want to pay for a cable bill. After getting this antenna, we are able to get 28 channels we didnt before!! They all come in great and we can use the antenna on any of our TV's in our home. We are looking into getting more so that we can have one in every room!
Includes: This offering from the No. 1 online video network includes the broadcast networks, cable channels from Disney/ABC, NBCUniversal, Fox, AMC and Turner Broadcasting. Missing are Viacom (Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central), Discovery (Discovery Channel, Animal Planet) and PBS. However, the workaround here is that these networks put lots of clips from their shows on the YouTube website, but you won't be able to see the entire shows.
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.
Is getting 129 over the air channels from a suburb of Houston worth a five star rating? I didn't even know there was so many channels OTA. Why would I even need to rotate it ? I guess because it looks cool to do it via remote. My only concern is the fact that the housing on the antenna is plastic and I wonder what heavy rain will do to the inside because it doesn't seem totally sealed. I had to buy a stand separate but who cares this thing is awesome . Bye Bye Xfinity!
Although HULU+ is a paid site you can still watch many FREE movies and tv shows on the regular HULU. Also, another site my husband and I watch a lot is crackle.com which is a legit FREE site for movies and tv shows. The tv shows aren’t of much interest to us but crackle have many good movies and some of their own original shows. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t watch a lot of live sports, we would do away with our cable provider altogether. Maybe in time this will be an option?
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…
Of course, as mentioned above, watching live sports through a streaming service means you’ll suffer a bit of a delay. If you’re watching the game on your own, you probably won’t notice, but you won’t want to follow along on Twitter or read text messages from your friends if you want to avoid spoilers. (Wirecutter staffers sometimes notice the neighbors yelling after an exciting play only to see it happen on our TVs 15 to 30 seconds later.) And if you’re using an older media streamer, we’ve found that Sling TV can start to stutter and lag after streaming a football game for two-plus hours; we “fix” the problem by restarting the app during a commercial break.
In November 2016, after the US Presidential Election, The Washington Post reported that RT and Sputnik were "state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports" and also that "RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online". The Post was criticized by The Intercept, Fortune, and Rolling Stone for relying in part on an analysis by PropOrNot, an anonymous organization with no reputation for fact-checking.
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.