(Side note: you can also, of course, buy or rent digital movies or TV show episodes from services like Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes. That's a bit removed from “watching TV without cable” in the sense that we mean it in this article, but it's worth noting that you can use purchase and rental apps with the same streaming devices – see Part II for those – that work with the streaming apps we're about to talk about here in Part I. Owning digital copies and subscribing to streaming services go together like peanut butter and jelly: switching between a movie you own on Amazon and a show you're streaming on Netflix is much more convenient than switching between cable an a Blu-Ray disc. You won't even have to get off your couch!)
Last, download the necessary software. You can download a compatible app for your Mac right from myhdhomerun.com. You can also download the HDHomerun app for iPhone and iPad. On Apple TV, you can use Plex with your Plex Pass subscription or Emby with an Emby Premier subscription, or you could also side load Kodi and use the HDHomeRun add-on. If you don't already use Plex, Emby, or Kodi on your Apple TV, you should probably get Channels for Apple TV (my personal recommendation) or InstaTV Pro.
If you have a TV in your house -- that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner -- you're part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over-the-air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10; see our comparison of indoor antennas here.
A reader of the blog informed me that WOW! now offers Internet access in Knoxville Tennessee. They offer speeds of 30 Mbps for just $25 and 60 Mbps for just $40 a Mbps. If anyone has any experience with their Internet-only service them please post in the comments. They appear to offer service in parts of South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.
A few of the previous services have been notable for their sports content (YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV, in particular), but if sports is one of your primary concerns, you’ll want to look into FuboTV. This is another relatively new service that has been gaining some recognition for the niche it appeals to, especially after it was advertised as a way to easily watch Super Bowl 52 with its free trial. It is quickly on the rise, too: The service announced that as of September 2018 it was approaching 250,000 subscribers, up from 100,000 in September 2017. That may not be the millions of subscribers boasted by Sling TV and DirecTV Now, but it is substantial growth.
Even if you watch a dozen or so shows a year, buying those seasons may be less expensive than paying for a cable subscription—and you’ll be able to watch on your TV, computer, phone, or tablet. We looked at 16 of the most popular TV shows across different networks back in 2016 (including Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Mr. Robot, The Blacklist, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and the average price for a full season of these shows from the Google Play store was just under $25. On iTunes they were just under $32 a season, while on Amazon they were just about $29. Given that the average monthly cable bill at the start of that year was $99 per household, you could afford to buy between 38 and 48 TV-show seasons a year, depending on where you buy them, for the same price as cable, and have more flexibility in watching them. (This calculation doesn’t include shows that are exclusive to Netflix or Amazon, as you would have to subscribe to those services even if you have cable.)
What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There’s now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs even when they’re outside the home.
Recently, I tried out (and returned) so many that I worked my way down to this one. It was far from my first choice. When I got it, my hopes weren't high. I generally prefer plain black headsets. Having the large "sharkbite" components on the back of the earbuds seemed unnecessary and ostentatious. I'm not a fan of how the earbud tips are forced ... full review
WOW you get all that for $157 per month. I should be so lucky. We are paying $328 per month and are livid. Although we do rent 2 DVRs and have HBO, MAX. SHOW and STARZ . This cable company is horrible and its only competition is satellite and the internet options Kayla has explained. On top of that we live 50 miles south of DC and an antenna up to 20 feet high gets us poor reception on 3 channels with a quality hdtv antenna. I mam checking into these alternatives but the hard part is getting our favorite channels.
The one thing that holds people back from pulling the plug on their cable or satellite subscription is live sports and local TV stations. They want to watch tv without cable, and they are concerned that they will not be able to catch all of their favorite games and live events. While it is a valid concern, there are so many ways to view local channels without cable now!
An antenna is your means of access to local programming when cutting cable TV. If you want an in-depth guide for the information required for an optimal antenna solution, you should check out my antenna guide. Setting up an antenna may be seamless, or it may be the most difficult thing you do when canceling cable. There are numerous variables involved in television signals and antennas. If you are having a difficult time with this, the antenna guide makes this task easier.
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No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.
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…
Pluto TV: Pluto turns online video sources into cable-like channels that you can flip through, and many of those sources cover the news. Install this app, and you can tune into round-the-clock feeds from NBC, CNBC, TYT Network, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, RT America, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast
On both Roku devices and Apple TV, much of the best content does require a pay per view fee or subscription, so you'll want to keep an eye on how many you buy. And there are a growing number of apps like HBO Go that are restricted to those still with a cable/satellite TV subscription. But even if you never venture much beyond Netflix and Hulu Plus, you're getting a lot of content for very little money.
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
"Who wouldn't like to go from a $100+ cable TV bill with a bunch of channels we never watch to $25 for basically the ones we *do* watch? Yes, there are limits (mainly local TV, but it appears that may be coming soon). We're just glad that we no longer have to be affected by the cable stranglehold and the lack of response to customers who are looking for choice. Do it."
A lot of these shows are from years ago, so binging one episode after the other is a go. However, if you're watching a new one and you're not in Japan, keeping up can get difficult with other services. While other streaming sites (like 123movies) may not have new episodes up until a day later, Crunchyroll posts them within the hour. PCMag's review writes:
Warning: This article may give you a headache — and if reading an article about the best way to cut the cable cord causes pain, imagine researching and writing it. The post-cable options are overwhelming, and no one solution does it all, although watching live sports without cable is no longer a problem. There are crazy contradictions to consider, such as how sometimes “triple-play” bundles (TV, Internet and phone) are actually cheaper than “double-play” options (Internet and phone) because of specials. But in all the confusion, one thing is clear: Cable TV is expensive. Americans spent an average of $103 a month — $1,236 a year — on cable television in 2016, according to Leichtman Research Group. So that’s the number to beat.
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.
Great! You’re already half way there! What I would do next is take a look at Hulu, Sling TV, CBS All Access, etc. to find out which option has the majority of what you want to see. If that company does not cover sports you may have to purchase an add on for it. As far as local sports, you might consider an antenna if you can’t get coverage otherwise.
With the Digital Starter package starting at $49.99 per month, Xfinity comes in with the best all-around package out of all our recommended TV providers. The channel selection for Xfinity’s entry package is pretty similar to DISH’s base-level package (including channels like ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Discovery). It’s also a better bargain than the satellite service (and the next-closest cable TV provider, Spectrum) by about $10 per month.
Active: Active HDMI cables have a small chip built into the cable that takes a little power from the device's connector, and uses it to boost the signal. These cables cost a little extra, but are far more likely to work. A long passive cable might work for you, but it might not. It depends on your gear. Since they're not significantly more expensive, they're worth considering for any long run.
Most HDTVs made these days have a built in digital tuner. If you bought it a few years ago before the new digital tuners were as common, and it was only advertised as an HDTV monitor, that could be the only caveat. Basically if it has a tuner built in usually it will have a video source on the unit called “TV” or something along those lines. Just plug in an antenna, go to the menu, and have it scan for channels. If you have a tuner those options should be there.
Lastly, Boxee's selection of streaming apps is huge, but the quantity is more impressive than the quality. Hulu and Amazon are both missing from its list, along with a lot of other heavy hitters that devices like the Roku have available (note that you can get Hulu via an unofficial plugin to one of the other apps, but it isn't perfect). If your main goal is to stream content from internet networks like Revision3, TWiT, TED, and others of that nature, the Boxee will suit you fine. Otherwise, it may seem like it's missing some of the more important stuff. However, it does make good use of what it has with its "universal search" feature, similar to what I love about Google TV: if you search for a TV show, it'll show you the different places you can stream it. The universal search feature doesn't support Netflix like Google TV's does, but it's still pretty handy to have, especially when you have so many streaming channels available to you.
The reason American consumers are abandoning their cable subscriptions is not a mystery: It’s expensive, and cheaper online alternatives are everywhere. But who exactly is responsible for the slow demise of the original way Americans paid for television? That’s a far trickier question. The answer can be traced to a few decisions in recent years that have set the stage for this extraordinarily lucrative and long-lived business model to unravel: licensing reruns to Netflix Inc., shelling out billions for sports rights, introducing slimmer bundles, and failing to promote a Netflix killer called TV Everywhere.
When I cut the cord last year, it was so refreshing! Anyone that is looking to do it, just needs to rip off the band-aid, because it will sting a little bit. I missed not having the option to DVR my shows, but the end result was not watching as many. Right now, I have an antenna (which I bought for about $60), and I pay monthly for CBS All Access ($9.99/month, no commercials). Let’s just say I am a fan of All Access. If anyone is looking for shows to watch on CBS – try Salvation, Elementary, or NCIS:LA for prime-time shows, and Big Brother, Survivor, and Amazing Race for reality TV.
"I'm a huge science nut, and love my documentaries. This app is loaded with excellent information. I've watched videos on everything from quantum physics to the formation of solar systems to the birth and death of stars to interplanetary robotics. I can't get enough. But there's a lot more than that. Singularity, nanobots, climate change, space exploration, astronomy, and everything under every sun that we know about so far."
3/22/16 UPDATE: It's been one month, and I'm still discovering little things. Quite by accident, while viewing a live channel, I pressed the pause button, which froze the picture. On hitting play, the show started from the very beginning, and I noticed "Time Shifting" appear on the screen. I haven't duplicated this, but I believe this is how you may start a live show from the beginning, should you tune in a bit late.
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.