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.
Watching professional sports without cable is a tougher nut to crack and, depending on the event, you may have no choice but to head to your local sports bar. Even with cable, however, there's no guarantee you'll be able to access your favorite team's game. Fortunately, professional sports associations are getting in on the online action and streaming some or all of their televised games via paid subscriber network.
Prime Video not only has thousands of TV shows and movies available to stream on-demand. You can also subscribe to add-ons if you want to get access to more channels and content. There are Amazon Video add-ons for: Showtime, HBO, Acorn TV, Comedy Central Standup, Cheddar, Con TV, Comic Con, Curiosity Stream, History Vault, and more. See the chart below for the full list of channels you can get with Amazon Prime Video.
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.
During the 2008 South Ossetia War, RT correspondent William Dunbar resigned after the network refused to let him report on Russian airstrikes of civilian targets, stating, "any issue where there is a Kremlin line, RT is sure to toe it." According to Variety, sources at RT confirmed that Dunbar had resigned, but rejected that it was over bias. One senior RT journalist told the magazine, "the Russian coverage I have seen has been much better than much of the Western coverage... When you look at the Western media, there is a lot of genuflection towards the powers that be. Russian news coverage is largely pro-Russia, but that is to be expected."
Also, all of the channels available from any of these cord cutting options are not offered by Comcast. The premium line-ups have to be purchased separately. So, trying to get multiple TVs with full DVR functionality, as well as keeping enough bandwidth for those times when a household is very busy, means not one of these cord cutting choices make any sense. They are over-priced, unless you are a single TV household or live in an area where OTA TV, cable, and phone service is very limited. I hate that Comcast has the upper hand. Verizon was blocked from putting FIOS in my area because I live in Comcast’s backyard. They have all the local politicians in their pocket. These companies like Sling, VUE, and the rest of them, want to see more cord cutting. They need to start putting all the preferred channels in their line-ups and making some offers where packaging premium stations gives a discount. This ala-cart pricing sucks to high heaven. It only benefits those who NEED a cord cutting option. But, it does nothing special for those who are using Comcast.
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.
DirecTV is another service with high channels counts and multiple package tiers. Like PS Vue, it’s close to the experience you’ll get with cable or satellite when it comes to available channels. In August 2018, DirecTV Now took a major leap forward for football fans, adding the NFL Network to several of its base packages. While competitors like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have offered the NFL Network for some time, it was one of just a few key channels missing from a service known for its channel count. Subscribers of the Just Right package and above now have the channel, meaning it’s only missing from the $40-per-month Live a Little package.
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).
If you only wanted to watch certain shows, you could double check on Hulu or one of the other Playon supported services (CBS streaming for example), and see if those shows are streamed through their online services. if they are, you should be able to use playon at no extra charge. I know for a fact that CSI shows up in Playon, as we watch that show quite regularly. I’m not sure about the other one.
To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2018’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
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.
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?
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!
Philo does lack the comprehensive app and device support of its rivals. For a long time only Roku, iOS devices, and the Chrome browser were supported, but the service came to the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices in July 2018. Philo claims even more devices are on the way, but for now, the truncated device support is a drawback. That said, if you have a supported device and don’t mind skipping sports and the big networks (or can find them with an antenna), Philo is the most affordable way to get live TV. For more on the service, check out our Philo guide.
I’m a senior citizen on a very fixed income, living in subsidized housing. We are restricted from using anything outside, such as a dish or antenna. That leaves us residents with only one option, a well-known cable service for which I was paying $152 for internet and expanded basic TV. My upcoming payment was being raised another $5+, and before that there had been a $7 increase. I watch so few of the channels I get, so since I received a Firestick for Christmas, I called to cancel my cable and was told my internet would now cost double what it is! I was offered 2 different bundles to keep it from increasing, but they still weren’t affordable, and I called it quits on the cable. I’ll be paying $79 for internet now. (The rep told me I should increase my speed since I’d probably be streaming a lot more without cable.)
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Cable TV is best enjoyed from every room of the house, and you do not need to have a cable box to connect your cable to another room. Even without a cable box, you can still watch your cable from multiple TV sets in your house. This is all legal and does not require any special technical skills, and the process is not dangerous. In fact, you can get this process done within an hour.
As you might expect from its namesake satellite TV service, DirecTV Now is one of the most traditional offerings here. Its base $40 package has more worthwhile channels than any of the others, and you can get pretty much any channel (except NFL Red Zone, absent from many competitors too) as you step up. A recent redesign brought with it a DVR and enhanced on-demand options. During our DirecTV Now review, the Roku app didn't work as we expected -- we couldn't pause live TV, for example -- but in its defense, the service does offer the very cable-like ability to channel surf by swiping left and right. It also offers deals on streaming devices and benefits for AT&T Wireless customers, including discounts and being able to stream on your phone without using mobile data.
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!
Google Fiber is really changing the ISP game. Every city they begin offering high-speed broadband in immediately sparks price competition. While they offer gigabit internet at $70 per month, you can also get a 25 Mbps internet connection for only $15 per month. This easily makes them the best internet service provider for those looking to cut the cord.
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 ?
Otherwise, it’s fairly standard. Sling Orange subscribers will have access to a single stream, while Blue allows for up to three streams simultaneously. As for other features, VOD (video on demand), pause/rewind/fast forwarding and “catch-up watching” are content specific. For DVR, users will have to add another $5 for 50 hours of cloud DVR. Despite the extra cost, the good news is that cloud DVR is available on just about every Sling TV-supported device except for the Xfinity X1. You can get the gist of everything Sling TV has to offer by reading our Sling TV guide.
In broad strokes, the build and material quality is much more important in long HDMI cables than short. Over 15ft/3m there is a much higher chance that a mediocre cable won't work, or won't work at the resolution you want. This still doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune on a long cable, there are plenty of options for roughly the same price per-foot as the ones mentioned above. It does mean that no-name cables might be less likely to work.
You probably want amplification, unless you're living next door to the local broadcast tower. They don't make the signal stronger coming in the house; they make an already low signal strong enough for the TV tuner to use. Even some of the flat antennas have amplification options; but amplification ups the cost. Setup is easy, but you'll have to play with the antenna position to maximize reception—just like fiddling with rabbit ear antennas in the 1970s. Some outdoor antennas can work from inside if they're up high—say in your attic—if there isn't a lot of obstruction.
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.
Spectrum is now requiring a box for all TVs to receive their signal. I have a TV in the basement that I use while exercising and watch only news programs. Is their a way I can use one of your suggestions that will allow me to watch the news. Or are MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc by definition only cable channels. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix and would love to cut the cable if there were a way to also get these news channels. Thanks.
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.
You can watch most of your favorite network shows by simply streaming them directly from the networks' web sites. They're often available a few hours after they air, and regularly have additional goodies like behind-the-scenes footage or teasers for upcoming episodes. In addition to official network sites, more and more useful tools are popping up every day to help you get your TV fix online.
Cable and satellite companies curate content to offer a variety of channels, and they deliver this content to customers through a variety of technologies. Cable television services are delivered using cable strung along power lines or buried underground, while satellite TV service is beamed to a satellite dish located on the property, which then sends content to the television set.
But cable providers didn't factor in that the internet they provide would become their worst enemy via access to streaming video. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are the most well-known names in what's become known as "cord cutting"—doing away with pay TV and using over-the-air (like the old days) or internet-based services to get all your "television" programming. That means no more paying a huge monthly fee for thousands of hours of TV you don't watch (in theory). Instead, you pay individual services for a la carte programming. It's a lot like paying for just what you watch. Almost.
FuboTV offers two plans. The first, “Fubo, includes more than 70 channels for $45 per month, and the second, “Fubo Extra,” bumps the package up to 80-plus channels for $50, though your first month on either plan will be discounted by $5. Both plans include a healthy mix of both sports and nonsports channels, such as NBC Sports Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and the Pac-12 Network on the sports side, along with staples like HGTV, FX, and widespread local network channel support on the other. In August 2018, FuboTV signed a multiyear deal bringing the Turner networks — including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, TCM, and HLN — to the service. Not only did the service add these channels, but it did so without upping the price.
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.
Unlike some of the other streaming services available, Fubo.tv is marketed directly at sports fans. It has access to most of the standard sports channels, like NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports 1, but it notably does not include ESPN. In lieu of the worldwide leader, Fubo.tv includes the most robust combination of specialized sports stations. Fans of international soccer and major college football conferences with their own networks, in particular, should be satisfied by the service’s access to the Big Ten Network, Pac 12 Network, and BeIN Sports. Fubo.tv also provides access to certain regional sports networks, depending on where you live. In New York, we found that Fubo.tv subscribers could stream programming from the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games.
Charm, just to be fair, cable and satellite both give “free” viewing of select channels at various times. I would get an email notice from my satellite provider, which of course I routinely ignored because “it’s advertising”. Then I’d discover the channel and LOVE it and it would disappear. Well, that’s because it was a tickler and I would have to pay extra to get it regularly. So, when you say they take it away and you still get charges, you misunderstood their program. They let you have a free peek and if you love it, you can pay to have it all the time. It’s actually great marketing! We ended up with ID Discovery because my husband and I fell in love with Joe Kenda and let me tell you we paid for it!
Hood Canal’s cable offers something for everyone. The major networks that carry all the shows you want; specialty channels to appeal to your personal tastes; premium channels with great movies and original programming; Pay-Per-View channels and 50 digital music stations. So no matter what you are looking for – you will find it on Hood Canal Communication’s Cable TV.