To be honest, if you've got a decent laptop and a nice TV, with an HDMI cable between them you have all you need to be a cord cutter. Stream on your laptop and watch on the big screen. Or use your phone; the apps out there for casting or mirroring what you see on the phone to the TV are too numerous to mention. (Read How to Connect Your iPhone or iPad to Your TV for more.)
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
A live TV streaming service is exactly what it sounds like: a pay TV solution that streams over the internet. The live local and network channels are exactly the same as they are on cable, though – only the way that they’re delivered is different. These services tend to offer smaller channel bundles (hence the “skinny” part of the “skinny bundle” moniker), which makes for lower prices.
General idea: PSA for gamers: PlayStation Vue is a super easy way to seamlessly slide from gaming to that new episode you're trying to watch without switching outputs. (Many other streaming services don't support viewing on Playstation, and if they do, it's only on PS4.) Vue's channel lineup is pretty stellar, with the lowest tier plan offering nearly 50 channels including ESPN, Disney, TBS, and Discovery. Vue allows simultaneous streaming on five devices at once, including a PS4, PS3, plus three other devices — so the whole house can use it even if they've never touched a PlayStation in their life. This also means five virtually unlimited DVRs.
Did you know Hulu streams Live TV? Hulu’s Live service currently stream live ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and The CW in several markets. Use this handy zip code tool to see which local channels are available in your area. It will also tell you which cable channels are available! You can get live FOX, CBS, ABC, and NBC in most areas in the U.S. These are the same local affiliate networks you see over the air and on cable.
DirecTV Now offers a base DVR for free, with 20 hours of recording per month, and will store recorded content for up to 30 days, after which it will be deleted to make room for new recordings. If that’s not quite enough for you, an upgrade is available for $10 per month that increases your DVR allowances to 100 recording hours and up to 90 days for storage. While these DVR features are better than most, it’s worth noting that DirecTV Now’s True Cloud DVR has a severe limitation on channels that can be paused, fast-forwarded, or rewound compared to other services. On the plus side, though, you’ll be able to watch all your DVR content from any device, even when on mobile devices outside your home Wi-Fi network. Recent updates also now allow HBO and Cinemax programming on the DVR service.
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.)
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.
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