Join the club! Some of us at Lifehacker HQ have already left or are ready to leave the cable company for 24/7 live TV streaming, too. We get this question all the time, and we've examined ditching the monthly bill in favor of watching programs online occasionally in the past, and we've also looked at ways to get your TV fix with apps like Boxee and Hulu, plus there are cool set-top devices like Roku and TiVo, but this is a good opportunity to get exhaustive. There are so many great options for catching a show here or there, but can you rely on them to replicate the cable TV experience? Well, yes and no.
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!
Can you please help me. I live in Mexico. I have a Shaw box and get cable from Canada. They are changing so I need to change. I have no idea what to do. Some people here have Roku, others have Netflix. I have a JVC and Samsung purchased in Mexico. I like to watch the British dramas Shaw offers on my 5 PBS channels. I also watch HGTV and vet shows. I have read a lot, but am confused. What do I do?
There is a $10-per-month add-on channel for sports and $4.99-per-month one for Spanish channels. Perhaps the best feature on PS Vue: a cloud-based DVR for storing up to 500 programs to watch whenever you like. Also, you can use the "TV Everywhere" apps that many cable channels have that require a cable subscription—but by authenticating them with PlayStation Vue. And you can pause or rewind or fast forward on every channel. All of them.
Another approach to cord cutting is an online streaming package similar to traditional cable or satellite TV plans. Several companies now offer variations of this idea: PlayStation Vue from Sony (which works without a PlayStation console, despite the name), Sling TV from Dish Network, DirecTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV (not to be confused with YouTube Red), Philo, and Fubo.tv. Their services cost $16 to $40 per month, for their most basic plans, and they offer largely the same variety of channels as cable but give you a different experience than cable or satellite—one with both benefits and disadvantages.
You'll want an Omni-directional antenna if the TV broadcast towers are scattered around the home. An Omni-directional antenna is typically round-shaped like a disc and receives TV signals equally from all directions (360 degrees). If the TV broadcast towers are in the same general direction from the home (example: all towers are located north of the home), then a directional antenna can be used instead. An advantage of a multi-directional antenna is that it is usually rated for greater distances from the TV towers, and it can be pointed to receive maximum reception of these signals.
For the base price, you get on-demand stuff from almost all of the networks (but not The CW) and even get them live in some markets. There are lots of basic cable stations (minus Viacom-owned stations like SyFy and Comedy Central). Each new tier of service adds more channels, going up to $44.99 to add some sports programming, and $54.99 for 90 channels, ending with $74.99—that Ultra package has those 90 channels plus paid cable services HBO and Showtime (but no Starz) for a little less than adding them separately.
ISP’s vary by location. I’m maintaining a list of providers with affordable internet only plans you can use to cut the cord. If you can’t find one on that page, try your existing provider. Now I know the “big” internet providers seem only to offer “triple play” packages bundling phone, TV, and internet. However, if you dig around on their site you should be able to find an internet service offering.
“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
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
Thanks for mentioning Fancast. We think our offerings are second to none, and in addition to Fox and NBC shows like Family Guy or The Office, we ALSO have great Viacom hits like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and South Park – as well as an extensive collection of classics. Your readers might be interested to see the full list of our TV library, all of them free, and full-length of course. It’s at http://www.fancast.com/full_episodes
Following the March 2015 European Council summit which concluded that action was needed to "challenge Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns", the European External Action Service was tasked to respond. European Parliament briefing notes on the situation called RT "Russia's main international media weapon". The counter-propaganda strategy subsequently developed by the EastStratCom Task Force, a small group of eight officials, included launching the EU vs Disinformation website with a headline of "don't be deceived, question even more".
Price: The basic Access plan goes for $34.99/month and provides 49 channels, the Core plan ups the channel selection to over 60 and goes for $44.95/month, the Elite plan provides over 90 channels and goes for $54.95/month, and the top-tier Ultra plan affords the same 90+ channel suite as the Elite plan, while also adding on fancy channels like HBO and Showtime for $74.99/month.
"This is great, and much cheaper than cable! Sucks not having DVR, but they do have a good selection of on demand stuff, and with the fire box I run this through I can also download a lot of channel apps to watch stuff Direct TV Now doesn't stream on demand. Great channel lineup, everyone knows sports channels cost the most, not being much of a sports fan I got no use out of them. But that didn't stop my cable provider from making me get and pay for them with a basic package. So all in all I am very happy with this service, yes a couple of glitches/downers, but the price is right, and the customer care is great. Since cutting the cable I have not looked back."
I have a Samsung S8 plus. Adaptor failed to work initially. I had to set the USB mode to PTP and it worked perfectly. To set the USB mode go to ---> Settings/Developer Options/USB Configuration. If Developer Options isn't in your settings, then go to the About Phone menu in Settings, then find the "Build number" entry and tap on it seven times. Once you've done that, you'll see a message that says "Developer mode has been turned on."
If you're looking to stream from more than a few services, this is the box to get. It's got nearly everything, and you can keep your menu as minimal or as packed as you want. The other services like games are nice, too. If you want to play local files too, you can do so with Plex, but don't expect an insanely full-featured media center out of it. All in all, if streaming is your top priority, get a Roku.
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.
Most sports leagues also have their own streaming services for games: NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, MLB.tv, and NHL.tv let you watch games on your streaming device or computer. Unfortunately, due to blackout rules, you often don’t get access to your local team, which is what many people want to watch most. If you’re a big fan of the sport overall, or if your favorite team isn’t your local team, these services give you access to (almost) all games anywhere you are. Though somewhat expensive, they're priced similarly to getting the games in your cable TV package.
First, the best TV moved from networks to cable. Now a similar transition is moving top talent from cable to the streaming world. Netflix ($8.99 per month for HD streaming) has House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—all of which have received almost universal acclaim—and Amazon ($99 per year for video and a variety of other services) isn’t too far behind with comedy Alpha House, crime drama Bosch, and the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
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.
With thousands of available “channels,” Roku’s platform connects to virtually every major streaming service online. More importantly, the interface is very intuitive; you can quickly search for content across providers by actor, series, or movie titles, or the specific genre you’re looking for. The Roku interface will even tell you which services offer what you want for free, and which will charge for it. The remote is also super handy, allowing you to control power and volume on most TVs as well as voice search at the press of a button.
The lowest pricing tier here offers standard definition streaming on one screen at a time. Mid-tier adds High Def and would allow you to watch a Netflix show on your TV at the same time that another family member was watching something different on his or her own device. The top tier includes 4K streams and covers four screens for simultaneous viewing.
This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.
On January 5, 2009, Lionsgate announced its intent to purchase TV Guide Network and TV Guide Online for $255 million in cash. Lionsgate closed the transaction on March 2, 2009. The following April, Lionsgate announced plans to revamp the network into a more entertainment-oriented channel, including plans to discontinue the bottom-screen scrolling program listings grid that has been a part of the channel since its inception in late 1981; this was partly because internet-based TV listings websites, mobile applications and the on-screen interactive program guides (IPGs) built directly into most modern cable and satellite set-top terminals (such as TV Guide's own IPG software, TV Guide Interactive, which is visually similar in its presentation to the channel's pre-2015 listings grid) as well as into digital video recorders like TiVo eliminated the need for a dedicated television listings channel by providing the same information in a speedier manner, and often in much more detail and with greater flexibility. Even so, the channels that were listed in the grid, long after many providers began offering digital cable service, were usually limited to those within their expanded basic tier, with only select channels on its digital service appearing in a separate grid towards the end of the listings cycle. Following the announcement, Mediacom announced that it would be dropping the network; Time Warner Cable also dropped the network from its Texas systems.
Fios: Offer valid thru 4/3/19 for qualified new custs. Subject to change. Availability varies. Gigabit network connection to your home. Actual speeds vary due to device limits, network and other factors. Avg. speeds betw. 750-940 Mbps download / 750-880 upload. Limited time online offer for new TV and Internet residential customers subscribing to a Fios Triple Play bundle. Promo rates via bill credits and increase after promo period. Price guarantee applies to base monthly rate only. 2-yr. agr. req’d. Beg. mo. 2, up to $350 ETF applies. $12/mo. STB, $12/mo. router charge, $4.49/mo. Broadcast, up to $7.89/mo. Regional Sports Network and $0.99/mo. FDV Admin. fees apply. Other fees, taxes, & terms may apply. Auto Pay (ACH or bank debit card only) & paper-free billing req’d. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit.
Unfortunately, its similarities to Android do it more harm than good. Some apps are clearly ports of tablet apps that don't work very well with a remote, and you'll need to control them with the clunky trackpad or control stick on your remote. Sometimes you'll only need to do this for certain actions, like seeing a movie's info, but in some cases—like with Amazon's absolutely horrendous streaming "app" (which is really just a shortcut to the Amazon Prime web site)—you'll need to use the mouse for everything, which is really not an enjoyable experience. It also has the quirks we've come to know on Android phones, like the occasional force quit or popup confirming a security certificate (which isn't a huge pain, but something regular users will find confusing). All in all, it feels like you're using a computer from your couch, not a set-top box.
While we haven't paid for cable TV, we haven't exactly been deprived, or had to watch only the shows offered by the over the air networks. There are tons of free video options out there! In fact, we actually still watch a lot of the same shows that our friends do. How do we do it you ask? Through a combination of free over-the-air digital TV, free online video services (the legal kind), a video streaming software, super low-cost internet service from FreedomPop, and a Xbox. FreedomPop is a low cost alternative to larger Internet service providers. Right now their plans might be too small for heavy video streaming users, but they're definitely on their way to bigger and better offerings – and they're definitely good enough if you only stream shows a few times a month. You can read more about them on their site.
First, let’s look at the benefits. Since these services stream over the Internet, you can access them using all sorts of devices. For example, a Roku box supports each of them, and apps are available for many other devices—though the quality of those apps varies depending on the platform. You also can use apps on a smartphone or tablet or stream the content through your computer. You have the same freedom to watch where you want as you do with the channel apps covered above.
By the late 1980s, a software upgrade "option" was offered by United Video for the Amiga 1000-based EPG Sr. This updated version featured a program listings grid identical in appearance to that of the original EPG Sr. version, but confined it to the lower half of the screen. In this new split-screen configuration, which was the forerunner to Prevue Guide, the upper half of the screen displayed static or animated graphical advertisements and logos created locally by each cable system operator. Up to 64 such ads were supported by the software, which ranged from ads for local and national businesses to promotions for cable channels carried by the local system. Locally created text-based advertisements were still supported, however, they now also appeared in the top half of the screen – support for showing them within the listings grid as scrolling ads, or beneath it as crawling banner ads, had been removed.
Rather than purchasing TV Guide Channel carriage rights, some services such as Optimum and Bright House Networks created their own scrolling listings grids, with Optimum's occasionally being interrupted by full-screen commercials, and otherwise featuring banner ads accompanied by music. Bright House's version featured a video inlay of a local news station instead of banner ads, with its overall on-screen presentation otherwise matching that of Optimum's. Other cable providers that did not carry TV Guide Channel carried a similar television listings channel provided by entertainment and listings website Zap2It. DirecTV did not begin carrying the TV Guide Channel until 2004, and began carrying it in an entirely full-screen format (without the bottom listings grid) in 2005. This was also the case with Dish Network, which aired the network in full-screen format to avoid duplication of its set top receiver-integrated IPG, also provided by Gemstar-TV Guide (another satellite provider, Primestar, had also carried the channel with the grid included, until it merged with DirecTV in 1999 shortly after the rebrand to TV Guide Channel).
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
The hardware is nice, even though it's a bit bigger than other similar devices. The remote is also quite good, acting as a minimal, Apple TV-like remote on one side with a mini keyboard on the other. The keyboard makes a huge difference, but doesn't feel like it makes the remote overly complicated. If I had one complaint, it's that the keyboard is a little hard to type on—especially because it requires you to hold down Alt or Shift to get numbers or capital letters, unlike similar keyboards you'd find on phones. It's just a little off-putting at first. But overall, the remote is really great.
The Sling TV local channel offering is dependent on your level of service, your geographic location, and Sling TV’s contractual and other rights to distribute local channels. Not all local channels may be purchased from Sling TV today, and some local channel content may include blackout restrictions. Explore our channels and discover what service you need to receive them here.
YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.
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.