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.
Hulu With Live TV ($39.99/mo.): The package varies from region to region, but for the most part this is one of the most conveniently cable-like services out there. It has most of the major basic cable channels — including ESPN and the big cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) — and some local broadcast channels. The base price also includes everything that standard Hulu has to offer and up to 50 hours of DVR recording of live telecasts. For additional fees, users can eliminate commercials on Hulu shows, expand the DVR storage and add subscriptions to HBO, Cinemax and Showtime.
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.
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
The network was originally conceived in 1981 as a barker channel service providing a display of localized channel and program listings for cable television providers. Later on, the service, branded Prevue Channel or Prevue Guide and later as Prevue, began to broadcast interstitial segments alongside the on-screen guide, which included entertainment news and promotions for upcoming programs. After Prevue's parent company, United Video Satellite Group, acquired the entertainment magazine TV Guide in 1998 (UVSG would in turn, be acquired by Gemstar the following year), the service was relaunched as TV Guide Channel (later TV Guide Network), which now featured full-length programs dealing with the entertainment industry, including news magazines and reality shows, along with red carpet coverage from major award shows.
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.
When we went through the ordering process for Spectrum and got all the way to the check-out, we realized we never got to choose which DVR we wanted. Spectrum offers both Motorola and Cisco DVRs (neither of which stand out from competitor DVRs like the Genie or Hopper 3), and as far as we can tell, you get whichever one Spectrum decides to send you.
Once you have a TV that is “digital ready”, all you need to do is install a TV antenna. I installed the Mohu Sky 60 outdoor antenna on my roof and now I receive all the major local broadcast networks. Mohu also makes quality indoor antennas like The Mohu Curve and Mohu Leaf. If you are interested in purchasing a Mohu antenna, check my Mohu promo page for a big discount.
While some services like Hulu live TV provide NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS to many, you may still want to look into getting a TV Antenna. It allows you to watch free broadcast TV, with access to networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and more. The over the air broadcast TV available changes depending on where you live in relation to your closest TV towers. Thankfully, antenna maker Mohu has put together a tool that shows you which TV channels are available in your area. They also show which channels you should expect to receive for each of their antennas.
The Amazon Fire TV has gone through a few iterations now, getting better with each one. The current version is a veritable revolution in streaming boxes, offering simple operation, as well as the ability to control your entire home theater and smart home system with your voice. That includes the ability to turn on and control basic functionality on other devices, including not only your TV, but also your A/V receiver and even your cable box thanks to CEC control and IR blasters — all with the power of your own voice. The result earned the Cube a perfect score in our recent review and a place on our TV console.
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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.
Now consider all of the services we've mentioned above, not even factoring in the cost of buying a media hub or smart TV if needed. Assuming you need subscriptions to all of them to get as thorough a cross section of channels as you'd get with cable, it's not cheap. Remember, all these prices are before applicable tax and with the lowest tier of service.
Another option for the serious bargain seeker is to find the previous generation’s model on a site like eBay, though we obviously can’t vouch for any reliability there. While the previous generation Apple TV is definitely showing its age (and lacks 4K support), it’s still very handy for Apple fans thanks to AirPlay, which easily allows you to stream media from your iPhone or iPad to the TV. Either way, if you’re a big-time Apple fan, the Apple TV 4K is likely to be a viable choice as your streaming hub.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
Unfortunately, with some pay-per-view exceptions, you can’t buy live sports programming à la carte. Sports programming is one of the main reasons for big cable bills—ESPN and other sports channels demand the highest per-channel fees from cable and satellite services, and those fees get passed on to you even if you don’t watch sports. So cord-cutting combined with à la carte is more feasible for non-sports fans. If you do watch sports, we have more about your options below.
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Hi Peter, I’m sorry to sound so ignorant, but I have no Internet service, cable or satellite t.v. We do have a xbox. Is there a way to watch t.v. through our xbox? Please tell me if there is. We are so tired of watching our same DVD’S over and over. My son’s are nine and eleven, so they get really tired of the DVD’S. Could you please send me an email? Thank you so much!
Today you've got plenty of options. Six major services -- DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV -- stream multiple channels of live TV over the Internet, including local channels. Each has its plusses and minuses, including pricing (starting at $25 per month), features (like cloud DVRs) and user interface, but the biggest differentiator is channel lineup.