Many services offer on-demand shows from the big four majors, often with a day or two delay, even if the live network affiliate isn't available. But that doesn't help much if you want to watch the local news or live sports, such as football. (Many local stations throughout the country also offer apps on Roku and other devices that deliver live or tape-delayed on-demand versions of just the local news, too.)
The thing about internet-delivered TV is that you need a broadband connection that’s copacetic with the streaming lifestyle. This may seem like a foregone conclusion, but we want to make it clear that if you’re going to bet your precious entertainment future on your network, you best have a solid hookup. Netflix and other similar streaming video services suggest a minimum downstream speed of 5Mbps for HD streaming, but that simply is not going to hack it for most folks, especially those with families streaming more than one show or movie at a time.
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.
Skinny bundles are over-the-top (streaming) solutions that resemble cable and satellite subscriptions almost everywhere except for on your monthly bill. Skinny bundles tend to be slimmer than cable packages (hence the name), ditching some of the less important channels and keeping a core group of popular networks available for far less than the cable giants charge. Among the key channels featured in these slimmed-down bundles are local major network (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) affiliates from around the country. The bad news is that availability of live local major network feeds will vary by region, but the good news is that it's easy to check out the selection in your region by taking advantage of the free trials available with each of the services we've listed below.
It could be true that choosing one of these options won’t get you all of shows you could get with cable. However, if you truly want to get rid of cable, knowing what some of the options are can help you choose the BEST one. Then you can make the decision of whether or not it is worth it to spend the additional money to get the extra one or two channels through cable OR sacrifice one or two shows to save a BUNCH of money. It just depends your priorities.
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.
Setting it up is a cinch: just fire up the Roku, go through its initial setup wizard, and start adding channels from its easy-to-browse library. The Roku's remote is a bit big, clunky, and ugly, but it only has a few buttons, making it easy to use. Furthermore, the Roku does a great job of offloading the more complicated processes—like signing into Netflix, Hulu, and other services—to your computer. Instead of using the remote to log in, the Roku gives you a PIN number that you enter in a browser on your computer, linking it to your different accounts. This particular task may seem complicated to first-time users, but it really is a lot more convenient than doing it from the remote.
There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
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.
Cord cutting is, ultimately, a budgeting decision. It's about looking at big, dumb, overpriced cable and deciding it's not worth it. But what you think is worth it is up to you and only you. If you want to cancel cable and replace it with nothing and live in a cabin in the woods, that's cord cutting. If you decide to replace cable with Netflix and an over-the-air antenna because you like live broadcast television and are willing to replace live network TV with on-demand network TV shows, well, that's cord cutting, too. And if you replace cable with DIRECTV NOW's “Gotta Have It!” bundle and pay $70 a month for 130+ channels, yes, that's cord cutting, too.
You’d be surprised Vicki, many can’t part with either for some reason. That said, taking a look at that site there are very few series available on it so it wouldn’t be a good option for many. I’d also disagree that you can get most of what you want to watch online. For many they’ll want or need a streaming services to replace the channels/shows they watch most.
I cut the cord TODAY! I purchased a $25 indoor antenna thru Amazon. Where I live, I cannot get Dish, DirecTV, or even Cell Service. I couldn’t wait to rid myself of TWC! So, I’m shocked that with this antenna I’m receiving 15 channels. Of the 15, two are for kids and eight are basically old, brought-back series I once loved but no longer hold my attention or interest. So, I’m left with 5 channels that are sorta-kinda decent. It’s not great, but it’s okay. Considering that I am saving $732 a year, I can live with that and thank God I still have the internet so I can watch live news and probably get some other live shows that I’ll miss watching on TV. I will see how that goes. I just WISH I had one decent World News channel, like CNN, MSN or Fox, and one decent renovations channel as well as one forensics/true crime channel. Then my TV watching world would be perfect!
My college age kid went into a bit of shock for the first few days and then found time to spend at a local bookstore (I see that as an improvement). I did invest in a regular ole’ antenna for the TV, so I can catch the local channels (which are about 50 here in TX), and after reading your article purchased a Roku 3. My kid has an Xbox, Wii, and PS3 so streaming online content was already possible, I got the Roku for the main television and not to cause another issue of “shell shock” by taking over the kid’s PS3.
YouTube TV ($40/mo.): YouTube’s newest venture entered the market as one of the cheapest and simplest. Its channel package is small, there aren’t that many add-ons at the moment, and the service isn’t even available in every city or town in the United States yet (although the range is expanding every day; check here for updates). But if watching local stations live matters a lot to you, then you should know that YouTube TV is making that the cornerstone of its business — along with unlimited DVR cloud storage and enough portability that you should be able to shift easily from one device to another while watching a show you’ve recorded.
Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.
Prime Video is a nice hybrid of an all-you-can-eat streaming service like Netflix, plus a video-on-demand store, with plenty of original content to go with it. It's "free" to anyone with a Prime account, which is best known for giving customers free two-day shipping—but you can also get Prime Video for $8.99 a month as a standalone service, with none of the other Amazon extras.
Laura M. LaVoie resides in a 120 square foot house in the mountains of Western North Carolina. There she has a solid internet connection and access to some of the best craft beer in the country. Email her at [email protected] Disclosure: Streaming Observer is supported by readers. Articles may contain referral links. For more information, see the disclosure at the bottom of the page.
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.
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.
Perhaps KMSL is expressing her disgust for an “unsightly antenna” on someone else’s property. All utilities are underground, and there is this terrible obstruction to a clear sky view, lol?. Growing up, it was a sign of distinction and prosperity when someone had an antenna on their roof, because it suggested they had a television! I remember, when some of us 16-year-olds would drive around with the windows up in the heat of summer to make others think we had air conditioning in our cars.. it’s interesting how status symbols have changed..
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 ?
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.
I currently pay 263.00 per month for cable,internet and home phone. I don’t even use the home phone because I have my cell phone for everything.I tried to get the Cable company to take the phone off my plan thinking it would be cheaper but to my surprise my monthly bill would have increased even more. With that said, tomorrow I’m canceling my C*X Cable Service and going with HULU. The only other thing I have to pay for is the High Speed Internet connection. I think paying that much for television is ridiculous and I have been paying this for the last 4 years and I’m done..It’s not worth it and it’s a rip off plain & simple. I researched many articles on cutting the cord but thanks to this site and it members, I have been convinced and sold. Thank You for the honest article and comments.
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.
One of the advantages of unplugging from the physical cable sticking out of a socket in your home is that you’re free to enjoy the entertainment you’re paying for on any screen you happen to have handy, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Many streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, keep track of what you’re watching and will let you pause a show or movie on one device, then pick it up later on another device.
Personally, I have a 50 Mbps connection through a Verizon Fios internet only plan. They have competitive pricing for internet service. Furthermore, the quality of service is excellent, and the customer support is much better than other major competitors. See if they are available in your area by checking this promo page. I was able to get their service at a great price using that link.
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
On TVGN itself, during the weeks prior to the Emmys, shows that have been nominated were also highlighted in gold. The same gold highlighting could be seen during the lead-up to the Academy Awards to denote past Oscar-winning movies. Titles for other special programs used various types of graphical treatment within the grid cells; for example, programs aired as part of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week event had a bubbly water graphical scheme; during the lead-up to Halloween, horror movie titles featured spiderwebs in their schemes, and holiday movie titles listed during December were shaded in blue and snow-covered. Similar important shows and/or premieres have had other special graphical schemes added to their grid cells.
Beginning in late March 1993, Prevue Networks overhauled the Prevue Guide software, this time to modernize its appearance. Still operating on the same Amiga 2000 hardware, the old grid's black background with white text separated by colored lines gave way to a new, embossed-looking navy blue grid featuring 90 minutes of scheduling information for each channel. Arrow symbols were added to listings for programs whose start or end times stretched beyond that timeframe, and for viewer convenience, local cable operators could now configure the grid's scrolling action to momentarily pause for up to four seconds after each screenful of listings. Additionally, local cable operators could enable light grey sports and movie summaries within the grid. Appearing between each listings cycle, these showed all films and sporting events airing on any channel during the next 90 minutes.