Hulu ($7.99/mo., $11.99/mo.): Hulu’s original content isn’t as copious or as impressive as Netflix’s, but it did just win the first ever “Best Dramatic Series” Emmy for a subscription streaming service, courtesy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Hulu is also becoming more and more of a boon to TV buffs, thanks to a growing library of classic older shows, as well as some current ABC, NBC, and Fox series. (In fact, one of Hulu’s main selling-points for cord-cutters is it has deals to allow subscribers to watch the most recent episode or episodes of much of those networks’ programming.) The lower price tier includes commercial breaks. The higher tier kills the ads. Hulu also has an option to add live TV (starting at $39.99/mo.), covered further down.
For those looking for "cable lite" in the form of small packaged cable subscriptions from services like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, we've got a list of the best streaming live TV services. Keep in mind, though, that most of these services don't offer unlimited access to broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. What I'm referring to is the ability to watch any broadcast channel available in your area.
Of course, as mentioned above, watching live sports through a streaming service means you’ll suffer a bit of a delay. If you’re watching the game on your own, you probably won’t notice, but you won’t want to follow along on Twitter or read text messages from your friends if you want to avoid spoilers. (Wirecutter staffers sometimes notice the neighbors yelling after an exciting play only to see it happen on our TVs 15 to 30 seconds later.) And if you’re using an older media streamer, we’ve found that Sling TV can start to stutter and lag after streaming a football game for two-plus hours; we “fix” the problem by restarting the app during a commercial break.
My basic problem is that we pay so much money with cable TV. As mentioned we get all these weird channels that we can’t understand the language, once you get a channel you really like the cable company takes it away and dosen’t replace it with anything but still charges you the same or more money, and there is more comercials than programming. I am really sick of this. I am really ready to cut the cord. Thanks for all of the information that this forum has provided. I will look into some of them.
Live sports is admittedly the Achilles heel of streaming video services. The enormous licensing payments that pro sports leagues generate from cable networks simply puts them beyond the reach of Internet TV, with its significantly smaller viewing audience. Certainly, if your day isn't complete without updates from ESPN and ESPN 2, cutting the cable cord isn't yet a feasible option. But the situation is not quite as dire as you may think. Remember, an antenna gets you free OTA broadcasts, so you can watch big events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and the Olympics. Home market NFL games are still on free TV as well (though they are subject to blackout restrictions if the stadium doesn't sell out).
Apple TV ($149 - $199): Similar to the Amazon Fire, the Apple TV is fantastic for dedicated Mac families, allowing them to sync programing between iPhones, iPads and laptops. Apple also has one of the better interfaces for finding and organizing content, with an app simply called “TV” that’s designed to function a lot like a DVR, keeping the latest episodes of your favorite shows in an easily accessible queue. Note: Netflix shows can be searched via the "TV" app, but they can't be added to its queue; users are simply redirected to the Netflix app.
Since moving back to New York City and dropping TV service, my Time Warner Cable Internet-only plan costs $40 per month (I'm excluding the $5 promotional discount) for 15Mbps service. The flagship Roku 3 box I'm using costs $103 with sales tax (you can of course choose a lower-priced model). After getting the Roku I signed up for the $8 per month Hulu Plus account. I've always had Netflix in addition to my cable/satellite subscription so I'm not factoring my $8 monthly subscription for that service into the equation.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
The only real downside of the Roku is that it can be a little slow from time to time. The interface, while easy to use, isn't nearly as fluid as devices like the Apple TV. Plus, the remote (at least the one for the XS model) is really, truly awful. It feels more like a Wiimote than a TV remote, which is fine when you're playing games on the Roku, but it just seems big and clunky when you're using it for TV. Overall, though, the Roku is a killer device for streaming content, and its easy enough for nearly anyone to use.
That is far from an exhaustive list. You may find some of these on your big TV streaming hub (Roku has a great list of apps), but not all—some may only be on mobile devices. Remember, a lot of the shows that you watch on these stations end up on other services—specifically Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video. So you may not have to suffer through watching these on small screens with un-skippable advertising.
Apart from the basic packages, add-on packs like Sports Extra, News Extra, Kids Extra, and other bundles can be added on top. There’s even a respectable selection of movies for rent in HD for $4 each. While the picture may not be quite as reliable as cable or satellite TV (often dependent upon your device), Sling TV is affordable and easy to use, and the reliability has improved remarkably since launch.
The next time you come across the question, "can you still get local channels without cable?" you will know the answer is one big yes! From indoor TV antennas to outdoor TV antennas to mobile apps, there are quite a few options when it comes to accessing your favorite local channels. Wave goodbye to that cable bill and start watching local channels your way.
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 year alone, some 6 million people are expected to ditch satellite and cable, causing a major pain point for the providers of digital entertainment. Welcome many of the same companies (DirecTV and Dish Network), along with YouTube, Hulu and Sony, in a different sort of offer. A smaller collection of channels, along with broadcast TV locals, no equipment required, and an average price of around $40 monthly. (Along with your internet subscription.)
The WD TV is kind of a "jack of all trades, master of none". It does a good job of playing your own files while being easy to use, streaming from a few different services (but not a lot of them), and being configurable only where it counts. Tech-savvy media center users may find it a little basic, but it's the perfect box for someone who wants more than Apple TV can offer, but without the work that goes into Google TV, Boxee, or a homebrew XBMC box.
These services usually offer free or discounted trials, so you can try before you buy. They also don’t require long-term contracts, so if you want to subscribe only during football season to get all the college and NFL games, you can do that easily, unlike with cable. You don’t have to pay for installation or return equipment if you ever decide to stop subscribing. This makes it easy to try several of the services in consecutive months and then begin paying for the one that best fits your viewing habits. You automatically get the HD versions of each channel instead of having to pay extra for a box that can display HD, as many cable companies require.
Then there's the multistream issue. If you want to watch more than one program at the same time -- for example, on your living room TV and on a bedroom TV, or the main TV and a tablet -- you'll want to make sure the service you're watching has enough simultaneous streams. Some of the least-expensive services only allow one stream at a time, and if you try to watch a second, it's blocked.
DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.
I would love to save, although our cable bill for TV is not extraordinary. But I’m 75 and I don’t understand the details. We don’t want to watch TV on a computer. It sounds as if the cheaper options all require the internet. But the internet doesn’t connect to the TV set. I don’t think our TV can receive a wireless signal unless we add some kind of cable box to it (it has a separate cable going to it than the cable box for the computers). Also, my husband watches FOX news most of the day and also all the channels with food shows, Alaskan living, ancient aliens, Pitbulls and Paroles – so we don’t want to cut off his entertainment. We live in SE Iowa and our cable bill is $157 a month including: high speed internet, landline with free long distance, TV package, TIVO. The basic cost is $120 – the rest is fees and taxes, etc. The stuff tacked onto the bill is ridiculous! Also, we practically never watch a movie – never as far as newer movies go. And we aren’t interested in the shows produced by HBO or Netflix, etc. I’m thinking our current plan is our best option. Am I missing something?
Someone mentioned using a splitter with the high speed internet service to get free cable tv. That can’t work. I already had such a splitter (and still do) when I had cable tv, and the cable line went into a cable box. I had to return the box when I cancelled service. Our cable company is switching everyone including the basic cable tv customers to digital which means that everyone must have a cable box in order to get cable tv.
"wow, goodbye cablevision!!!!! hello playstation vue. what a rip off cable tv really is. we are paying an outrageous amount of money for 18 minutes of actual programing and the rest of the hour is commercials. thank you play station vue for coming up with this app, so easy to use and great customer service, my husband and i are enjoying all the benefits and programing on this app. when all is said and done, we will have picked netflix, playstation and internet at just at $100 plus tax, our savings is big and we are very happy."
Finally, the larger a household gets—in other words, the more TVs you have—the more value you get out of the price of a traditional cable or satellite subscription, because the same package works for a single person or a family of five. Many streaming services support only a single stream at once, making them appealing for a small household but impractical for a household with multiple viewers. (With cable or satellite, you may need to pay for additional set-top boxes, but that’s an incremental cost compared with the overall package.)
The problem with Netflix is that the catalog of (non-original) films and TV shows is constantly in flux as the studio and networks play games, look for better terms, or set up exclusives on other services. We can't guarantee an entire series or movie will be there forever. But original programming makes Netflix a destination, giving it not only market share, but mind share, the likes of which only HBO can rival.
We don't always think of the major streaming devices as tools for watching local TV, but we really should. Each of the skinny bundles and apps listed above have awesome platform support, meaning that you can grab virtually any service on this list and have it work with whatever streaming device you own – whether that means a Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS device, Android device, or Android TV box (like the Nvidia Shield).
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.
However, please note that I'm not advocating doing ALL of these! If you did, you'd wind up spending more than you were paying for cable. That would be dumb. We currently subscribe to Sling TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We are switching over to DIRECTV NOW starting next month because we have one AT&T phone and can use the data from that phone to watch for free.
When I cut the cord last year, it was so refreshing! Anyone that is looking to do it, just needs to rip off the band-aid, because it will sting a little bit. I missed not having the option to DVR my shows, but the end result was not watching as many. Right now, I have an antenna (which I bought for about $60), and I pay monthly for CBS All Access ($9.99/month, no commercials). Let’s just say I am a fan of All Access. If anyone is looking for shows to watch on CBS – try Salvation, Elementary, or NCIS:LA for prime-time shows, and Big Brother, Survivor, and Amazing Race for reality TV.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
Being a cord cutter (actually, I've never had cable, so I haven't technically cut any cords), I'm always on the hunt for new ways to keep myself entertained. On Apple TV, I use a handful of apps that, either I subscribe to a streaming service for (like Hulu and Netflix), or offer a free streaming TV feature that doesn't require a cable subscription (like PBS and The CW).
The light grey program-by-program summaries for individual channels, red and light blue channel highlighting, and graphical "Prevue Weather" forecasts that were previously available to cable systems as optional grid features and inserts remained available in the same manners as before. Closed captioning, MPAA movie rating and VCR Plus+ logos were additionally introduced by this version of the software, and unlike in prior versions, large graphical Prevue Guide logos appeared within its grid, between listings cycles. The old, synthesized interstitial music that had been used since 1988 was also replaced with a more modern piece called "Opening Act," from the defunct James & Aster music library.
Perhaps the biggest enabler for those aiming to quit cable for good — without giving up live TV — is the growing list of live TV streaming services available, all of which come with free trial periods and no contracts. There are several to choose from, each with its own advantages (and disadvantages). We’ve got a detailed comparison piece that breaks down each of these services in finer detail, but below is a general overview.
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.
With Spectrum TV, for example, you get access to live TV streams for any of the networks in your tier of service. There's also lots of on-demand content for individual shows and some movies. It integrates channel guides and search for select shows/movies. If a channel (or show on a channel) that isn't available to you shows up on a menu, it's generally grayed out. And you can mark shows as favorites so they're easier to follow. But what's annoying is it takes a lot longer for a show to appear in the on-demand section—three or four days, instead of just one with a show on Hulu or even a network's own app, for example.